Most of the early smartwatches we’ve seen run scaled-down software designed for teeny-weeny screens. But then you also have devices like Neptune Pine and Omate TrueSmart that are basically full smartphones for your wrist. Today another device is ready to join that latter group. Meet the Rufus Cuff, a “wrist communicator” that can pair with both iPhone and Android smartphones.
If you’re like me, then the idea of having full-blown smartphone functionality on your wrist sounds pretty damn cool. But there’s one big problem: in order to have enough screen real estate, you end up with a device that runs halfway up your forearm. The Rufus Cuff is no exception. In fact, it has the biggest screen I’ve seen on any wearable computer. But it also has a unique asymmetrical design that at least keeps its band down to a fairly normal-looking size.
With its huge body, I suppose it’s appropriate that Rufus Labs CEO Gabe Grifoni thinks this kind of device deserves its own name. Hardly a watch, this hulking “wrist communicator” runs Android 4.4 KitKat and rocks a 400 x 240, 3-in display. For some perspective, that’s 70 percent as much screen real estate as the first five iPhones gave you. The Cuff also has a front-facing camera for video chat, is powered by a Cortex A8 processor, and has Bluetooth 4.0 in tow to connect to your smartphone.
That smartphone connectivity is one of the biggest differentiators between the Rufus Cuff and its most direct rival, the Neptune Pine. While the Pine has a SIM card slot that lets you do away with your smartphone, the Cuff is still tethered to your phone (at least when you’re away from Wi-Fi). The downside to that is that you’ll need to be constantly tethering data from your phone while you’re on the go. One upside, I suppose, is that it can still tap into your phone’s voice control and music playback capabilities. Grifoni tells me he’s interested in the idea of a standalone Cuff with SIM capabilities, and it’s something they’ll consider for future versions.
Though it’s still in the conceptual stage, and a few months away from having a working prototype, the Cuff is looking like something out of a sci-fi fantasy. Its huge body bleeds into a thinner band, which you’ll be able to buy in a variety of colors. The company is also skinning the Android interface with its own futuristic-looking custom UI, which only adds to the Star Trek-esque look of it all.
Rufus Labs is marketing the Cuff as shipping with Google Play and other Google services onboard. I’d say that’s far from a guarantee, though, as both Neptune Pine and Omate TrueSmart ran into problems getting Google to license those services for their watches. And with today’s announcement of the Android Wear platform, it’s obvious why: Google sees wearables as running a completely different flavor of Android. Still, Grifoni says that he believes the Cuff is more phone than watch, fits Google’s stated requirements, and will ultimately get the necessary thumbs-up from Mountain View. We’ll see.
Speaking of Android Wear, Grifoni thinks it looks like it provides a good experience for standard-sized smartwatches, which the Cuff obviously isn’t. He adds that the Cuff’s aim is to provide a richer, more smartphone-like experience than the glanceable, context-sensitive apps that will run on Wear devices like the Moto 360and LG G Watch.
If a full-blown wrist-phone like the Rufus Cuff tickles your fancy, then you can hit up the Indiegogo page below to help bring it to market. Its crowdfunding campaign just launched today, and, at the time of this writing, has picked up over US$12,000 of its $250,000 goal (with over a month left to go). It’s estimated to start shipping this September.