Well, it’s been about 50 years, and we still don’t have watchband communicators. Heck, my cell phone still loses signal in parts of the San Francisco Bay Area, supposedly the hotbed of technology for the world! However, thanks to New York-based Technotunes, Inc., we do have a watchband music player. The company offers a MP3-playing watch. I must admit, when I first heard the concept, it sounded a little on the janky side of the street. I may have judged too soon.
When we opened the packaging, we were nicely surprised to see the high quality of the materials, and the size of the watch itself. I think our expectations were a cheap overseas design with a standard cardboard box, no manual whatsoever, and pleather. Instead, the box looks good, and all the components are worthy of a $199 watch. Nice.
Now we naturally ignored the manual, and went straight to the task of trying to listen to our music. We pulled out the USB cable, and noticed right away the unique (or unique to us, I should say) adapter which appears to convert USB to… headphone! I plugged the cable into my laptop, and two things happened: (1) a light on the watch lit up, and (2) my PC automatically recognized a new USB drive. Both were fantastic news, let me tell you why.
The light on the watch lit up to inform me that the watch was charging over USB. I love this. To all product developers out there: if you make a portable gadget with USB support, it should be chargeable by USB! There is nothing I hate more than carrying extra power adapters on business trips, and if I’m going to have a watch that needs recharging, the LAST thing I want to have to do is remember my charger!
The fact that Windows was able to communicate with the watch as a USB drive meant that not only did I not need to install any special drivers or software, but I can simply drag and drop the MP3 files I want straight to the watch. Which is exactly what I did, and even though the device used the older USB 1.1 technology (which means a much slower transfer rate), filling 256MB with music was quick enough for me.
Well, it’s time to listen to some watch-music, so our good friend Ron has returned, sans lighter fluid (he likes fire). First Ron connected the supplied headphones, using the same plug on the watch that we connected the USB cable to before. This clever design is part of why we like the TechnOTunes product so much – most devices these days have so many inputs and outputs they’re like swiss cheese. This is how consumer electronics, gadgets or not, should be, clean and simple. To add some icing to this cake, the watch automatically recognized the fact that Ron had connected the headphones. He pushed the play button, and out came beautiful, compressed, music.Just look at the happy fella.
Next, Ron stands up to see what the “walking around, listening to my watch” experience is like. The retractable cable (again, a nice touch) wasn’t quite convenient to Ron’s tall frame, so we tried the old under-the-shirt technique. This definitely worked a lot better, but was not extremely convenient. But that’s why we brought out some other listening devices.
First up, a pair of Shure e2c headphones (our review is forthcoming) are connected to the TechnOTunes watch. As we hoped, sound quality was about what a typical MP3 player sounds like. In all fairness, my multi-hundred dollar Rio Karma sounds better with the Shure’s, but since the Karma is considered the top-of-the-line for audio quality, this isn’t a fair comparison. I think it’s fair to say you won’t be disappointed with the sound quality.
Next test: the Klipsch ProMedia Ultra 2.0 powered computer speakers (review also coming shortly). First off, these are about the best PC speakers you can buy right now, we love them, they are amazing (you can buy them here). We hooked these bad boys up to the TechnOTunes watch, and it was a party in the apartment.
Finally, and most difficult of all, we used a headphone to RCA adapter, and connected the watch to my home stereo. As a preface, it is very very hard to make any compressed music sound good coming out of a decent stereo system. I typically use the digital audio outputs from my laptop if I really want any PC-based music. I found the watch sounded a little bit hollow when hooked up in this environment, but that’s about what I expected as well. Not fair, not nice, but we wanted to be thorough.
As we’ve said before, too much convergence is not a good thing. My laundry machine does not need to play MP3s. My cell phone doesn’t either, unless it does a really good job of it, and stops dropping calls. As for a watch? I honestly don’t know. But I do know this, if there is an example of doing it right, the TechnOTunes MP3 Watch is it.
Packaging and product design is very nicely done. In fact, they have three different models, each aesthetically designed and offered in multiple colors. The unit we tried has no display or user interface, but Apple, the king of MP3 players, has recently declared this to be a good thing. Because time is random.
We expected a huge house-watch, and instead got something with a nice form factor. The clever use of a single port for USB connectivity as well as headphones is one of the smartest things we’ve seen anyone do with a digital device in a long time.
Personally, I would probably be happy enough with a watch-based USB drive! Even if I didn’t use the music features, not having to carry an extra USB memory stick around is a great idea. The TechnOTunes watch does a good job in the drive to convergence. Convergence should mean something very simple: by combining the devices I normally carry into a single device, my life gets better. Most other devices seem to make my life worse.