The Neptune Hub watch, aiming to debut later this year. (Neptune)
It had to happen sometime: as smartwatches keep coming at a furious pace, some of them are doubling as full smartphones. Why pair with a phone at all? Or, maybe, what about a phone on your wrist pairing with something else?
Neptune, a company that launched a massive smartwatch phone last summer called the Neptune Pine
, is back with its latest odd watch, the Neptune Duo. It proposes a bizarre symbiosis. The elevator pitch: the watch pairs with a dummy phone.
Some sample Neptune Hub apps. (Neptune)
The smartwatch -- known on its own as the Neptune Hub -- is a full Android
Lollipop smartphone. It's always on you, so you won't forget it, goes the Neptune pitch.
The Hub watch looks pretty big: a curved non-flexible display covers most of the watch's top surface area, and the wrist-cuff look is reminiscent of Will.i.am's recent phone-watch, the Puls Smartband
. The Neptune Hub watch has a quad-core processor (of unspecified power), 64GB of storage, 3G, GSM and LTE antennas, a speaker and microphone, Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC to quickly pair with accessories. It promises to recognize quickly scribbled handwriting written with a finger on the display.
But it also pairs with a "phone" part, called a "Pocket Screen," which is dumb -- as in, it's not a phone or smart device at all. It's just a large, smartphone-like 5-inch display with a battery. It pairs with the watch and can remotely run apps.
The Neptune Hub (watch, phone) and the Pocket Screen (not a phone). (Neptune)
Why? Well, one part of it, based on what I could glean from a briefing with Neptune, is that all-in-one smartwatches are too cramped to run regular apps. So the 5-inch capacitive 1,280x720-pixel "pocket screen" lets you tap out emails, watch videos or read news. It has a microphone and speaker. It even has a 2-megapixel front and 8-megapixel rear camera, with LED flash. It connects with the watch via a fast wireless streaming protocol to act like a second screen.
The Pocket Screen, which really does look like a phone. (Neptune)
It also has its own beefy 2,800 mAh battery, which can be used to recharge the large Neptune Hub watch. The Hub watch has its own 1,000 mAh battery wrapped inside its band, and the two batteries combined promise to power the Neptune Duo through a couple of days of use.
I've considered a world where watches might turn into fully fledged PCs, and the Neptune Duo looks like it's striving towards that reality. Future promised accessories from Neptune include larger tablet screens and even possibly laptop-like docks, somewhat like the Asus PadFone X. The PadFone X docked a smartphone into a dummy tablet/laptop: the Neptune Duo ports a smartwatch into a dummy phone.
If you're desperate to own one of these devices, Neptune's taking early reservations
in various combinations of pay now/pay later. It'll cost $798 (around £520 or AU$1,020) if paid when the Duo eventually ships, or $498 (£325 or AU$625) if paid for now. Like all crowdfunded endeavors, it's a leap...and one that costs more than the entry-level Apple Watch
. In fact, it costs as much as several fancier Android Wear watches.
I haven't even tried the Neptune Duo, so who knows how it'll actually fare. There are some interesting ideas in this concept, and yes, eventually smaller gadgets may need to find a way to stream info up to larger devices seamlessly. Will the Neptune Duo be the answer? It'll face a lot of competition.