Review: S16 Mobile Phone Watch


Watch Phone showing W3C

Like many people, I no longer wear a watch. I've got a phone which tells me the time and data - why do I need something cluttering my wrist?

The Evolution of the Watch

I wasn't always this way, I used to love high-tech watches. Throughout my teenaged years I had one of those calculator watches - enabling me to add up my pocket money and write "5318008" for instant humour.

In 1999, I graduated to the seriously awesome Timex 78401.
Timex Ironman Triathlon Datalink
This was an immensely cool bit of kit. It could store hundreds of phone numbers and memos on its internal memory. Rather than wear your fingers out pressing buttons on the phone, you typed your data into a computer. The computer would make the CRT pulse in such a way that the data could be retreived by the watch's optical sensor. Futuristic!

Finally, a few years ago, I picked up an MP4 watch from eBay. Stuffed with a 2GB USB disk inside (large, for those days) the watch could play mp3 audio and mp4 video! Well, video had to be converted to something lo-res and low-bit rate - but it played video! On my wrist! It would also pick up FM radio, act as a voice recorder and - just about - tell the time.

The Mobile Phone Watch

Long considered the holy-grail of the phone world. Can you cram a GSM phone into a watch? The answer is a resounding yes... but...

The watch itself retails from anywhere between US$70 and US$200. My parents picked it up in Hong Kong for £50 - which is factory gate price. Thanks ma and pa!

The first thing you should know about this phone, is that is is shit. I don't mean "it is the shit". I mean it truly is one of the worst devices I have ever used. The touchscreen in unresponsive and inaccurate - even if it wasn't, the UI is a clusterfuck of every design mistake you've ever heard of. It's hard to use, has poor battery life, is far too fiddly for day-to-day use and has a non-standard USB plug.
USB Plugs
But, it's only fifty quid - and you do get to impress girls at parties* by saying "I've got a mobile phone in my watch!"

In short, it's cheap Chinese tat. I love it 🙂

*I don't go to many parties. Is that how things normally work?

Camera, Video, Sound

The camera seems to be 640*480 - although it will interpolate up to 1280*1024.

Sample Image
Sample Image - click for full size

The video is limited to 176*144, although you get a choice of MPEG4 (recording at 2fps) or H.263 (recording at 6fps). Here are some samples.

Audio is limited to 8KHz mono - good enough for voice, as this demo should prove.

Web Browser

After diving through 3 different menus, I finally got the Vodafone GPRS settings into it. It came pre-set with the APNs of a number of Chinese and Hong Kong providers.
Google on the wrist
So, what's the web browsing experience like? Well, experience is a bit of a strong word. Imagine using the original Netscape Navigator, while peering through a tiny window, on sub-dial-up speeds, waiting for the inevitable crash.

The results from the W3C Mobile Test Harness show it supports virtually nothing.
W3 Mobile Web Compatibility Tests

For fans of browser statistics, the highly detailed User Agent String is

MAUI WAP Browser

Take a look at how unbearably bad the web browser is.

The Specs

This is a surprisingly feature packed phone. Although you'll be hard pressed to find all the features easily; who would think of looking for the BlueTooth settings within the "Organiser" menu?

A run down of the major features includes

  • GSM Compatibility: 850MHZ, 900MHZ, 1800MHZ, 1900MHZ. So it should work everywhere that there is 2G coverage
  • Language: English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Arabic and Chinese. What's most impressive is the handwriting recognition. It's marginally faster than multi-tapping on the tiny keypad.
  • Screen: 1.4 inch, QICF touch screen, 176*144 pixels. Touch-screen is a bit optimistic. Use your fingernail to point vaguely at the screen hoping to elicit a response doesn't have quite the same ring. It does come with an integrated stylus.
  • Vibration: Support
  • Memory: MicroSD Card Support.(Up to 16GB in size). Didn't come with one, but happily accepted a 1GB card I had. Just as well; the internal memory is limited to 400KB. That's not a typo - less than half a megabyte of storage.
  • Connection Methods: Mass Storage, Webcam, COM Port. Works on Linux, claims to work on Windows and Mac. Mass storage works well - if slow. Can also be set to be used as a webcam. I assume the COM port is if you need to connect to the Internet.
  • Accelerometer. Well... sort of. There's a compass function built in - but it's hit and miss.
  • GPRS Support: Browse WAP Website. Ha! Brilliant! Possibly the worst browser I've ever encountered.
  • SMS/MMS/Email. SMS send and receive worked perfectly. No support for delivery receipts.
  • E-Book Reader: TXT. Yes! Throw away your Kindle and read .txt files on this minuscule screen.
  • Bluetooth Support: Bluetooth (V2.0). Pretty impressive, actually. Paired with my Jabra Clipper and worked as both a music player and headset/mic. Claims to support Handsfree, Headset, SPP, DUN, OPP, FTP, A2DP, AVRCP. It played music through my bluetooth headphones - although the decoder is shockingly bad.
  • Net weight: 65g. Chunky - but not too heavy.

Conclusion

I asked my parents to buy me a knock-off phone for under £50. This doesn't disappoint. I think it's kinda nifty looking - if you dig that retro vibe.

As a phone, you expect it to make and receive phone calls. You can either hold it up to your ear - like a spy in a bad movie - use the supplied headphones, or BlueTooth. Call quality was adequate. As a basic phone, the best I can say about it is "it works".

The S16 will frustrate you and horrify you in equal measure. But, there's no denying - taking a phone call from your wrist is cool!

Assuming it doesn't give you cancer of the wrist. Which would be bad.

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