Photokina 2014 highlights

Don't call it a smartwatch: This enormous "wrist communicator" runs full-blown Android

By

March 18, 2014

The Rufus Cuff is enormous, but runs full smartphone apps

The Rufus Cuff is enormous, but runs full smartphone apps

Image Gallery (4 images)

Most of the early smartwatches we've seen run scaled-down software designed for teeny-weeny screens. But then you also have devices like Neptune Pine and Omate TrueSmart that are basically full smartphones for your wrist. Today another device is ready to join that latter group. Meet the Rufus Cuff, a "wrist communicator" that can pair with both iPhone and Android smartphones.

If you're like me, then the idea of having full-blown smartphone functionality on your wrist sounds pretty damn cool. But there's one big problem: in order to have enough screen real estate, you end up with a device that runs halfway up your forearm. The Rufus Cuff is no exception. In fact, it has the biggest screen I've seen on any wearable computer. But it also has a unique asymmetrical design that at least keeps its band down to a fairly normal-looking size.

The Cuff has an asymmetrical design, with a huge body bleeding into a smaller band

With its huge body, I suppose it's appropriate that Rufus Labs CEO Gabe Grifoni thinks this kind of device deserves its own name. Hardly a watch, this hulking "wrist communicator" runs Android 4.4 KitKat and rocks a 400 x 240, 3-in display. For some perspective, that's 70 percent as much screen real estate as the first five iPhones gave you. The Cuff also has a front-facing camera for video chat, is powered by a Cortex A8 processor, and has Bluetooth 4.0 in tow to connect to your smartphone.

That smartphone connectivity is one of the biggest differentiators between the Rufus Cuff and its most direct rival, the Neptune Pine. While the Pine has a SIM card slot that lets you do away with your smartphone, the Cuff is still tethered to your phone (at least when you're away from Wi-Fi). The downside to that is that you'll need to be constantly tethering data from your phone while you're on the go. One upside, I suppose, is that it can still tap into your phone's voice control and music playback capabilities. Grifoni tells me he's interested in the idea of a standalone Cuff with SIM capabilities, and it's something they'll consider for future versions.

The Rufus Cuff's band is interchangeable, and will be sold in a variety of colors

Though it's still in the conceptual stage, and a few months away from having a working prototype, the Cuff is looking like something out of a sci-fi fantasy. Its huge body bleeds into a thinner band, which you'll be able to buy in a variety of colors. The company is also skinning the Android interface with its own futuristic-looking custom UI, which only adds to the Star Trek-esque look of it all.

Rufus Labs is marketing the Cuff as shipping with Google Play and other Google services onboard. I'd say that's far from a guarantee, though, as both Neptune Pine and Omate TrueSmart ran into problems getting Google to license those services for their watches. And with today's announcement of the Android Wear platform, it's obvious why: Google sees wearables as running a completely different flavor of Android. Still, Grifoni says that he believes the Cuff is more phone than watch, fits Google's stated requirements, and will ultimately get the necessary thumbs-up from Mountain View. We'll see.

Speaking of Android Wear, Grifoni thinks it looks like it provides a good experience for standard-sized smartwatches, which the Cuff obviously isn't. He adds that the Cuff's aim is to provide a richer, more smartphone-like experience than the glanceable, context-sensitive apps that will run on Wear devices like the Moto 360 and LG G Watch.

The Cuff's 3-in screen gives it the largest display we've seen on any wrist-based computer

If a full-blown wrist-phone like the Rufus Cuff tickles your fancy, then you can hit up the Indiegogo page below to help bring it to market. Its crowdfunding campaign just launched today, and, at the time of this writing, has picked up over US$12,000 of its $250,000 goal (with over a month left to go). It's estimated to start shipping this September.

For more info on the Rufus Cuff, you can hit up the product pages, as well as the embedded video, below.

Product pages: Rufus Cuff, Indiegogo

About the Author
Will Shanklin Will Shanklin is Gizmag's Mobile Tech Editor, and has been part of the team since 2012. Will has a Master's degree from U.C. Irvine and a Bachelor's from West Virginia University. He currently lives in New Mexico with his wife, Jessica.
  All articles by Will Shanklin
14 Comments

I'd say it looks like it's made for left-handers, except for the direction in which the band wraps.

I sure would not want that big shelf sticking over my hand and restricting my wrist movement. Being a right-hander, there is absolutely no question that I'd want it to extend in the other direction.

Anne Ominous
18th March, 2014 @ 03:42 pm PDT

Anne, do you think perhaps that it would orient in what ever direction you want it to??

SciFi9000
18th March, 2014 @ 07:25 pm PDT

Pretty sure the phone would detect which direction is down and flip the screen that way when you wear it on your right arm?

malJohann
18th March, 2014 @ 08:11 pm PDT

I wonder how long it will be before someone makes a PipBoy mod of this thing. It is just crying for it.

VirtualGathis
19th March, 2014 @ 06:39 am PDT

Looks more like the doofus cuff to me.

Mike Wright
19th March, 2014 @ 08:40 am PDT

I think it's kinda cool—and I would like to reclaim space in my pockets.

Certainly Cuff with a built-in SIM as with the Neptune Pine would make loosing your cellphone a thing of the past.

In many ways I see a wrist cellphone/communicator as being the most practical place, however I also see the biggest hurdle for both of these devices is getting past attitudes like that expressed above by Mike Wright.

Both Rufus and Neptune would be well advised to try to get their devices on A-list celebrities wrists if they hope to overcome that kind of prejudice.

yrag
20th March, 2014 @ 11:00 am PDT

If you go to purchase a Cuff from the site, but they do not reach the requirement to bring it to the market, do you get a refund of do you still receive a Cuff?

Thats probably the only question stopping me from buying one

ilikesupras
24th March, 2014 @ 12:43 pm PDT

Really, come on, you must be joking. This thing is huge and ridiculous. I have a phone already, why don't I just get some Velcro and a wrist band, voila I have the same thing - but better, I don't have to carry a companion phone. Want a smart phone on your wrist, design a phone case that has a wrist band. Again, its the same thing - but better - with a bit more polish. Want a different UI, great, create some skins for the UI so that its orientated the way you like.

You want to make a leap? Find a way to harness solar, motion and or body heat to charge the phone on your wrist.

I wear long sleeve shirts most of the time to work, I am not going to start rolling up my sleeves with my jacket on...

I really don't like that watches have gotten bigger lately, even regular men's watches are getting bigger. It seems to be the fad lately to have the biggest shiniest watch possible. To me it says, hey look at me, I'm cool and self absorbed.

Here are some specs for your watch:

1) Smaller and sleeker form factor, at least 1/2 to 1/3 the size this is

2) No companion phone. If its not replacing my phone, whats the point.

3) Build in something like Spritz so that I can read an entire book or web page easily

4) Pair this with an inconspicuous Bluetooth ear piece so that I can have a private phone conversation.

5) Water Resistant (of course I am sure you thought of this... right? At some point in the day I will be washing my hands and splash my watch)

Until you can do something like this, it feels like i'm in the 80's and your trying to put a cassette player on my wrist.

JPK
24th March, 2014 @ 10:51 pm PDT

It looks terribly uncomfortable. They better work on that.

EJacob Cornelius
25th March, 2014 @ 03:16 pm PDT

If it is going to be this big the only way I would accept it would be if it was a full smartphone and not a companion smartwatch. It really is very silly to have the device this big and not be a complete substitute for the phone like the Neptune Pine. Too bad cause it is more stylish than those but definitely at this size it should substitute the phone altogether.

Yes, the Neptune Pine is kinda large but remember that this is a first generation for a full phone functionality device. In a few more years, in a few generations it could shrink significantly, perhaps having a thinner bezel (at the edges) with the small but higher resolution screen covering much more of the top surface (like the gizmo in this article) and overall lighter weight and also perhaps thinner from top to bottom. Give it some time, it has to start somewhere but again the benefit would really be in a full smartphone like the Pine not a device like this one.

As for what JPK said in terms of solar, kinetic or body heat charging, no it can't be done or at least not yet. This is not one of those kinetic charger regular watches, those need a very small percent of the kind of power that a device like this requires. A kinetic charger would not be able to provide anywhere near that kind of power. Also it takes more space from the interior which is necessary for other things.

As for solar charging, how big a solar cell do you think you could put into something like this? To begin to be significant (and I do not think that it can do it anyway) it would require too much of the surface of the phone which is already totally necessary for the screen. The other place left is the wristband but again I do not think that it would provide anywhere near enough surface area for the purpose.

And the third option that you mentioned of body heat charging you are talking about conceptual designs that are being talk about for the future at the moment but those devices are supposed to use future circuits that would supposedly use far, far less power than today's devices so it cannot be done, not yet.

I do not think that even combining all those three would provide enough power for a device like this, at least not yet or in the near future, perhaps 30 or 40 years from now.

David Guzman
27th March, 2014 @ 07:46 pm PDT

This has ALL BEEN DONE...and smaller with NO TETHERING....3 years ago...look up Vea Digital Sportive watch. Checkout this site's OWN 2011 POST ON THE Vea Digital sportive, apparently ur all new here (and u all worry qbout page refresh rates or bandwidth? No need to, the bottleneck is above the neck...& no, that's not a joke...glib mayb but the truth, not a joke:

http://www.gizmag.com/vea-sportive-training-watch/19130/

techmd
28th March, 2014 @ 08:15 pm PDT

This look interesting but with no actual working prototype I will not pick one up.

James Chai
10th April, 2014 @ 08:29 pm PDT

For the record, while the Pine is fairly large for a watch, the Omate Truesmart is the same size as just about any other watch.

It works really well. I like mine, in any event. I use it for everything from watching netflix, to making calls, to writing emails.

Finny Wiggen
15th May, 2014 @ 07:04 pm PDT

I think its awesome, remember when cell phones had companion battery packs or could only be used in your car? I do and you have to start somewhere in a few years with the right support this will be smaller it will be sleeker and if they get good support it could get the chance to be a smartphone straight up.

I am wondering about the distance you can travel away from your cell phone and still use this device?

If you want technology to grow you have to support it at the basic idea so it can reach its's full potential..

whycanttherebemorethen1jay
8th August, 2014 @ 10:03 am PDT
Post a Comment

Login with your gizmag account:

Or Login with Facebook:


Related Articles
Looking for something? Search our 28,545 articles