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What is a Watch Phone?

Amy Raubenolt
Amy Raubenolt

A watch phone is simply a cell phone in the form of a wristwatch. If offers cell phone functionality in addition to calendar, clock, radio, video, text messaging, and often more. Contrary to popular belief, someone using a watch phone does not need to hold their wrist up to their ear to hear the phone call or to hold the phone up to their mouth to speak. Watch phones have speakerphone capability and come with Bluetooth headsets to allow for private conversations.

Ever since Dick Tracy began calling his allies with his radio watch, people have dreamed of watch phones, but the technology was not able to meet people’s practical needs. In 2002, Microsoft® introduced its Smart Personal Object Technology (SPOT) watch at Comdex. This watch was capable of offering users access to news, weather, sports, Outlook e-mail, and, of course, the time, but was not yet able to make calls.

Woman holding a disc
Woman holding a disc

The SPOT had only limited success. In 2003, NTT DoCoMo presented a prototype watch phone, but the technology still wasn’t able to meet the demand. Throughout the first decade of the 21st century, watch phones appeared, often with great fanfare, at consumer electronic conventions and shows.

In 2009, watch phones were able to boast features like radio, MP3 player, camera, streaming video, text messaging, alarm clock, calendar, calculator, and Bluetooth capabilities. LG, Samsung, Kempler & Strauss, and other retailers offered phones with more than 300 hours of talk time and data storage. The phones had small, sleek screens of about 1.4 inches (about 3.5 cm) wide.

GPS produced a watch phone specifically for hiking, camping, and boating that offered users GPS capability. The phone could provide users with their exact coordinates and the exact coordinates of someone sending them a text message. It also offered an SOS button and pre-programmed emergency contact numbers. Many phones are also multi-lingual, allowing users to choose from a French, English, German, Spanish, Arabic, Italian, Japanese, or Chinese interface.

People who tend to lose their cell phones or who enjoy the spy-like feel are likely to appreciate the small size, sophistication, and convenience of watch phones. Once offered exclusively in black, these unique mobile watches come in a wide spectrum of colors, from sleek black and platinum to bubble-gum pink. At the 2010 Consumer Electronics Convention, Kempler & Strauss introduced a small black watch phone designed with executives in mind. This new model broke ground as being one of the first to closely resemble the look of a traditional executive watch, while still offering the advanced features of a watch phone.

Mobile wristwatches, however, have failed to gain mainstream popularity. Not only have reviews of these types of phone cited them as bulky, hard to use, and expensive, but many skeptics believe that pervasive use of cell phones has limited the market for watch phones. Critics claim that many people are surrendering use of watches altogether in favor of using cell phones to check the time.

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Discussion Comments


Yeah! Dick Tracy! That's the exact image that comes to mind when people start talking about watch phones. However, as the author points out, there seems to be a limited market for them because cell phones are all over the place and offer a lot more functionality. Cell phones are small enough to tote around and can contain screens that are large enough to be more useful than a watch phone for reading news, browsing on the Internet, pounding out text messages and just about anything else.

Still, there is a wave of "smart watches" that's starting to hit the market. We'll just have to see how those develop before we can determine if there's a large market for them.

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