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Phosphor's Touch Time is a smartwatch that doesn't need a smartphone (hands-on)

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When we talk about smartwatches, it's normally devices that either work with your phone, or seek to replace them altogether. That's not the approach taken by Phosphor, which recruited former Nike designer Stefan Andrén to craft a model that's entirely self-contained. Of course, without a smartphone riding shotgun, the watch should have better battery life, but it also has to do the heavy lifting on its own. After raising more than $300,000 on Kickstarter, the Touch Time is clearly seeking to knock the Pebble from its perch, but will it succeed?

Gallery: Phosphor Touch Time hands-on | 13 Photos

The biggest issue here is that the Touch Time abandons buttons in favor of gestures, and you'll have to unlock the device with a long, bottom-to-top swipe before you begin using it. You can select from a number of pre-installed watch faces, or push across to a home screen where you can launch one of seven apps, including calculator, stopwatch and reminders. Unfortunately, this is where the dream begins to die, as the capacitive touchscreen isn't big or sensitive enough to handle imperfect instructions. A casual swipe is frequently ignored, and it's only long, precise movements that get you where you want to be. This, naturally, becomes a bit of a chore if you're used to the instant gratification that comes from a smartphone touchscreen.

Then there's the 1.3-inch 169 x 144 LCD display itself, which only offers room for a 2 x 2 grid of icons. That's fine when the apps are reasonably simple, but the calculator app pushes the operators to an entirely different screen, and switching between them frequently causes you to make unwanted key presses. Add in the lack of accuracy, and the process becomes even more frustrating as the unit beeps every time you make a gesture.

On the upside, Phosphor's pedigree is in watchmaking, so the company has at least managed to get the basics right. The stainless steel case is stylish and the silicone strap is comfortable, albeit a tad too eager to pick up lint during wear. The device promises to last up to a year on a single watch battery, not to mention resist water down to depths of around 30 meters. Realistically, Phosphor has crafted something that'll stand out in a crowded market, but not something that'll tear you away from your Pebble. If that hasn't deterred you, however, then you'll be happy to know that the Touch Time is shipping from today, and will set you back $160.

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