Overall impression – Good specs and truly stand-alone. An interesting device with lots of potential. Is ex-Sony man Phil Molyneux the one to take it to where it needs to be?
Pros: Unique and futuristic design, intelligent interface, high quality voice-recognition system
Cons: Awkward fit, not exactly cutting-edge technology, current app selection uninspiring
Price: Currently on application only priced at $399
Reportedly 3 years in the making, what is the Puls? What can it do? And most importantly, is it taking us to a place where the numerous other smart device manufacturers haven’t got the vision to go?
The Puls is an interesting device. A very interesting device indeed. And not so much because of what it is, as much as because of where it comes from. And where it comes from is from the mind of a musician; the Black Eyed Peas’ inimitable Will.i.am. A man who seems to be driven by a compelling vision of a future through technology. Perhaps more than any other non tech-industry celebrity before him, Will.i.am is enthused by the idea of how technology can mesh and embed itself into our lives. One gets a real sense that he is not primarily driven by the bottom line, but by the need to take technology and mould it into something that makes life both better and richer.
In the pursuit of this end, Will.i.am has invested a great deal of time and money into his tech firm, I.am+, where he and his 80 plus engineers turn his dreams and moments of inspiration into tangible objects. Objects such as crazy spiky backpacks with built-in speakers, jackets which can power your wearable and weight-gauging, step-counting soles for your shoes that can accurately calculate your calories burned. It’s all, he says, about Fashionology.
And then there’s the Puls, a smartwatch which he describes as a cuff, not a watch.
So far, the Puls has received a fairly muted at best (and pretty scathing at worst) response from the tech-press. As with Google Glass, I.am+ perhaps made the mistake of putting a prototype into the public domain. Will.i.am is a polarising character. Read comments on the web, and you’ll see that while many people ridicule him, many, many more embrace him unconditionally. And the same appears to be true for his wearable. But given that it was conceived back when wearables were only just beginning to be considered a viable reality, the industry has now caught up with and overwhelmed his original concept. Features which would have been cutting edge in 2011 are rapidly becoming dépassé.
So, what of this cuff? Well, this is what we know so far:
The bracelet-style design of the cuff actually IS quite different from anything out there. And, although there’s still lot of debate as to whether the design is good or not, we certainly think it’s quite cool and futuristic. It also looks pretty solid with a good build quality. However, the one thing that lets it down, and gives it an awkward appearance, is the fact that it doesn’t quite fit. The problem with being completely solid all the way around is that it doesn’t conform naturally to any wrist. There is a spacer piece for larger wrists, but that still isn’t the answer. There may be the need for some expandable “stretch-metal” linkages which will hold the watch snug, whatever the wrist size.
(Update: a smaller cuff has been announced featuring a 1.5″ screen. It is not clear whether this will replace, or is in addition to the original-sized one. In an interview with twice.com new President/COO Phil Molyneux has indicated that there may yet be an overhaul of the original design concept following feedback from select early-adopters)
Display: 1.7” (or 1.5″) PMOLED
The screen size is average compared to other watches on the market, however the curved screen set within the wrap-around bracelet gives the rather interesting sense of an infinite wheel when scrolling through notifications and features. The screen has been described as low-resolution and grainy, however this may be addressed by future upgrades to the technology.
Performance: 1.5 GHz Processor, 16GB Storage, 1 GB RAM
Unlike other Android Wear watches, this one actually runs a “forked” version of Android 4.1 itself. So even with these pretty impressive tech-specs, there are still suggestions of a little lag when switching screens and apps as well as when accessing media.
Connectivity: GPS, Bluetooth 4.0 Wifi, SIM slot with GSM
Again, a rather impressive complement of connectivity features which includes its much-heralded phone ability. However, the Puls is no longer alone in this with the Samsung Gear S also boasting this feature, and the jury is still out as to whether this is something people actually want. Most people are quite attached to the functionality and convenience their smartphone provides them with, so having a tethered watch is not really seen as an issue.
Battery & Charging:
Not a lot of details here (there are charging pins on the back of the device, so probably no wireless charging yet), however reports are that in its current form it may struggle to even last a full day’s use.
OS and Apps: Aneeda (a customised version of the smartphone Android 4.1) with the usual slew of standard apps. Notably no fitness app
“Aneeda” is the OS, and Aneeda (like her counterparts Siri and Cortana) is also your personal assistant. And by all accounts, she’s quite a talented assistant at that. With a high degree of AI she can pre-empt and intelligently perceive what is being asked with broad requests returning relevant responses. The one thing conspicuously lacking here is any form of dedicated fitness app. This is a device for trendy creative-types. It’s certainly not hung-up on the whole body-temple-fitness thing. You won’t find any pedometers or heart-rate monitors here. Two other pre-loaded apps have been mentioned: Humin and Vibe+. Humin transfers users’ contact details by knocking two Pulses (that is the plural of Puls, isn’t it?) together. A kind of functional fist-bump. It will also arrange your contacts based on their relationship to you. Vibe+ is a little more interesting. It uses subtle cues in your voice to assess your mood, then quantifies it and lets you, and those close to you, know how you’re feeling. There are some interesting possibilities here, such as playing music, or contacting specific people, based on your frame of mind. Aside from this you have the usual staple – notifications, email, sms, calendar, music, contacts, etc., however all this without the need for a phone.
Control and interface:
Will.i.am, like Apple with their Watch, wants to transform the way we interact with technology. He wants to remove the physical barriers to communication, and wants to harness the power of AI to streamline our interaction with the device. A very good voice-recognition system coupled with a smart interface created by Nuance, the makers of Siri, means that there is a big potential for this device to carve a niche for itself in the market. Oh, and there is also a tiny full-qwerty on-screen keyboard, but this has been described as being fiddly to use.
Compatibility: It doesn’t “Aneed” any (…sorry)
This is a completely stand-alone product. It doesn’t need a smartphone to connect to. It is, as the tagline states, a ‘computer on your wrist’. Quite refreshing in a way. However, there is apparently a way to link both your phone and your Puls to the same number. This is crucial as many people may not be ready to dispense entirely with their phone just yet.