HOT Watch is the smart watch Samsung should have built

It won’t take pictures, and that’s the point.
It won’t take pictures, and that’s the point.
Image: PHTL
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The design of Samsung’s new smart watch suggests that the company has yet to answer the fundamental question of what a smart watch is for. But Dallas, Texas-based PHTL seems to have answered that question. In PHTL’s vision, articulated in the company’s promotional video for its forthcoming HOT Watch, the purpose of a smart watch is to keep your expensive and increasingly bulky smartphone in your pocket by allowing you to make calls from your wrist. Samsung’s Gear is also supposed to have this feature, but reviewers report that the Gear’s speaker is too quiet to make phone calls a realistic endeavor outside of quiet environments. PHTL appears to have solved this issue in a unique way.

PHTL’s solution to the problem of quiet speakers on smart watches is to make the wearer’s body part of the sound system.
PHTL’s solution to the problem of quiet speakers on smart watches is to make the wearer’s body part of the sound system.
Image: PHTL

HOT stands for “hands-on talk. It’s the company’s name for the watch’s “biomechanics solution,” to solve the problem of bad phone reception via the tiny speaker in the wrist-band of a watch. According to PHTL, HOT Watch uses a directional speaker that shoots sounds up the forearm, which is then bounced into a person’s ear by his or her cupped hand. Reviewers report that calls on the HOT Watch sound as if as if the other person’s voice is coming from just below the wearer’s head—an “unsettling” but also “exciting” experience that works even in noisy environments.

PHTL’s HOT Watch is closing out a (successful) round of crowd-funding on Kickstarter, but a number of reviewers have already gotten their hands on the device. Here’s what differentiates the HOT Watch:

  • It’s svelte, and at 8mm thick, even lighter than the category-defining Pebble smart watch—a sharp contrast with Samsung’s feature-packed (and bulky) Gear.
  • Features of the watch are accessed via swipe gestures—drawing a “D” brings up the dialing menu and a list of recent calls. Gear uses simpler swipe gestures in its interface, which reviewers have called “not always intuitive.”
  • The HOT Watch uses a black and white e-ink screen (like the screen on a Kindle) to preserve battery life. The company claims it will last 7 days when making no calls, or 3 days otherwise.
  • Like the GEAR, the HOT Watch will run apps made by third-party developers. Samsung’s Gear has a much more powerful processor and capable display, however.
  • The HOT Watch is compatible with both Android and the iPhone, while the Gear will only work with a handful of Samsung’s more recent phones and its latest 10″ tablet.
  • The HOT Watch will retail for between $169 and $249, while the Gear will start at $300.

In some ways, the HOT Watch is a less ambitious watch than Samsung’s Galaxy Gear. But in as much as good design is also about subtraction, that could make it the more successful, or at least more emulated, gadget.