If Kickstarter is a barometer for what consumers want to see come to market, then it appears there is plenty of pent-up demand for smartwatches, however bulky and ugly they might be. The latest crowdfunded smartwatch darling is Neptune Pine, which in two days has raised more than 194,000 Canadian dollars (U.S. $184,000).
As a standalone device, Pine differentiates itself from other smartwatches, which connect to smartphones using Bluetooth. Being dependent on that connection means users have to carry around two devices to take advantage of the watch's smart features. "Pine is at the top of the food chain when it comes to smartwatches," said Neptune CEO Simon Tian in a video introducing potential backers to the Kickstarter project. "It's a complete wearable web experience on your wrist."
Using a micro SIM card, Pine has the potential to serve as a smartphone replacement, capable of making calls, video chatting, sending text messages, and more. With built-in sensors including an accelerometer, gyroscope, pedometer, digital compass, and GPS, Pine can also function as a fitness tracker. Some fitness apps, such as RunKeeper, are fully supported as well. Though Pine can function as a standalone smartwatch, it can pair with health monitors and other devices using Bluetooth 4.0. The computer, which has a substantial 2.4-inch display, is detachable, giving users a full keyboard to type on while browsing. Pine also includes a front-facing camera with flash for video chatting (and selfies), as well as a rear-facing 5-megapixel camera with flash.
Running on Jelly Bean, which is one OS before KitKat, Pine can also recognize voice input, bringing a very Dick Tracy element to the watch. Having already met its $100,000 goal, Neptune says it will introduce a modern strap design if the campaign raises $200,000 and develop a CDMA version to use with Sprint and Verizon if it raises $300,000. The project funding period ends Dec. 21, and units are expected to ship in January. That deadline sounds a bit ambitious, especially since most Kickstarter projects fail to deliver on time.