20
Nov
ohcanada

"Smartwatch. Reinvented." declares the title on the Neptune Pine's Kickstarter page. Did we need them to be reinvented? Have smartwatches been around long enough to need a complete reboot? Simon Ian and his team think that they do, and at least 404 people agree with him - they've pledged a total of $118,245 CAD towards the smartwatch in just over one day.

The project's title is also strange in that it's a bit of throwback: instead of being a companion device a la the Galaxy Gear, Sony Smartwatch, or Pebble, the Pine is more like a tiny, full-fledged smartphone that lives on your wrist. In that respect it's an update to the watch-phone that's been lurking on the outskirts of the tech world for the last decade, with a dash of the Fossil Palm Watch thrown in for good measure. This is nothing more or less than a full Android device made into a watch.

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Phone calls? Check. Web browser? Check. Full virtual keyboard? No problem. Camera? Front and rear - take that, Samsung. The interface even looks like a smartphone, and it should - it's running Android 4.1 with a minimal amount of modifications. (The Kickstarter page says that an Android 4.4 update is indeed in the works.) Pre-production screenshots show the Pine running standard Android apps like AOSP email, Facebook, Chrome, YouTube, and Google Now. The Kickstarter description says that the device isn't certified for Google Play just yet, but they're working on it. And yes, it can play Angry Birds.

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Pop the Neptune Pine off of its strap (which is really more like a wrist-mounted dock) and you'll see what I mean. It's basically a tiny phone with a 2.4" 320x240 LCD screen - small, yes, but not unbelievably so when you consider that some of the early budget Android phones used a 2.8" screen. Inside that chunky little case is a Snapdragon S4 1.2Ghz dual-core processor, 512MB of RAM, 16GB or 32GB of storage, Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, speaker and mic, vibration motor, a VGA camera on the front and a 5MP camera on the back (which presumably gets a nice view of your arm hairs most of the time), and a 3G GSM radio. They even managed to include some of the smartphone creature comforts like a headphone jack and a LED flash on both sides. Basic navigation is performed with a mixture of capacitive buttons and software gestures.

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The Neptune Pine is a sincere attempt to replace both a conventional smartphone and the newfangled smartwatch. Snap it off the wrist strap and it's a tiny phone, or you can use it as a GoPro-style action camera with the sold-separately helmet mount. Of course, trying to please everyone with an in-between device is a tall order: at 66x53.5x14.2mm, the Pine is a tiny phone and a massive watch, more like the contraption Leela from Futurama had on her wrist than a traditional timepiece. The creators go to great lengths to assure backers that it will have acceptable battery life, quoting 120 hours of standby time, 8 hours of talk time, and 7 hours of continuous browsing on a 810mAh battery. The screen is a conventional LCD, so it won't have an always-on function like some smartwatches - a Moto X-style motion-sensitive wake would be a good idea here.

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Neptune is being ambitious with its scheduling, planning to get the device into backer's hands with a projected shipping time of January 2014. (Note: Kickstarter projects tend to be delayed with depressing frequency - I wouldn't hold my breath on that ship date.) Pledges for hardware start at $199 Canadian for the early adopter 16GB model and go all the way up to $329 CAD for the 32GB Pine, a clip mount, pulse counter and helmet mount (plus the usual exorbitant $1000 pledge level). Neptune will ship the device to the US and Canada for free, with $15 for international shipping, but the Pine will only be certified for use in the US, Canada, China, India, and the EU at launch.

It's an interesting idea to be sure. We'll see how Android works in this hybrid platform when Pine reaches its backers.

Source: Neptune Pine Kickstarter

Jeremiah Rice
Jeremiah is a US-based blogger who bought a Nexus One the day it came out and never looked back. In his spare time he watches Star Trek, cooks eggs, and completely fails to write novels.
  • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

    Somehow I imagine that even Leela would've hated this thing.

    • Jeremiah Rice

      Leela's "thing I wear on my wrist" was basically a gauntlet computer. Clearly we need to explore more neo-medieval form factors. Maybe a tablet/shield combo or a Bluetooth-powered halberd.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

        Now we're talking. Of course, I'm also in favor of futuristic wrist computers when we can embed hologram projectors or lasers into them.

        Does Android even have native support for lasers, or is that something that OEMs are going to have to build in first?

        • ajm531

          Forget all. I just want them to shove my next phone into my eye socket and bluetooth device hammered into my ear

          • shadowdude777

            "Hey Fry, did you know these eyePhones are phones too!?"

        • Mike Reid

          Laser ?

          IR blaster. Set to "stun".

      • Kenny

        A step closer to my very own Pipboy. :)

  • Ror

    So, the advantage of wearing this over carrying a phone with me is....?

    • enrique

      you wear it as a watch.

  • http://AndroidPolice.com/ Liam Spradlin

    Besides the form factor, a big problem I see with this is, well... the entire interface. If in some alternate dimension I decided to wear a chunky display running full Android on my wrist, I'd at least like to be able to see more than 2 lines of text, a single email, a single news story, or half of a Facebook post.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

      "The main problem I have with this, aside from everything, is, well...everything else."

      You have a way of summing up my thoughts perfectly.

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/77537273@N03/ Herman

      I don't understand why they wouldn't put the horizontal top and bottom 'options' bars vertically.

      Horizontal bars only go well with portrait devices; I've always hated how the navigation and option bars stay horizontal after rotating devices to landscape. This is exactly why you can only read one line of text (not that it's otherwise much of an improvement, but being able to read two lines of text instead of one is a huge improvement nonetheless).

      • Whyzor

        That's a problem with Google and Android. Hopefully the new 'immersive' fullscreen mode in KitKat will be used most of the time on small displays like this. It's a bit chunky at this point still. Maybe if at half the thickness, and docking it to the wristband charges it or uses body heat to charge, that's a little too much to ask.

  • Paul_Werner

    404 people you say?

    • Ror

      I think it's more of a 417 Expectation Failed

  • http://www.thepixelpuse.com/ Aj Meadows

    This... Just looks awful.

  • Chris Jutting

    Way too big to make sense as a watch. May as well strap a phone to my wrist.

    • Ror

      Samsung just needs to make an inverted galaxy round and add a strap.

      • hellerox

        With a Mirasol screen

      • shadowdude777

        Stop giving Samsung ideas! Hell, they probably already think this is what we want..

    • Tuấn Ankh

      That's what I'm gonna do with my 4 inch Galaxy. But I gotta find a strap for it xD

  • Patrick Eckert

    Hardware is beefy enough for KITKAT :D

  • http://www.Nave360.com Sebastian Gorgon

    Not bad, not cheap, but that 320 x 240 screen is unforgivable, and that awful design...

  • http://Hipstercrack.tumblr.com/ Kelly Caffrey

    Guess it's morphing time!

    But seriously, this seems more like a replacement to your phone rather than a companion. Doing everything you can do on the go; on your watch, i get it ( even inserting your micro sim, so is my phone the companion actually?) . However, that is one bulky accessory on your wrist and am i suppose to be reading line by line on emails; etc?

  • Jachym Kokesh Lukes
  • John Smith

    kudos to the Pine Team for giving it a shot and jumping in the arena! good luck to them!!!!!!

  • JPB

    Too small to be a smartphone, too big to be a watch. Fail.

  • nvillaco

    We already saw how this could work when Ron Amadeo sideloaded Nova launcher and other apps onto the Galaxy Gear. It was entertaining to see Candy Crush on a tiny screen but it would never be actually feasible as a daily use device. http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2013/10/microscopic-android-how-to-get-real-apps-running-on-the-samsung-galaxy-gear/

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/77537273@N03/ Herman

    I would love to have a smartwatch that works like a tablet. Not a 'phone watch', not an 'always connected notification receiver', more like an Android device that works like a tablet small enough to fit on my wrist.

  • Martim

    While I feel this is a move in the right direction, I think we're still at least 10 years away from something more usable. I can definitely imagine that smartphones may take a smartwatch form factor, but we still need huge developments in battery and screen technology.

    Ideally, this would use a bendable e-ink–like (color) screen that could wrap entirely around your wrist. An e-ink display would allow it to be always on with minimal or no battery drain while still being perfectly viewable in bright sunlight, and having a foldable screen would let you use a reasonably sized display without having something huge strapped to your wrist.

    Hopefully this will be the future of smartphones, but it's still too soon to be usable the way it is now.

    • http://www.twitter.com/ninjustin ninjustin

      I could see this working better with just the LG Flex screen. I don't think it's 10 years away.

  • ffinder

    The Neptune Team:

    Hey everyone, We are proud to announce that we have reached our funding goal of $100K in only 27 hours! Thank you so much for your interest and support! New stretch goals to come! Stay tuned, -

    http://www.facebook.com/neptunepine

  • Matt Riley

    Good thing I didn't back the Omate TrueSmart Smartwatch. I heard it sucks. This smart"watch" however reminds me of a mini-pipboy from Fallout! I was about to back it until I realize that you have to remove the device out of it's resting place, in order to take a picture. Omate's smartwatch you don't have to do that. The camera is attached to its side!

    • Paul Roberts

      I have 250 bottlecaps saved, working on buying my own PipBoy 3000.

      Or I could just murder a vault dweller and take theirs, if I could find one outside a vault....

    • John

      Where did you hear that the Omate Truesmart sucks? They have not shipped to backers yet. Everything I have read about the Truesmart has been positive. The only negative is the lack of the Google Play Store, and the Pine won't have that either.

      • Squiddles

        Isn't he browsing the Play Store at 1:11 in the video?

        • john

          Pine will fall under the same umbrella as Omate with regards to the play store. The screen resolution will not be officially supported.

  • black

    How about I tape my GS3 to my wrist instead? This thing is like a fablet for smartwatches. Sheeh!

    • Paul Taylor

      You don't think there's a difference between a this and having a whopping 5" screen on your wrist?

      • black

        That's my point. If I want a giant watch on my wrist, I might as well slap my GS3 on there.

  • https://plus.google.com/u/0/108482452903817442299/posts Andrew Bone

    Waaaay to chunky for my liking, I really do like that you can do hangouts from it though, come on google where is you nexus smartwatch already

  • RL010

    And again another big ugly thing to put around your wrist. Let's get party like it's 1982

  • Matthew Fry

    Sheesh. How many wrong ways to design a smartwatch are we going to have to go through? Also... it amazes me how much demand there is for this. It took me a long time to get used to my wedding ring let alone a giant square trapping sweat between it and my wrist.

    • Steph Chi

      I could't say better ! Sign of a not already mature market ?
      Anyway, thanks to early adopters to help ;-)

  • manpro

    Gotta be the worlds most huge'est wrist watch ever! But I love the features and maybe I could get used to it because I have quite big wrists. I think! Here is a nice size comparison picture to give you all an idea of perspective.

  • http://android.bswireless.hr/ Dražen Klisurić

    It seams to me that all these smartwatches are doing it wrong. Yes they
    will attract tech savvy people which are not wearing watches or they
    already wear digital watch. But most of ordinary people wears watch as jewellery and I believe that whoever makes classic analog watch (leather, gold,
    platinum, silver, diamonds) with Bluetooth, vibration and well hidden
    digital screen to show notifications will sell more watches then all this smartwatches manufacturers together and then some...

  • asdf

    I wouldn't mind a pitboy from fallout.

  • Nicholas Smith

    its...so...big

    • Nicholas Smith

      thats
      what
      she
      s
      a
      i
      d

  • littlevince

    Is it possible for the watch to call/message from your phone? Or do you need to somehow get two sim cards that share the same number?

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