One of the biggest issues with smarwatches and indeed a lot of wearables, is they straddle that middle-ground between a smartphone and a wearable, attempting to provide the function of the former on the smaller form factor of the latter and it just doesn’t work out that well in some cases. One of the biggest issues is screen size, as due to their placement, wearables don’t tend to pack more than a centimetre of two of screen space – not so with the Neptune Pine however.
The Neptune Pine is a smartwatch with a difference. It packs a huge (for a wearable) 2.4 inch screen and is described by the developers as an “experiment in mobile computing,” as the first fully featured smarwatch.
Powered by a 1.2GHz, dual core ARM Cortex A5 CPU, the Neptune Pine is powerful, especially since this is combined with 512MB of RAM and up to 32GB of storage space. All of this grunt is designed to power the touch screen with its 320×240 QVGA display (cornered with Gorilla Glass for strength), as well as provide WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth and USB connectivity. It has a five megapixel rear facing camera and a VGA front facing one with LED flashes mounted in position for both.
It also comes with a speaker and microphone built in, as well as jacks for adding your own if you want better sound quality.
Software wise it runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and therefore can take advantage of plenty of the OS’ features, though it doesn’t support Google’s Play Store. It is however capable of playing simple games like Angry Birds, or running basic applications and thanks to the USB port you can side-load plenty of extras if you want them.
For email or text functions, you can pop up a miniature QWERTY keyboard which works perfectly, despite the tiny letters.
As it stands, the Neptune Pine is only available for pre-order, with shipping expected to begin in October this year. The basic cost for one is $350 (£205) with extras for a case, clip and helmet mount, as well as an extra $100 on top of that if you want the 32GB instead of 16GB of memory.
The size of the Pine seems like a bit problem for the average user. While it’s nice to see such a decent display on a wearable, it does look a little Inspector-Gadget having such a big screen on your wrist. It’s also not thin, so it doesn’t exactly sit close. The lack of Google Play Store support is a problem too, as that means a lot of Android’s best apps can’t be downloaded straight to it.
At $350 (at least) a pop, the Neptune Pine is an expensive experiment that seems too big at this stage of the wearable market’s development. Perhaps in a few years when the screen sits flush with your skin and wraps around your wrist it could work, but at this stage I think it’s just too big and too expensive to catch on.