Over the summer, I had the pleasure of doing some R&D on this clever little “smartwatch” device called the WIMM One. It runs Android (2.2 at the time I was developing, in the summer of 2012) and although it’s not quite a miniature phone, it’s much more than a watch. As someone who remembers saving my allowance to buy a calculator watch in the 1980s, I was very excited to start writing code for this decade’s version.
The One hardware is limited by form factor and design, which led to some interesting usability workarounds. There’s no radio, audio, or camera, so the first time you turn the One on, you’re directed to configure a wifi network. The 1″ x 1″ touchscreen is too small to accommodate a smartphone-like soft keyboard, so passwords have to be entered using a slider to select one character at a time. After wifi is configured, the One syncs with a web back-end for the rest of the device configuration process, including granting access to the Micro App Store. You can also pair the One with your phone as a Bluetooth device to receive SMS and call notifications.
Screen power and wifi are the main power drains for the One’s tiny battery, so the documentation makes it very clear that apps cannot expect a continuous network connection, and should anticipate a 10-second screen timeout that returns to the watchface. The wifi sync interval is a configurable parameter, ranging from 15 minutes to Never. Apps that need a network connection must register to receive the ACTION.NETWORK.AVAILABLE and ACTION.NETWORK.TAKEDOWN events using a BroadcastReceiver. Then a background service can be employed to do the network synchronization activity.
Despite the limitations, the One is fun to use. Bluetooth sync is fast — I usually received notifications on the watch before my phone buzzed. The built-in weather app is very appealing and convenient. And I really liked the watchface that showed my next calendar item as well as the time/date. The watchband was a bit uncomfortable and bulky for me to wear all day, but I usually carried the One in my purse or pocket for quick checks, even though I always had my phone nearby.
I was just borrowing the One, so I had to return it at the end of summer, but the enthusiasm for similar small-form-factor smart devices like Pebble shows that the market is ready for wearables. Trying to fit most of the capabilities of the Android OS into a 1″ x 1″ box presents quite a few design challenges, but I suspect manufacturers like WIMM who are willing to stick with an open-ish platform like Android are likely to have some longevity in this sector.