Words by Stafford Lumsden
With smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy Note reaching relatively large proportions, functionality and the ability to consume media on-the-go are becoming common joys. However, as displays grow beyond four inches and devices become increasingly unwieldy, the joy is lost when pulling your phone from your pocket—if indeed it actually fits in your pocket—to do something simple, like viewing an SMS message, scanning the subject line of an email, or checking out Twitter.
Enter the auxiliary display: wearable mini screens that interface with your phone or tablet, allowing you to check out your latest updates without having to manhandle your device.
Most auxiliary displays come in wristwatch form factors that connect to your device via Bluetooth. The idea has been around for some time, but is starting to reach critical mass with the advent of powerful phone and tablet operating systems, particularly Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS. In mid 2011, Sony (formerly Sony Ericsson) first released its LiveView, a 1.3 inch display with an optional clip or wrist band. The LiveView connects to Android devices and will allow users to tune in to Twitter, Facebook, and RSS feeds as well as control media player functions, check calendar appointments, and see who is calling with caller ID. Sony followed up in 2012 with the “SmartWatch,” a second version of the auxiliary device with a higher-resolution, multi-touch display.
Both are available from online retailers: the LiveView for about W50,000 and the SmartWatch for W160,000 plus shipping.
If a classic-looking watch is more your style, Sony also makes the MBW-200, an analogue men’s watch with a single line LCD display that gives the wearer snippets of emails and tweets and shows the caller ID of incoming calls. The more traditional aesthetic will set you back around W150,000 plus shipping.
But the darling of the auxiliary display world is the upcoming Pebble Watch. Conceived as a Kickstarter project, its inventors originally sought $100,000 to make a limited production run of a watch that would interface with both Android and iOS devices via Bluetooth. The Pebble Watch’s display will be e-ink—the same display as the Amazon Kindle—thus saving on power consumption. The watch will not only provide read-only access to the information on your device but also interact with it by dialing numbers and sending messages. The watch’s versatility is all due to its open APIs, which allow developers to create new uses for the device.
Pebble Watch’s Kickstarter project had managed to raise over US $10 million. The first units are scheduled to ship before Christmas 2012. This first production run will be limited to those who have backed Pebble Watch on Kickstarter, but given its popularity, Pebble Technology is more than likely to further commercialize the Pebble Watch.
Stafford Lumsden is a tech writer and commentator who eats too many cupcakes. His blog is at stafford.net.nz.