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Handhelds Hardware

Fossil/Palm PDA Watch Reviewed 176

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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  • I can't imagine (Score:5, Insightful)

    by leifm ( 641850 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @03:56PM (#6493393)
    that this thing is going to sell very well. It doesn't even look like it would be easy to use. And as I recall the battery only lasts like 48 hours. I wonder how they ever got this idea to market...
  • by falcon5768 ( 629591 ) <Falcon5768@comca ... t minus caffeine> on Monday July 21, 2003 @03:56PM (#6493396) Journal
    In terms of coolness factor its a 10, But looking at all the pictures I have seen I am not sure how usable this really is. Sure it has all of the Palm features but its so small, my blind eyes would probably have trouble reading anything without stairing. More impotantly for the price, I would rather have a refurb Handspring Edge and get one of those wallets that has room for my palm if I really needed to keep my palm with me all the time (which is infact how my current setup is. I would rather the USB watch anyday over this one
  • by rice_web ( 604109 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @04:00PM (#6493442)
    It's a great idea, but it's just too small. I hate the cell phones that attempt to cram so much into such a small space, or the laptops that cram a 1600x1200 resolution into a 15" monitor. With only 2MB of memory and an extremely small screen in a relatively bulky enclosure, I just don't see this as a great product.

    It definitely has its uses, but many would be well suited with a larger Palm Pilot or PocketPC.
  • by IWantMoreSpamPlease ( 571972 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @04:00PM (#6493451) Homepage Journal
    I saw those pda/watches and my 1st thought was the old lcd "draw the numbers on" calculator watches were making a comeback.

    Mmmm..big and ugly, where do I sign up?
  • Meh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by American AC in Paris ( 230456 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @04:05PM (#6493518) Homepage
    Y'know, some combinations make sense, but aren't really meant to be.

    Traditional PDA screens are about as small as you can go while still retaining a reasonable degree of usability. Get a watch that's too large, and it's no longer anything that you want to wear on your wrist.

    While the entire concept of being able to wear your gadgets on your wrist is cool, it takes more than simply saying "I'll meet you halfway" to design such a device. Simply put, the PDA is too small, and the watch is too big for most people to be interested in this device.

    Unless you're dealing with a very limited input style--think at most four or five buttons and maybe some form of roller switch--it's going to be nearly impossible to develop a viable wrist-worn device that relies on tactile input. Data storage, sure. Even limited data output is doable--an iPod-esque control system could be adapted to a wristwatch, and one can create relatively unobtrusive displays for a watch (without too great of expectations for resolution, readability, or volume.) But trying to drop a PDA into a watch--that's just too much fine motor control and tactile interaction in too small a space to be practical.

  • Re:article text (Score:2, Insightful)

    by falcon5768 ( 629591 ) <Falcon5768@comca ... t minus caffeine> on Monday July 21, 2003 @04:12PM (#6493589) Journal
    I guess he must have missed the whole Palm OS can sync with anything that has Palm desktop information that was in his packet. Cause you know, not everyone uses a Windows PC
  • by clarencek ( 146670 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @04:14PM (#6493611)
    I'm left handed, and I wear my watch on my left wrist... so am I supposed to change which wrist I wear my watch on after 20 years?
    Should I try graffiti with my right hand? I have a hard enough time with my left.
  • Re:I can't imagine (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rokzy ( 687636 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @04:19PM (#6493650)
    "I wonder how they ever got this idea to market..."

    the same way digital watches did ? (HHGTTG)
  • by dmccarty ( 152630 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @04:26PM (#6493712)
    I hope that meant that the review was a good one, and not Mossberg's reaction to the watch. To sum up Mossberg's review, the device is clumsy as a PDA but its only redemming feature is that you can change the face! Not much of a thumbs-up for the Fossil.

    Among Mossberg's comments about the watch:

    • "The Wrist PDA is a big, bulky watch with an electronic screen for a face."
    • "[The stylus] is easy to lose, so Fossil supplies a free spare."
    • "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"
    • "I found the rocker switch that you use to navigate around the screen to be stiff and its surface to be slippery"

    Now in all fairness, keep in mind that Mossberg is in his 50's, and that's not Fossil's target audience of 20-something, eagle-eyed early adopters. So his first experience should be taken with a 30-year-old grain of salt. But I think I'll let some other people "early adopt" this one.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 21, 2003 @04:30PM (#6493762)
    . . . will be the left-handed market. It appears that the buttons on the watch itself are all on the right side. For me, a left-hander, it's tough enough manipulating a normal watch to set the alarm. I sure wouldn't want to have to try to navigate the Palm OS at that awkward angle. I've already run into this problem with my Sony Clié. One of the most heavily-touted features is the "revolutionary" jog-dial switch. In principle, it's a good idea because you wouldn't have to get out the stylus to open just one program and access a file in it. However, the scroll rate isn't fast enough (for me) and the fact that I hold my palm with my right hand means that I would have to use my thumb, way out of normal "holding" position, to use the jog-dial. I don't think it's that great of an innovation for those who can use it, and I don't use it all since I'm left-handed. The PDA watch looks really cool, but until they get through the first generation's usability issues and decide to release a left-handed version (even if it's only available through special order or online), I'm not getting one.
  • by Esion Modnar ( 632431 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @04:38PM (#6493827)
    "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should."

    Well, I think she was referring mostly to posted speed limits, and how she would commonly drive 5-10 mph under the limit, but...

    ...this also applies to PDA's worn on the wrist.

  • by Dark Paladin ( 116525 ) * <jhummel@joh[ ] ['nhu' in gap]> on Monday July 21, 2003 @04:51PM (#6493920) Homepage
    Part of the problem, as people have mentioned, is that the screen is simply too fscking small. Too small to do really look at data (address books, etc), too small for input (stylis or not) - just too small.

    It almost seems to me that we need to wait until we have an interface that can be built on the fly - say, a hologram idea.

    Now, let's pretend that this actually works, and, a la Star Trek style, ignore the science: you have a flat pane of the watch that normally tells time. At the touch of a button, an interface appears over the watch that is about the same size of a standard PDA screen. It is able to sense the location of objects moving over it, so you could "touch" the images with your fingers, "scroll" through the address book, read an e-book (though you might want to move the watch for that to make it more comfortable, etc). You would have to allow the user to shift the display (so if you're driving, you can make it stay "upright" as you look into your address book before smacking into the car ahead of you because you didn't have your eyes on the road).

    If you wanted to be really cool, you could let the user lay the watch flat, and "expand" the interface into a whole desktop complete with "keyboard" so they could type, use their fingers as pointer devices, etc. (We are of course pretending that the watch's electronics are so small and heat efficient they don't burn a hole in your wrist/desk to compute all of this information).

    This technology I'm sure is about 15-20 years off, but I think that's what you would need to allow something that small to have an interface worth using.

    Of course, this is just a "pull the idea out of my ass" concept - I could be totally wrong as to whether this would be useful or not.
  • And as per usual, (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Chunky Kibbles ( 530549 ) <> on Monday July 21, 2003 @05:32PM (#6494260) Homepage
    There's no left-handed variant. A normal watch you learn to deal with; one windy button you use once-in-a-while is OK... But when there're a load of buttons on one side of the watch, and no easy alternative, it's completely unusable by lefties.

    I mean, the normal palm is bad at times with the scrollbar on the wrong side of the screen [don't tell me about lefthack; it breaks Eudora]

    Experiment: Put your watch on your right wrist. Now change the time. Now imagine you need to do this with far more dexterity.

    Bah. They're only losing about 10-15% of the market by doing that, so no great loss, I guess...

    Gary (-;
  • Re:Battery (Score:3, Insightful)

    by yet another coward ( 510 ) <> on Monday July 21, 2003 @06:09PM (#6494560)
    People once had to wind their watches as often.
    How much power can a self-charging watch get from the skin?
  • by leifm ( 641850 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @06:18PM (#6494614)
    The people who are going to buy into this thing in all probability aren't actually going to use it, they'll use their real PDA, or their laptop, and then drive off in their Hummer H2.. I hate rich assholes, and products built for them.
  • Re:Meh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by plover ( 150551 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @06:46PM (#6494780) Homepage Journal
    The way I interpreted the article was this:

    Rather than be put off by the "lack of Palmness" and expectations that it will be a substitute PDA, consider it a watch that happens to run Palm OS.

    Now, if you don't expect to perform input on a watch, then don't. Instead, you can write a Palm OS program and download it to the watch to have as your watch "face." You want a Matrix-like falling digit clock? Write it. You want a port of the Dali clock, with constantly morphing digits? Port it. You want to write a Tetris clock-game, where the falling blocks are shaped like numbers? Cool. You can even push the buttons on the side to play a little game. Thne, when you want to run OmniRemote to change the channels on the TV in the bar, fine. It runs, it's Palm OS.

    Just don't expect it to be your be-all/end-all PDA and it won't disappoint you.

    DISCLAIMER: I work for a company who has a retail division that sells Fossil watches. However, I am not trying to shill these watches in order to get you to buy one; I'm just pointing out that they are not as useless as they look as long as you lower your expectations. I personally won't buy one for the same reason I won't buy a PalmOS / cellphone combo: they are two different devices serving two different functions using two different human interfaces that only share a common need for internet connectivity. Viva la Bluetooth!

  • great (Score:3, Insightful)

    by photon317 ( 208409 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @11:29PM (#6496421)
    On this first model, these watch faces are in black and white. But Fossil is looking into a model with variable color faces and is considering creating a Web site where users could download new and different watch faces, or even post watch faces they have created themselves. You could imagine watch faces with various logos, slogans or photos.

    Yeah, I can imagine Wal-mart selling them at a 30% discount with a permanent Wal-mart logo face. And then I can imagine someone writing a De-WalMart hack to replace the logo, and going to court for violating the DMCA because they thwarted the rot13 encryption neccesary to bypass the logo lock. Same shit, different year.

Each new user of a new system uncovers a new class of bugs. -- Kernighan