One of the complaints that we have had about smartwatches is that they tended to be too closely tied up to the smartphones, and in most cases were little more that wrist-bound notification centres. Well, Spice Retail pulled a wearable tech rabbit out of its hats when it announced the Spice Smart Pulse today, “India’s first SIM-enabled smartwatch”, to quote the press release. Forget that term if you will, for unlike the other smartwatch players in the market, the Spice Smart Pulse makes no claims to be a watch, other than being located on your wrist. Neither is it an add-on to your phone. No, siree, it is a whole darned phone in its own right. And at Rs.3,999 or about USD 67 at that.
And it is the price tag that forgives its sins. No, it does not come with an always-on watch face and you have to hit a button to switch it on. No, it does not run on Android Wear or any of its variations, but instead works on a proprietary OS (read ‘Java’) developed by Spice. Yes, the glossy finish does not give it a premium finish. Yes, the apps for the watch itself are limited.
On the flip side, the watch comes with dual-SIM connectivity with support for 3G (yes, there are SIM card slots behind the removable back), a decent enough 4cm display with 240 x 320 resolution, support for expandable memory of up to 8 GB, and even a camera on the side. You can compose, send and receive messages and also make and receive calls (Spice has also thrown in a Bluetooth headset with the device) from the watch. Round that off with a 420 mAh battery and FM radio, and well, you have a pretty comprehensive feature phone package on your wrist. And as for the paucity of apps, well, the device can be paired with an Android phone and will let you see all notifications that appear on it.
In short, it can function on its own as a phone and can also hook up with an Android phone over Bluetooth. No, it does not have a plethora of sensors on it and frankly on its own is pretty much restricted to messaging, calls and playing music and video, and browsing in WAP format – a bit like those Java phones of the 2003-2008 times. And yes, it does seem a bit bulky and not a patch on the sleek Pebble. But on the flip side, it does offer a lot at its price. We also found the touchscreen surprisingly responsive and while onscreen typing is going to be a pain (we have not seen an option for voice commands), dialling numbers is not that difficult. We would not call the Spice Smart Pulse a smartwatch, but on the surface, it certainly is a very affordable phone on your wrist.
Does it actually deliver on what it promises, especially those Android notifications? Stay tuned for our review in the coming days. The device will be available from July 11 on HomeShop18 for Rs 3,999.