Hands-on with the HOT smartwatch that also makes phone calls

Credit: Raymond Wong/DVICE

The great war to win your wrist is coming. We aren't exaggerating by much when we say virtually every tech giant is hyping up a smartwatch. Most recently, we caught wind of a Kickstarter project for a smartwatch called the HOT Watch. It's since blown past its $150,000 goal with over $510,000 in crowdfunding, and there's still 14 days left to go.

Unlike other smartwatches, the HOT Watch's claim to fame is its simple gesture controls and "private calling" (more on that in a sec). We got to try out a pre-production prototype at the company's big launch debut the other day and we walked away kind of impressed.

Thinner and lighter than the Pebble, the HOT Watch sports a 1.26-inch e-paper display and connects to Android and iOS devices via Bluetooth 4.0 LE. It's battery can remain on standby for three days, and up to a week with gestures and calling turned off. But for everyday use, you'll need to charge it every night if you want to get the most use out of it during the day.

While the HOT Watch we handled was still pretty rough in terms of performance, it provides a good look at the what the future of smartwatches will hold.

Gestures And Making Calls With Your Palm

Although we didn't get to test it, PH Technical Labs CEO Shariq Hamid explained to DVICE that the HOT Watch uses a six-axis gyroscope to detect hand gestures. Here are some of the gestures the HOT Watch can understand: raise hand to ear to answer a call, shake hand to reject incoming call, drop hand to your body's side to mute a call, wave goodbye to end a call, knock twice on your leg or any surface to dial a pre-set favorite contact. Additionally, the gyroscope can text an emergency number if it detects the wearer's fallen down.

While the hand gestures weren't ready for demonstration yet, we did get to try out the "private calling" feature that uses the palm of your hand to amplify sound from the mic tucked in the wristband. Even in a rather noisy penthouse in Manhattan, we were able to hear a caller's voice reflecting off our palm and into our ear quite well. It sounded kind of tinny, and there's no background noise-cancellation, but it's audible enough, for sure.

Another feature we got to look at was the navigation on the tiny e-paper touchscreen. Because the screen is so small, the company decided to use a letter gesture system. Drawing a D brings up Dial, U brings up Menu, S opens Settings, C displays Clock and an A brings up the Apps page. From there, it's just a tap to trigger what you want to do. We tried out a calculator and remote control for controlling music on a smartphone, and while you can use voice dictation (wasn't working on the prototype) to reply to text messages, the only way to type on the HOT Watch's small display is to peck at it T9-style.

At the moment, gestures aren't perfect, and require you to draw from edge to edge or top to bottom on the entire screen in order for the HOT Watch to recognize them, but with some tweaks, it should be good to go.

Lots Of Potential

While the HOT Watch only supports English at launch, an open source SDK will be made available. So if you've got tinkering skills, you'll be able to make your own apps, clock faces or even possibly change the language, if you want.

Overall, the HOT Watch shows great potential. If the final units are more polished and the letter gestures and hand gestures all work accurately, we might finally have a smartwatch worth owning at last.

When asked when the Hot Watch would make it to retail channels, Hamid said the company has only committed to fulfilling all the Kickstarter orders. Once those are all shipped out in December, then the company will consider selling them at retails for between $169 to $249 (depending on the finish.)

(All photos by Raymond Wong for DVICE.)

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