Posted By Simon Montford on Feb 21, 2015
A startup called Neptune has taken an entirely new approach to smartwatch design. It's founder, Simon Tian believes your smartwatch will take centre stage and your smartphone will become its trusty, but far less intelligent sidekick. The company recently announced the Neptune Duo, that'll not only be able to run Android Lollipop, but the device will also come with wi-fi, 4G, NFC, and GPS. In other words it will be capable of replacing your smartphone.
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Some of the designers and engineers behind the Neptune Duo work for a product consultancy called Pearl that created the hugely successful Misfit Shine, so there's no reason why the Duo won't also be a big hit with consumers. The Duo is not, however, Neptune's first attempt to build a smartphone-smartwatch hybrid. The Pine was a huge success on Kickstarter; the campaign ended up raising $801,224. Although very basic compared to the Neptune Duo, it was the first smartwatch that didn't require a smartphone to function. The Pine has been on the market since June last year, and has so far been purchased by around 7,000 satisfied customers.
The Duo, comes in two parts - the "Hub" and "Pocket Screen". The "Pocket Screen" is a stripped down smartphone-like device that acts rather like a conventional smartwatch does today, in respect that it delegates almost all the intelligent functions to the Hub. In other words the master-slave format has been turned on its head. Some benefits of switching are that if the Pocket Screen is lost or damaged, it can be replaced easily and cheaply, unlike an iPhone 6 or equivalent smartphone. A further advantage is that all the data is stored on the Hub, which is safely attached to the owner's wrist, so not only is it less likely to get lost or stolen, but the user doesn't risk loosing all their precious data. A nice additional feature is that the Pocket screen also serves as a charger for the Hub, and can be synced with multiple Hubs.
I predict that within a year or two all smartwatches will come with 4G and wifi built in, but will this be enough to break our smartphone addiction? Well that depends. The problem with smartwatches is screen size. Unless you are willing to strap a smartphone onto your wrist (check out the Rufus, it's huge), there's no way to solve this problem, so we're back to using our smartphones or a device similar to the Pocket Screen.
Perhaps smartwatches of the future will be paired with augmented reality eye wear, or maybe they'll contain mini projectors like the one built into the Flicks, or we'll interact with holographic screens that pop out of the fascia of our smartwatches.
Whatever happens, there is no doubt that we will continue to see many new and exciting innovations emerge within this rapidly growing segment (the smartwatch market is predicted to be worth USD12.9 billion by 2020).
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