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Neptune Pine straps a smartwatch to wrists from next month


December 5, 2013

The Neptune Pine lets users flip their wrist and check a lot more than just the time

The Neptune Pine lets users flip their wrist and check a lot more than just the time

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When we covered the Neptune Pine watch earlier this year, our first thought was that it looked like the smartwatch that tech lovers have been waiting for. That was immediately followed by a second thought – is this set of rough renderings ever going to lead to an actual watch we can buy? It hasn't happened quite yet, but things are moving in the right direction. Neptune has developed a working prototype and launched a Kickstarter campaign that has attracted a half-million dollars in pledges in just over two weeks.

There is a small but growing range of smartwatches that are available to buy this holiday season. The fact that nearly 2,000 backers have thrown down dollars on a smartwatch that doesn't quite exist yet suggests that there's an unsatisfied yearning for something more. Something that's stuffed with cool hardware and features and doesn't need to be tethered to a smartphone. Simply, something that's basically a smartphone on your wrist.

The Neptune Pine certainly looks like it could be that something. The brainchild of 19-year-old entrepreneur Simon Tian and the first product for 2012-founded Neptune Computer, the Pine does virtually everything a smartphone does. While it can tether to a smartphone, Neptune's approach is really about making the "only device you'll ever need" a watch. It really looks to be the emergence of watches that can replace, not just complement, smartphones.

The Pine handset measures 66 x 53.5 x 14.2 mm and weighs 60.8 g (2.14 oz), withe strap adding another 35.4 g (1.24 oz) to the weight on your wrist. It gets things started with a 2.4-inch QVGA (320 x 240) capacitive touchscreen, which is tiny by phone standards, but fairly gigantic by wrist standards. The size allows the Pine to give you a virtual QWERTY keyboard for familiar thumbing. The watch also packs a serious line-up of hardware in its thick casing, starting with a 1.2-GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor, micro-SIM-powered 2G/3G and Wi-Fi. With those, it offers all the core functions of a smartphone, including phone calls, texts, emails, internet access, etc. And it can also serve as a Wi-Fi hotspot for other devices.

Because the Pine supports both quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE and quad-band UMTS/HSPA+/WCDMA, Neptune says it is compatible with some 80 percent of worldwide mobile carriers, including AT&T;, T-Mobile and Orange. The company also says that if it reaches CAD$300,000 (US$281,000) on Kickstarter, which it already has, it will develop a quad-band CDMA version for use with Verizon, Sprint and other networks.

On the software side, the Pine is powered by Android Jelly Bean. Neptune is careful to stress that the watch packs the full version of Jelly Bean, meaning it will work with hundreds of thousands of existing apps. The Android OS also powers voice recognition capabilities.

The Pine has gained some new goodies since the first time we looked it over. It still has the rear 5-megapixel camera for stills and 720p video, but Neptune has added a front-facing camera for video calls, saying that the watch will be compatible with popular Android-offered services like Skype and Tango. The front-facing LED light, which Neptune claims as a first, provides some strategic lighting for video calls in dark rooms and doubles as a small flashlight.

With a GPS, accelerometer, pedometer, gyroscope and digital compass, coupled with the fact it straps to your wrist, it promises to work more naturally as a fitness monitor than a smartphone. It will be compatible with existing apps like RunKeeper. With its integrated Bluetooth 4.0, it can also pair with accessories like heart rate monitors.

Other miscellaneous hardware specs include buyer's choice of 16 or 32 GB of onboard storage, a micro-USB port and a 3.5-mm headphone jack. Those transform it into a portable entertainment center for music, video content and more.

With that long, power-hungry list of hardware, the Pine needs more than Swiss-engineered winding to keep the lights on. It's powered by an 810 mAh lithium-polymer battery, which Neptune claims can provide up to eight hours of talk time (2G), seven hours of Wi-Fi internet usage, 10 hours of music, or 120 hours of standby.

Perhaps more important than the fevered Kickstarter response and spec upgrades is the fact that the 101-level renderings Neptune was circulating earlier in the year have given way to a working prototype. The watch has changed a little in appearance, but it still has the same form factor of a watch case that docks in the strap. Users can remove the watch body for two-handed texting, photo-taking, etc.

The Neptune lags behind current smartphones in terms of its level of features, and one day masses of folks clad in pliable, paper-thin computer-bracelets will no doubt laugh about what an antiquated electro-brick it looks like, just like we laugh at how huge original mobile phones were. But for now, it might just be the first smartwatch that gives consumers a reason to think about dropping the smartphone entirely. It looks to blow other smartwatches out of the water, and at a competitive price.

The goal of CAD$100,000 (US$94,000) is already well in the rearview, and some of the lower pledge levels are sold out, but the CAD$249 (US$234) 16 GB version (MSRP: CAD$335 (US$314)) and CAD$279 (US$262) 32 GB version (MSRP: CAD$395 (US$370)) are still options. Neptune says that it will be ready to begin manufacturing this month, and while the watch won't make it to your front stoop in time for the holidays, Neptune plans to start shipping in January.

Check out the hardware design and slick interface a little more closely in the video below.

Source: Neptune

About the Author
C.C. Weiss Upon graduating college with a poli sci degree, Chris toiled in the political world for several years. Realizing he was better off making cynical comments from afar than actually getting involved in all that mess, he turned away from matters of government and news to cover the things that really matter: outdoor recreation, cool cars, technology, wild gadgets and all forms of other toys. He's happily following the wisdom of his father who told him that if you find something you love to do, it won't really be work. All articles by C.C. Weiss

Yeah no thanks. Just because I want wearable electronics doesn't mean I'm willing to sport a monitor on my wrist. I'll take my Omega any day and leave my smartphone to do the rest.

Rocky Stefano

I wanted to see a Skype call

Paul Anthony

Wrist mounted phones just seem silly to anybody who wasn't brought up on Dick Tracy. To me these seem WAY too bulky to be comfortable while still being too small to be a usable mobile device (screen size? tiny!). Add to that the fact that anything wrist mounted gets banged around a lot and you have a recipe for disaster.

Also, we're limited to speaker phone (rude and pretentious at best) or holding our wrist awkwardly up to our ears? or are we just supposed to "unmount" it every time we take a call or make a text? Overall, I'd rather keep my smart phone in my pocket, thanks.

Bryan Paschke

This is a pretty unique idea, and for people who have a hard time with losing their phone or have a hard time being too busy to use it, this could be useful for quite a few reasons.

Jessica Johnson

Are they going to increase the size every year till eventually it is as large as an iPad? Wouldn't be be cheaper to just use Velcro if want an arm ornament?


Also consider the SmartQ Z-Watch ($155) which launched last week -- this new model compares to the popular Sony Watch, but features a higher resolution color touch screen display, a more powerful processor that runs at a full 1 Ghz, offers twice the battery power, and features both Bluetooth & WiFi connection. It also offers an MP3 Player & Voice Recorder, a walking/jogging pedometer, sleep monitor, tracks weather worldwide, and works with Android smartphone devices to handle phone calls and sync and display messages, contacts, and schedule-- the SmartQ Z-Watch works with all Smartphones that feature Android 4.0 or higher

SmartQ other innovations include the world's first tablet with a built-in DLP projector - winning the prestigious 2013 CTIA E-Tech Award; and SmartQ's new Z-Watch is already gaining industry attention for its impressive features & price.


Make it with a 4" screen, and I'll buy it.


Sorry, but I'll stick to my iPhone, thanks anyway.

No where in the video did I see it's time or alarm function, nor did I see it's Skype capability. All I could see was its inane game and Google map capability. I want a smartwatch that can tell me what time it is and make face to face video calls, that's all.

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