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Handhelds Hardware

Fossil/Palm PDA Watch Reviewed 176

Posted by simoniker
from the stylus-suspended-in-amber dept.
SLiK812 writes "Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal has a pretty good review of Palm's and Fossil's new wrist PDA. We all knew some time ago that this was coming out, and was initially covered last November and briefly last month. This is the first review I've seen, and Mossberg does bring up some interesting points, both good and bad. Definitely worth the read before buying it."
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Fossil/Palm PDA Watch Reviewed

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  • article text (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 21, 2003 @03:58PM (#6493420)
    Fossil Watch Has Awkward PDA, But Comes With Cool Style Feature
    By WALTER S. MOSSBERG

    Men's wristwatches always have been a tempting target for gadget designers. Ever since Dick Tracy comic books began depicting their hero using his watch as a walkie-talkie, people have tried to jam all sorts of oddball functionality into watches.

    But there's a problem with this quest. Watches are too small to accommodate too many techie functions. And if you make a watch too large or weird-looking, the wearer can look so geeky that he may never get a date.

    Now, a big watch maker known for style, Fossil, is tackling this watch/gadget conundrum. It has devised a line of watches that incorporates a Palm personal-digital assistant -- complete with calendar, address book, memo pad and to-do list. The watches can even synchronize with a Windows PC, and come with a tiny stylus for entering data.

    Fossil's new Wrist PDA

    I've been testing the Wrist PDA to see how it works and how it looks. My verdict is that the Wrist PDA makes for a crippled Palm, of very limited functionality. But as a watch, it could be revolutionary because of an interesting new capability Fossil built in that is unrelated to the Palm aspect of the device.

    Fossil plans several models of its Palm watch. I tested a black, plastic Sport model that will sell for $275, but there will be two dressier stainless-steel models, with different bands, for $295. All have identical functionality and come with software, adapters and cables for connecting to a PC and for recharging the battery.

    The company also plans two less-expensive models, at $179 and $199, that will be sold under its Abacus brand. These will be functionally identical, but will look a bit different and will be sold at electronics stores, while the Fossil-branded watches will be sold at department stores and Fossil's own stores.

    The Wrist PDA is a big, bulky watch with an electronic screen for a face. It has three buttons and a semicircular rocker switch for controlling its functions. The stylus is a tiny thing that tucks into a metal slide that keeps the band in place. It's easy to lose, so Fossil supplies a free spare. Beyond that, a stylus will cost $7.99.

    The back of the watch conceals a socket for connecting the cable that attaches to a computer. An infrared port on the watch's top edge can beam data to and from other Palms.

    The Wrist PDA is much harder to use than other Palms or Palm-compatible devices. I found entering text, and even accurately tapping on items on the screen, to be awkward and frustrating -- especially with the watch on my arm, but even when I removed it to hold it with both hands. The screen and stylus are simply too small.

    But the awkwardness goes beyond entering text. Fossil has eliminated the direct-access buttons every Palm has used since 1996 to take you instantly to popular functions, such as the calendar and the address book. Instead, you have to use the main menu screen, which is small. I found the rocker switch that you use to navigate around the screen to be stiff and its surface to be as slippery as rob malda's love sausage-- though Fossil says it will add texture to the switch by September.

    I was able to synchronize the Wrist PDA with a PC to bring over my calendar and contact data. But because the watch is too small to accommodate a standard USB port, Fossil had to use a proprietary cable and adapter box, and a special piece of software that runs in the background on your PC.

    On the other hand, the screen is surprisingly sharp and easy to read, so the Wrist PDA works well if you just want to check your calendar, to-do list or address book without actually adding entries. I wouldn't try to search through a very large address book or scroll through hundreds or thousands of listings on the watch because of the text-entry and navigation problems.

    But the most interesting feature of the Wrist PDA has nothing to do with the Palm functionality. In watch mode, when the thing is j
  • Delays? (Score:3, Informative)

    by larien (5608) on Monday July 21, 2003 @04:02PM (#6493474) Homepage Journal
    Hrm, according to other sources [theregister.co.uk], the relase date for the pda/watch is delayed until 30th September.
  • Battery (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Monday July 21, 2003 @04:13PM (#6493592)
    Assuming I would want to wear an ugly huge watch (that's a personal opinion of couse) that's called "Fossil" and is MSN-enabled (uuh), I have a problem with such small devices that have an internal battery.

    From the specs page :

    POWER REQUIREMENTS : AC power adapter (100V-240V), DC output (4V-9V), Lithium-ion rechargeable battery (internal).

    BATTERY LIFE : 4-5 days (based on average use of 30 minutes per day with no backlight or IR)

    Right, so in real life, if I was to use the thing normally, with backlight at night and syncing with my desktop with IR, I'd say I'd probably have to charge it up every 2 or 3 days. Given that a real-life Li-Ion batteries have a typical life of 300 recharge cycles (yes, you can get more out of them, but you have to be *very* careful when you charge and for how long, which isn't always practical in a consumer device), especially since it's probably a super-small fragile battery, that means the battery will have to be changed after 2.5 years of use at most.

    Do I want to see the face of the watch repairman when I bring him the Fossil for a battery change? Do I want to see the bill when I have to send the watch back to Fossil for a battery replacement? No.

    So, no PDA watch for me. Nosiree ...
  • by RobertB-DC (622190) * on Monday July 21, 2003 @04:36PM (#6493802) Homepage Journal
    From the article:

    But the most interesting feature of the Wrist PDA has nothing to do with the Palm functionality. In watch mode, when the thing is just telling time, you can scroll through and select from a wide variety of different watch-face designs. This is the first watch I know of that lets you pick the way its face looks and change that look as often as you like.

    Well, duh! It's a Palm, so of course you can make the watch have whatever face you want!

    My Palm III (all of $11 on eBay) has multiple clock faces, too -- Analog [palmadd.com], Big Digital Clock [gacel.de] with world time and weekday-only alarms, another Analog [astraware.com] version, and my favorite, the Hell Clock [minordemons.com] with built-in countdown to Halloween. "Hell Clock" is the one that I like to beam to the cell phones at the Verizon store, to give them more "visual interest".

    I'd have dozens more, but I lost interest after four. And I didn't pay one red cent for any of 'em (all were freeware at the time).
  • by Jon Abbott (723) on Monday July 21, 2003 @05:58PM (#6494496) Homepage
    Nobody seems to have mentioned the time-tested Casio Databank [casio.com] watch yet, so here is the product comparison with the Fossil PDA watch:

    Fossil features: clock, calculator, backlight, address book, date book, to-do list, IrDA port, ability to run Palm apps, and a memo pad.
    Casio features: clock, calculator, backlight, address book (kinda), 5 alarms, world time, atomic time synchronization and a stopwatch.

    Fossil battery life: five days
    Casio battery life: two years

    Fossil price: $295
    Casio price: $89

    I'm going to stick with my Casio Databank. :^) If you use a CR2032 battery instead of the CR2016, and you turn off the hourly chime and alarms, you can get about 8-10 years use out of one battery!

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