September 25, 2003
Computer Wristwatch Gets Thumbs Up
The Wall Street Journal gave a USB memory watch a positive review in a Sept. 25 technology column. The USB watch includes a flash memory device allowing wearers to plug into the Universal Serial Bus port in most computers (it's similar to what's used in the memory cards that slide into digital cameras). If all goes smoothly, the watch immediately acts like a hard drive. Wearers can copy files to and from the watch and unplug it when they're done. There's no need for a separate power cord the watch has a short USB cable tucked into the band that can be inserted into a PC or Apple Macintosh. It also comes with a separate extension cord, handy if the USB port is on the back of the computer. A tiny red light on the watch face goes on when its memory is being accessed.
The reviewer, Kevin Delaney, tested a handful of watches sold by different companies, although all were made by Xonix, of China. Xonix says it is doing a booming business, selling more than 100,000 pieces since March. Delaney tested a 128 MB version of Peripheral Enhancements Corp.'s EDGE DiskGO! USB Watch Flash Drive, with a suggested retail price of $90; a 256 MB version goes for $140. He also tested 128 MB watches branded with the BMW and MINI logos. BMW Group sells them online and through its car dealerships for $128. "This watch could replace a 256 MB USB device I bought a few months ago for about $50 that I use to transfer files," says Delaney. "It's also a lot easier than burning a CD-ROM to carry around or e-mailing files, especially since I tend to work on a large number of frequently updated files."
Delaney wore the watches for about three weeks and transferred files between a handful of computers. In addition to accessing work files outside of the office, he used them to copy documents for his wife from her colleague's PC. He also tried out the watches on a Mac. The watches work best with the Windows XP operating system or the latest versions of Mac's operating system. Earlier versions of operating systems cause glitches to occur, reports Delaney. To get around that, wearers have to bring along a CD-ROM with software drivers if they don't know the specifications of the computer they'll be using to access data.
All of the watches Delaney tested use the older 1.1 version of the USB technology, which means they're slower at transferring data than with USB 2.0. However, Xonix says it is shipping USB 2.0 watches.
"The watches' understated design &150; black plastic with stainless-steel accents &150; is a triumph for a gadget maker," writes Delaney. He reports the watches weigh 1.6 ounces, roughly the same as many common watches. He didn't find the watches bulky or uncomfortable to wear, though he had one friend observe that they were not made for petite wrists.