No, the picture above isn't some modernized Power Ranger's wrist communicator. This is the Mutewatch, and we've been intrigued since we first laid eyes on it over a year ago. At a glance, it looks akin to a rubber fashion bracelet, which could make its $260 price tag a shocker. But with the right touch or flick it reveals itself to be much more. The Stockholm-based start-up behind it, dubbed Mutewatch AB, envisions the device serving as "time management tool" for setting quick wrist-felt vibrating reminders during the course of the day. Think Growl, but on your wrist. The wristwatch lacks a dial and crystal, and instead has an angled, touch-sensitive section for a face with hidden LEDs, an ambient light sensor, a motion sensor and a vibrating motor for alarms. We've spent some time using a near-final unit seeing what it would be like silently manage our days, and it's all laid out just past the break. %Gallery-134989%
Up until opening the box, we'd only seen renders of the Mutewatch, but thankfully, it was nearly identical to them despite some rough machining. The watch is molded from a flexible TPU (similar to a Livestrong wristband) with a great soft-touch feel. Notably, it was water-resistant enough to survive washing dishes, but the downside is that it's not serviceable if the insides go bonkers. You'll have a choice of two eye-pleasing colors (gray and red), but make no mistake, this won't be your "Friday night on-the-town" wrist bling -- especially as the face is positioned underhand, which we'll detail in a bit. Overall, the look is mysterious and ultra-modern, and the asymmetrical button snap on its band adds a splash of pizazz. You'll be happy to know the snap's adjustable, but sadly with a maximum length of just over 7-inches, it won't fit larger wrists.
Before we could strap-on the watch we had to charge it -- weird for a watch no matter how you spin it. Folding back the band reveals a hidden half-stack USB stick -- doubling for firmware updates -- that can sort-of plug into a laptop, but a 3-inch extension cable is included to help out. Usually, within about two hours, it was ready to
tick vibrate. Expect to do that a lot, as we never managed more than four days on a charge. Notably, if the watch isn't used for a week, it'll go into a hibernation mode to preserve its battery. Using the Mute was treat after figuring out its offbeat ways.
The main hurdle is that the numbers aren't perpendicular to its band like a normal watch, but rather horizontally in-line with it. The intent is to wear it under the wrist, so that a quick flick puts it in your line of sight when you extend your arm, while otherwise keeping from being a distraction. It's an interesting placement, but constantly typing with wrists laid out on a desk could potentially scuff the face from the friction. We managed to put a few minor dings on our initial unit while wearing like a normal watch in our day to day hustle, but we're told the final consumer versions will have a slightly more resilient TPU, along with cleaner edging.
The touch-panel itself uses nine capacitive panels and an ambient light sensor that automatically adjusts the intensity of its LEDs, which seem to magically shine through the TPU when activated. They aren't bright enough to compete direct sunlight, though, making this nearly impossible read outdoors at times. A flick of the wrist or a single tap brings up the display, and from there you can swipe sequentially back and forth through its menus: the clock (military format only), up to five alarms, vibration length and a timer (up to an hour). Setting the time or an alarm (with an option to repeat) only required a few simple taps or swipes, and deleting one was as simple a quick inward pinch. It's a very intuitive interface for a digital watch and effective for setting quick reminders during the day. Sure, smartphones are loaded with real touchscreens, clock apps and vibing functionality, but with the Mutewatch focused solely on managing time using vibrations, it makes it fun in a delightfully quirky way.
So, about those vibrations. The SH-RT mode gives a quick bzz bzz, while its L0-NG mode pumps out longer buzzes for up to a minute unless a sequence of LEDs is tapped to disable it. While on the move, it was hard to ignore despite being fairly quiet. Interestingly, we're told that the watch senses how much movement is going on and automatically adjusts the strength of the vibes, which get stronger with less movement. We couldn't tell the difference really, but if you're a heavy sleeper like us, relying on the Mutewatch as a wearable alarm might have you snoozing past your morning routine. We really hope a future firmware update could bring an extra-long mode with it for that purpose.
All in all, the Mutewatch is a clever little gizmo that adds a bit a of joy to the otherwise mundane experience of staying on task. It's got a modern look, comfortable fit and it's a oh so easy to use. On the not so positive side, the underhanded placement isn't always ideal, battery life is bad, the 12 format's been left in the dust and there's no way to sync it with your calendar. Furthermore, our initial unit got bruised fairly easily, but again, these were early-run units. We're told by the folks at Mutewatch AB that the builds shipping out to customers are better polished overall, and that they're not aiming for it to be like a G-Shock. The glaring problem blocking the Mutewatch's way through the door, though, is the $260 price tag -- one could procure a beastly Galaxy S II on contract in the US for less.
On the other hand, when you consider other fashionable timepieces from the likes of Nooka, Tokyoflash and more, the cost of adoption for a Mutewatch is well positioned in line. If that's the kind of thing you're into, there's a lot to like about the Mutewatch, and it's currently available for order with about a five to ten week wait. Bzzz Bzzz Bzzz. Do you hear that? Our Mutewatch is telling us it's time to move on to another post.