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Netronix E-ink Smartwatch (video)

netronix smartwatchSmartwatches were a dime a dozen at CES 2014 and now Netronix is jumping into the mix. Charbax caught up with the Taiwan-based design house at a trade show recently where he got a good look at their newest gadget.

The Netronix smartwatch sports a 1.73″ Mobius E-ink display, with a screen resolution of 320 x 240. The one shown in the video is a prototype, and it runs Linux. Like most smartwatches it is intended to be paired with smartphones over Bluetooth.

As you can see in the video, the prototype has a couple buttons on either edge, two on the face, and it even has a touchscreen. This watch weghs in at 77 grams, and Netronix is saying that the production model will have 4-6 days battery life. They’re also saying they have several interested customers, and that the wholesale price will be $70-$80.

It’s a neat looking gadget, but I’m not nearly as excited about smartwatches as I was at CES 2014. I’m not so sure they will amount to much more than a curiosity.

It’s not just that there’s no evidence that Apple is going to get into the market; I don’t see what need a smartwatch fills other than saving you the effort of removing your smartphone from your pocket. Most designs are so limited that they can never be more than an accessory.

True, there are a few models (the Motorola Activ, for example) that fill a secondary purpose  better than a smartwatch would, but they are the exception.

If I had to make a prediction I would say that in the next couple years the hype surrounding smartwatches will fizzle, leaving the category as little more than another type of wristwatch.

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fjtorres July 12, 2014 um 2:44 pm

So, you’re basically saying there’s no market for smartwatches… 🙂

Amber July 12, 2014 um 4:01 pm

I’m really not sure what would be the point to this. Eink is suppose to save on the eyes but having a screen that small people aren’t going to read alot. A color screen would have made alot more sense. What would you even really use it for that would be more convenient that your phone/tablet/laptop? I have to wonder about durability and lighting since watches do take more of a beating. Also it really isn’t a fashion accessory being big and bulky.

Nate Hoffelder July 12, 2014 um 4:04 pm

Theoretically, battery life. Also this screen can be used in full sun, while LCD screens cannot.

jjj July 12, 2014 um 7:35 pm

Commented on watches so much already that i am way fed up with it, so i’ll try to keep it shorter than very very long.

So far the design , the hardware , pricing and features have been terrible and yes watches won’t revolutionize anything. Unless ….
Design wise , or better said form factor wise a watch like device is not at all the best way to fit a screen on a wrist . Watches displayed little information in a simple and clear way but here we need as much real estate as possible and square or round are not the best. I would go for a rectangular screen on the inside of the wrist so i am quite excited to hear the rumour that M$ is doing something like that – sure there is the Razer thingy but that one was a small screen , a Gear Fit like screen with thinner bezels and in a much thinner device would work nicely.
Hardware wise some are just a disaster , Samsung or LG make it very clear that they are not even mildly interested into trying to make a half decent device and invest a little bit. They use smartphone parts and that’s so horrible. I don’t give money to Apple but at least they would try to do things properly.
Pricing is nuts for the hardware , the LG watch has a screen with an area of some 9 cm2 while a 7 inch tab screen is over 140cm2. No 3G, no wifi, few sensors ,low end SoC and little memory , a tiny battery. The cost is way low but they got to go for crazy margins for some reason. Sure some future watches might have some crazy sensors and those might push the BOM up but prices should be 50-100# with maybe a few getting away with a bit more.
On features everybody is focusing on alerts/messages and health/fitness. I would add at least remote/home automation and mobile payments as core features that are pushed hard. it’s a lot easier to unlock you car with a watch than a phone or even a key,same for payments but granted that’s a bit more complicated. In the end if you make an effort you can find more features that could be very important or smaller things like satellite distress beacon built in.

And now to cover the "watches won’t revolutionize anything unless…"
There was that rumor that Apple is trying to predict hear attacks by looking at the blood flow or something like that. A device that could do that at 120 to 199$ would be a humongous hit. People would buy it maybe not for themselves but they will buy it for family members. Sure 200$ would be quite too much outside the developed world so 100-120$ would lead to way higher volumes. So yeah watches wouldn’t be a huge deal unless someone figures out a way to make it a must have.

That was the short version 🙂

Nate Hoffelder July 14, 2014 um 7:41 am

It seems I’m not the only one who is underwhelmed by smartwatches:

In the past week, I’ve been called “Inspector Gadget” twice, had a near-calamitous accident involving spray-on sunblock, and felt my arm vibrate so often I started treating it as a phantom limb.

All because I’m part of the latest tech trend, a bona fide phenomenon in Silicon Valley that is inspiring the kind of pants-wetting excitement usually reserved for new iPhones and Grand Theft Auto games. I’m talking about smartwatches—the tech world’s quixotic attempt to mount minicomputers on your wrist. I’ve been wearing two smartwatches for several days apiece, and so far, it’s been an enlightening experience. Though not necessarily a hopeful one.


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