Abacus MobileWear Bluetooth Watch Hands On

As a confirmed horological nut, I was fairly skeptical when I heard about the Fossil Abacus Bluetooth watch, the MobileWear. It is a watch that tells you when someone is calling your cellphone. It notifies you by vibrating and showing the name of the caller – if they’re in your address book – right on the watch face. You can also mute and hang-up on callers with the watch.

UPDATE – I screwed up the naming on this one. This is the Abacus model, a subsidiary of Fossil.

This hefty beast is designed to work with Symbian Series 60 devices, mainly Sony Ericsson phones along with some Nokias. I tried it with a Nokia N91 with some degree of success.

*Sony Ericsson Bluetooth enabled mobile phones (K610, K610im, K618, K790, K800, W710, W850, Z610, Z710, P990, W950, and M600)
* Series 60 phones using Symbian OS version 7, 8, and 8.1 (coming soon)

The first thing you’ll notice about this $249 stainless steel watch is that it’s very heavy. It’s not overly large or thick, it’s just a hunk of metal with a unobtrusive screen at 6 o’clock on the face. It has two buttons and a standard crown to set the time.

The face is about one inch across and the just about a half an inch thick. This definitely puts it in the “beefy” category. It is also a one trick pony. It tells you who is calling and lets you hang up on people. It also tells the time, but that’s pretty obvious.

It’s quite easy to use: press the bottom button to turn off features as well as pair the watch with the phone. The top button changes the display and/or confirms selections. It has a bright OLED screen where it draws the icons and displays the name of incoming callers. It also buzzes when you get an SMS. The watch doesn’t have an audio feature, so all notifications are made through this discrete vibration. Vibration is fairly new in wrist mounted hardware, and it adds a certain amount of charm to an otherwise potentially distracting technology.

In terms of usefulness, I’m not completely convinced. Unless you’re some sort of motivational speaker in front of an audience of thousands, the common habit of whipping out the cellie at dinner/wakes/at the operating table will probably not change thanks to this. However, it does add another layer of usability to what can only be called an extremely invasive technology. If you take a lot of calls, while talking to people face to face or in meetings, this thing can be a life saver. However, a limited compatibility list and the chunky styling might put you off. My hat’s off to Fossil, though, for creating something as cool as a Bluetooth watch and pricing it well within the $200-$300 sweet spot.

Unlike the Abacus Palm watches, whose death I shall forever mourn, the MobileWear aims to solve one problem and one problem only. This refreshing concept draws attention away from the techno aspects of a wireless Nluetooth timepiece and creates an entirely new way of interacting with telecommunications devices. Could it be better? Yes. Will it be better eventually? Absolutely. This is just the start of something that could be very cool.

Product Page [Abacus]