Hands-On: Kempler & Strauss W Phonewatch

hands on kempler strauss w phonewatch

It won’t surf the web, it won’t run apps, and it won’t videoconference, but it will fit on your wrist. Kempler & Strauss’ W Phonewatch delivers on the age-old promise of wearable communications with a slender, lightweight design that fills in where your Casio calculator watch left off in 1985. Which is to say, radiating nerdiness from your wrist like a beacon of shame.

hands on kempler strauss w phonewatchFor a phone, the W sets new standards for tiny. For a watch, it sets new standards for ugly. Unlike the metal-rimmed watch phone LG proudly showed off at CES 2009, the W comes dressed totally in rubbery plastic, like a cross between a Happy Meal toy and a free-with-contract flip phone from 2003.

Have you ever been to a LAN Party? Have you ever worn a shirt with references to open-source software on it? Did it have stains on it? Unless you can answer yes to all of the above, you may want to think twice about your ability to stroll through public places with the W strapped proudly to your wrist. It’s about as unobtrusive as a house arrest ankle monitor.

The 1.5-inch color LCD screen uses the same style of graphics you’re used to from the aforementioned 2003 flip phone, but scaled down to a touch screen you’ll learn to gingerly prod with your fingertip and hope against all odds you hit the right part. If you really get in a jam, the tip of the included Communicator Bluetooth earpiece can be used as a sort of impomptu stylus. While navigating the menus gets easier, dialling numbers can test your patience, and sending a text message is more like an exercise in outright masochism – even with the stylus.

hands on kempler strauss w phonewatchAs for chatting into a watch, it actually works fine in a quiet room, but volume maxes out at a barely audible level of seven, and voice quality on the other end will sound like you’re on speakerphone. K&S does provide a Bluetooth earpiece to link it with, but it’s one of the most unnecessarily complicated and dorky looking ones in recent memory. Spring for a Jawbone.

Rather surprisingly, the W Phonewatch does actually shoot still photos and video, but both make Dateline undercover footage look like footage from a Hollywood studio. Even from five feet away, you can barely identify the face of the person you’re talking to on video.

Between the stares it will draw, painfully tiny interface and near necessity for always wearing a headset, the W Phonewatch leaves practicality at the door – but if you’ve always dreamed of technology you can wear and never want to leave your phone at home again, it does what it advertises for $200.