What's the hottest new feature you need in a smartwatch? The answer isn't contactless pay or animated emoji--although those things are certainly appealing. Apparently what every smartwatch needs is...a pair of mechanical hands. On top of the touchscreen.

It's a surprising concept that isn't quite as crazy as it seems at first once you get to know ZeTime, the new smartwatch by MyKronoz that launched on Kickstarter about three weeks ago. With just over a week left, ZeTime has already blown right through its modest $50,000 goal and raised about $2.6 million from about 14,000 backers. That's still way behind the biggest Kickstarter success of all time (so far), the Pebble Time which raised over $20 million. Still, ZeTime is off to a great start and it's proved that hands on a touchscreen is just what the smartwatch-buying public was hoping for.

Why? Because it solves two of the most common complaints about smartwatches. First, with most smartwatches, you can't just glance at your watch and see what time it is, you have to push a button to wake up the display. (Pebble watches solve this problem with an always-on e-ink display.) And second, once your watch runs out of power which may happen in less than a day, it amounts to a very clunky bracelet. Having mechanical hands attached to the touchscreen solves both problems. A glance at your watchface any time will tell you what time it is. And the mechanical hands keep on working for 30 days on a single charge. The rest of the smartwatch features will work for about four days and then die out, but that still leaves you with a perfectly functional watch if you charge it at least once a month.

But wait! Don't the hands get in the way of seeing what's on the touchscreen? They would, except that the clever folks at MyKronoz programmed them to know when you're, say, reading a text message. At moments like these, the hands automatically revert to the 9:15 position--a horizontal line across the watch, with the display divided into two sections above and below. Above the line, the watch shows the date, time, and name of whoever is texting you. Below the line, it displays the message. Once you're done reading your text or other message, the hands revert to the correct time.

Besides all this, ZeTime has some nice features, such as a built-in heart rate sensor and the ability to control music playing on your phone without taking it out of your pocket. And with a few pre-orders still available at the early bird price of $139 (or $259 for two), ZeTime is a bargain compared to most smartwatches out there. Delivery is planned for September.

Published on: Apr 17, 2017
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