Smartwatches are becoming a common sight, but they still don’t quite have the mass market appeal of smartphones and tablets, which means there’s still room for small players and upstarts to make a mark.
Which is why, as unlikely as it might sound, the i.am+ dial, made by a man better known for his music, actually has a shot.
It doesn’t hurt that it’s packing serious specs, a unique operating system and phone-free operation either. But is the dial the smartwatch you should be buying? Read on for our first impressions.
Looking to Order the i.am+ dial
The i.am+ dial has a 1.63-inch 320 x 320 screen, which makes it ever so slightly smaller and lower resolution than the 1.65-inch 390 x 312 Apple Watch, but largely comparable to most smartwatches.
In practice that means it’s perfectly sharp enough to use, but not quite pin sharp. However, it uses AMOLED technology, so you can expect colours to really pop.
The square screen won’t suit everyone, as it leaves it looking less like a conventional wristwatch than the likes of the Moto 360, but being square also makes it slightly easier to interact with and the Apple Watch manages to be the most popular smartwatch on the planet despite not being circular, so the shape shouldn’t hurt the dial much.
Where many smartwatches pack premium materials and a design inspired by traditional timepieces, the i.am+ dial doesn’t hide the fact that it’s a gadget.
It has a chunky 38mm wide black or white band, with minimal metal in sight, but it doesn’t look ugly, it’s just unapologetically techy. With his out-there style it wouldn’t look at all out of place on will.i.am’s wrist, so it makes sense that he dreamt it up.
The i.am+ dial is also water resistant, so it can survive a splash, but it’s not fully waterproof, so you can’t take it swimming.
It’s also worth noting that the dial comes in two different sizes, so it can comfortably fit most wrists.
The i.am+ dial isn’t lacking for power, at least by smartwatch standards. It has a Snapdragon 400 processor and 2GB of RAM, which puts it up there with the most powerful of smartwatches.
Not that smartwatches tend to need a huge amount of power, but the dial is more versatile than most, so it should benefit from that hefty helping of RAM.
Smartwatches aren’t known for their cameras, in fact most don’t have one at all, but the i.am+ dial does, albeit just a 2MP one.
You’re not going to get great shots with that, but it’s fine for a selfie, which seems to be what it’s designed for, and you can share and upload your snaps straight from the watch.
The i.am+ dial has its own SIM card slot, which means you can use it completely independently of a phone, even calling and texting from your wrist.
It’s not the only smartwatch to feature a SIM card, but such wearables are in the minority. Since most people carry their phone everywhere anyway it’s not necessarily a huge feature, but it means you don’t have to any more, which could come in handy for example when out for a jog and you don’t want to be weighed down.
Speaking of jogging, the dial also has built in fitness tracking features, which can monitor movement and burnt calories as well as letting you set and work towards goals.
Plus, it uses its own bespoke operating system called AneedA. It’s not a million miles from other smartwatch OS’s and like them it’s heavily reliant on voice controls, with a built in assistant able to message, email, navigate, make calls and more, all without any taps or swipes required.
This custom OS is both one of the most appealing aspects of dial and its potential downfall. It’s appealing simply because it’s different and if Android Wear and WatchOS don’t suit you this might, but it’s also a small player and isn’t likely to get as much support, so it could struggle in the long term.
Still, one incredibly compelling aspect of the i.am+ dial is its built in music features. It gives you access to 20 million songs at no extra cost. That’s a music library in the same league as what’s offered by Spotify and Apple Music.
Plus, on Three (which is the only UK network stocking it) you can stream and download music without it coming out of your data allowance. That’s a huge feature for music fans.
The i.am+ dial has an 800mAh battery, which is twice the size of most smartwatch batteries. Given all its features that extra juice might be needed though. It’s too early to say how long-lasting it will be, but we’re hopeful for at least a few days between charges.
Memory comes in at a massive (for a smartwatch) 32GB, so you’ll have plenty of space for all your photos and tunes.
Connectivity options include Wi-Fi, 3G, Bluetooth 4.0 and GPS.
Looking to Order the i.am+ dial
The dial is packing a whole lot of impressive tech. It has more storage and RAM than most smartwatches, along with a larger battery and a SIM card slot, so you don’t need to pair it with a phone.
It’s also got an incredibly generous music offering, but the design and OS could prove divisive, especially due to the lack of apps relative to rival operating systems.
It’s a watch with a lot of potential, assuming the battery and performance hold up over time, but it remains to be seen whether people will take to it over ‘safer’ options like the Apple Watch.
Dimensions (mm): 160 – 197 x 38mm band
Weight (g): TBC
Battery capacity (mAh): 800
Colours: Black, White
Screen size (inches): 1.63
Resolution: 320 x 320
Pixels per inch (PPI): TBC
Processor make: Snapdragon 400
Internal storage: 32GB
Expandable storage up to (GB): N/A
Operating System: AneedA
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