Fossil WristPDA 2.0 Review

by Reads (30,693)

*Note — The main review is written by Vike99. Comments from Brian are included and marked appropriately.

As a business traveler I’m always on the look out for some gadget that can reduce the amount of stuff I need to carry. I always wear a watch –it’s the other stuff like cell phone, PDA, laptop, etc that I’d been thinking of combining. So when Fossil finally came out with their Wrist PDA I jumped at the chance to check out this latest tech toy — what better way to reduce my luggage than to add it to my watch? After spending a week with the unit, I found the Wrist PDA to be a good start but not the final solution and I recommend waiting a bit for the design to mature. 

Specs

Operating System: Palm OS Version 4.1

CPU: Motorola Dragonball Super VZ 66MHz

Memory: 8MB (RAM), 4MB (Flash)
Approximately 7.7MB RAM available

Screen: 160 x 160 pixels
16 level grayscale
EL backlight
 inch x 1 inch display area

Built In SW: Standard Palm PIM (i.e. datebook, address, todo, memo)

Watch Interface: USB with PC or MacIntosh
Infrared Port (IRDA v1.2a)

Battery: Lithium-ion rechargeable (advertised life of 3-4 days without backlight or IR, with 30 minutes use per day)

Weight 3.2 ounces

Retail Price $199

As you can expect from the OS and CPU specs, the PDA in the Wrist PDA is pre-OS 5 and is not built for speed. The screen is also a basic black and white crammed into a 1-inch square display area. So don’t expect to run something like Warfare Incorporated, or view movies on this thing. The 7.7 MB available RAM makes me almost nostalgic for the good old days of pre PalmOne — but not quite. Also note that there is no expansion slot of any kind. So from a spec standpoint alone — what good is this thing? If I can carry my essential info with me at all times without a hassle then I could care less about specs. I mean let’s face it, other than the standard Palm programs (datebook, address book, memo, todo) there is probably just a few programs that you use on a daily basis or just cannot live without. In my case, I need Teal Auto and an expense program. Throw in a few small games for those times when I’m stuck at the airport, and 7.7 MB is more than enough. If the Wrist PDA can pull it off, then I’m down to a cell phone and a laptop for complete mobility capability.

During my review, I loaded up Zlauncher, Datebk5, Teal Auto, SubHunt, and Yahtzee. All worked without a problem – except SubHunt, which requires the standard Palm function buttons for game control. This short-coming was a minor inconvenience at first. But then I noticed that I could not adjust the Wrist PDA buttons to mimic the Palm function buttons at all. Looking up an address, datebook, todo list, or to jot down a quick memo required me to first hit the rocker button to get out of watch mode and into PDA mode, then scroll through the application launcher, then hit the rocker button again to open the desired application. Way too much effort.

Despite the lack of button control, I found the PDA to function reasonably well for a 1-inch square black and white display area. It’s small size did require a steady hand and good eyes, especially in non-idea lighting conditions (e.g., dim lighting or outside on a sunny day). But all in all, I found it easy to use after some practice — and I can’t say enough about having my PDA on my wrist.

Various Screen Shots
   

  

[Brian] From an ease of access to information perspective, I agree with vike99 on his frustration getting to screens quickly. Scrolling through the list of icons is slow, meaning your finger is hitting the scroll button faster than the icon is moving on the screen. The rocker does feel good though and the buttons are top notch, much better than what Abacus and Fossil have been putting in their SPOT watches.


Backlight

The display is good for what it is. The blue backlight stays on for 10 seconds after the last input takes place. The disappointing thing though is the quality of the backlight. It’s dingy looking, not bright at all. I don’t think it’s the color necessarily, simply the brightness level. The white sidelight used in the SPOT watches is better. While we’re on the display, I found the Touchscreen to be very difficult to use. At times it seemed unresponsive, but that’s probably just symptomatic of such a tiny digitizer. Some check boxes and small buttons are difficult to actuate.

Fossil did include Jot as the primary data entry system for the watch. This is a huge plus, I can’t imagine giving up part of the display to a virtual graffiti area. I find Jot to be more intuitive anyway and anything to make input easier on a device like this is much appreciated.

Setup

Set up of the Wrist PDA was fairly straightforward. Looking at the box contents below, simply run the set up CD, then (after charging the Wrist PDA 4-6 hours for the initial charge) hook up the AC charger and USB cable to the Wrist PDA and you PC and run the HotSync application from the Wrist PDA. For those of you looking to transfer existing palm databases to your Wrist PDA, Fossil includes directions to do this — it did not work for me. But a quick beam of my databases from my PDA to the Wrist PDA and I was good to go.

[Brian] I ran into sync issues after installing the Palm Desktop and other software. Since I already had a copy of the desktop installed, the Fossil install added a second Local USB selection under HotSync settings. Deselecting one of them solved the problem.

Design

Although a good concept, many people use watches as a fashion statement and may be concerned about the look and size of the Wrist PDA. Looking at the specs, the Wrist PDA weighed 3.2 ounces — my current watch weighs 2.7 ounces. I was also surprised to see the Wrist PDA was not much bigger than my current watch as shown below. So, the Wrist PDA was only slightly larger than a typical man’s watch in terms of weight and size. For you ladies out there — I’ll let you be the judge.

   

 

Externally, the Wrist PDA features three large buttons, a rocker switch (similar to a PDA jog-dial), a reset port, IR port, and a mini-USB hotsync/charge port. The back button, reset port, and hotsync/charge port are located on the left side of the Wrist PDA face. The hotsync/charge port features a nice solid cover to protect it from the elements. Note, however, that the Wrist PDA is not water resistant. The Page-Up, Page-Down, and rocker switch buttons are located on the right side of the Wrist PDA display. All buttons have a nice solid feel though again, none can be assigned any function other than the default assigned functions. The IR port is located at the top above the 12 O’clock position of the Wrist PDA face.

The Wrist PDA I received came with a plastic band that used standard attachment pins (so I assume it can easily be replaced by a custom band if desired). The band buckle houses the Wrist PDA stylus as shown below. I found it to be too small for my hands and after attaching a temporary screen protector, resorted to using a standard pen as a stylus. Note that the Wrist PDA comes with a spare stylus — I can understand why, judging by its small size. But good to have in case you have nothing else to use.


Abacus WristPDA 2.0 flanked by two Fossil made SPOT watches

[Brian] The watch design is largely tech, but you can see glimpses of fashion at certain angles. The rubber band with leather inserts is comfortable and will fit most wrists. I really like the stylus integration into the clasp, and even though it’s tiny, the stylus is still usable when the rocker switch doesn’t meet the need. As mentioned, a second stylus is in the box, but Fossil will probably make a nice margin on the replacements. I’m not worried about the stylus falling out, it’s just so small it would be easy to leave behind or lose in a seat cushion. The watch itself does not offer any water resistance, so owners must take caution even when washing their hands.

Battery Life

Finally, battery power was typical for a PDA, but much less than we are used to for watches. In playing around with it fairly heavily, I had to recharge on the third day. My current watch battery lasts two years. From a battery perspective — this is a PDA, not a watch.

[Brian] The manual claims a battery life of 3-4 days assuming PDA use of 30 minutes per day and no backlight or infrared usage. My battery ran out in less than 3 days with little usage. Needless to say, charging is going to be important and a problem. The watch will trickle charge over USB with the included cable and should work with any mini-USB cable.

Bottom Line

After using the Wrist PDA for a week, I just couldn’t get used to not having my palm function buttons. Too many taps and button pushing to get an address, or view my calendar. Which is a shame as I love the concept and the price is on target. People also tend to choose watches based on style as well as function — I think the Wrist PDA is too bulky for women and men who do not have tree trunks for wrists.

[Brian] Fossil is playing all sides of watch tech with this effort and their popular SPOT watches. I think the latter is a much better application of technology and as the MSN Direct service matures and offers more features, I see more people going that route than this one. I’m not saying this product is bad, but it’s very much a niche product, something that will appeal to just a small percentage of early adopters.

Recommendation

If you must have the latest tech toy, make sure you buy this where they have a good return policy to make sure it looks good on your wrist and you feel comfortable with the non-standard Palm functionality. Otherwise, I’d wait till the Wrist PDA becomes more like a modern PDA.


Pros:
Reasonable cost for a combined entry-level pda and a watch
Works with both Windows and MacIntosh PC’s
Works reasonably well with existing 3rd party palm software
List of available Wrist PDA — specific software is increasing
Similar in size & weight to a standard men’s watch

Cons:
Palm OS v4.1
No standard palm function buttons (i.e. datebook, address, memo, todo)
160×160 low-res screen crammed into a 1 inch by 1 inch screen makes for difficult viewing and screen navigation at times
Not water resistant
Poor backlight
Poor battery life for a watch


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