If you own a smartwatch, chances are you have a corresponding smartphone to work with it. Most smartwatches need a smartphone for full functionality, so the total cost of owning both devices, plus a decent data plan, is pretty steep. That might change soon with the launch of a Kickstarter campaign for a device called the iType from TypeTime.
The iType is a smartwatch that claims to solve two crucial issues with today's smartwatches: it's a standalone device that can still act as a smartphone, and it has an efficient keyboard for a small screen.
That's a tall order, especially for such a tiny device. Underneath its screen (240 x 240 resolution) is an ARM Cortex-A7 processor that runs on Android 4.4 KitKat -- there's no Android Wear here. It has 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of internal storage. Along with a microphone and speaker, the iType includes Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, a camera, and GSM and WCDMA technologies for cell connectivity.
It's worth noting that the watch doesn't come with a data plan for now, but that could change. Further, as TypeTime CEO Benjamin Ghassabian told us, "Most major carriers offer a second SIM card on an existing service plan for around 10 dollars per month."
The keyboard issue is an interesting approach for smartwatches. A small screen on your wrist isn't exactly the ideal amount of real estate for typing, and it's even more difficult if you have big fingers. The iType seems to solve that problem with six huge buttons displayed across the screen. The design is based on another product from TypeTime called Snapkeys, which is an app for Android devices that splits the keyboard into the same buttons, or zones, for easier typing whether on a tablet or smartphone.
On the iType, the design is similar. The first three zones are the letters in QWERTY order. They're displayed in three rows similar to a keyboard. All you have to do is tap the button that contains the letters you want, and its predictive word system above the letters displays the word it thinks you're trying to spell. The other three buttons on the screen are for deleting words, spacing and punctuation.
For the campaign, TypeTime is looking for a total of $100,000 for funding. You'll need to fork over $235 to get your hands on the iType, but early adopters will be able to pre-order the device for $184 for the first 30 days of the Kickstarter campaign.
With this type of keyboard on a smartwatch, along with its other features -- specifically the camera, Android 4.4 and the standalone mobile connectivity functionality -- the company believes it could be a game-changer. "We expect many people to move to a standalone smartwatch," said Ghassabian. "Once you have a keyboard like this, you can do many tasks such as any instant messaging right on the wrist. We also believe this is only the beginning -- smartwatches with a keyboard will go far."