since Dick Tracy slapped a police radio onto his arm, generations
of readers have clamored for their own, personal wrist phone.
a "wrist" phone?
not a belt phone or an earing phone or a shoe phone a la' Maxwell
Smart? Indeed, in the wonderfully paranoid film "The President's
Analyst", Ma Bell conspired to implant a tiny rotary "brain"
phone in every cerebral cortex of the nation.
1993, a small group at Bell Labs set out to design a wearable
phone. Practically every consumer focus group identified a wearable
phone as a top priority, even groups chartered to judge answering
machines or new pricing plans. Although consumers ideally preferred
a wearable cellphone, cordless phones were just as popular around
the home or in the office. If you're in the garden when the cordless
phone rings, or rushing around the house searching for a handset
left behind the laundry bin, you'll understand why a phone strapped
to the wrist was so desirable.
great product would have to address many user needs-
acoustics, even in noisy environments like an airport.
for private conversations.
acceptable to left or right handed, male or female customers.
accessible, even in winter with heavy coats (kind of embarrassing
to have your rear-end ring, and then have to strip off your
clothes in freezing weather).
human factors- including dialing, speed of actuation, comfort
listening to long or short calls, simple dialing, ...
considering the pros and cons of numerous designs, we located
the phone on the wrist, just like Dick Tracy.
meet our privacy and acoustics goals, a quickly deployable "handset"
was incorporated into a parallel wrist band.
- The watch mounts on the side of the wrist, which makes it easy to glance surreptitiously at the display without tilting the hand. "Side watches" were popular in the 1920 with automobile racers, who could peek at the time without lifting their arm from the steering wheel. The side watch design also creates extra space where the strap attaches to the face.
A great place to hide the electronics, which in 1993, were still pretty bulky.
was accomplished in three ways- yet none demanded tapping on
a minuscule keyboard.
the phone's small digital display was employed to scroll
through a personal address book.
the watch stored the last ten "called", and last
ten received numbers. Studies showed these three lists covered
more than 90% of all potential dialing situations.
speaker recognition was used to dial the rare exceptions.
The speaker recognition capability was provided in the network,
to reduce cost and power consumption of the wrist phone.
a speaker phone mode is occasionally desirable, it draws
too much electrical power to be viable.
battery could be swapped without removing the phone off the
few models of this phone were built and tested with consumers.
Much to our great relief, people not only liked the design but
were interested in buying one on the spot- even though the model
was a cordless, and not a cellular phone. However, contrary to
AT&T's experience with desk phones, style was paramount (this
was, after all, a replacement for a watch). So, dozens of models
would be required.
these commercials aired (basically a guy calls a girl from the
mountaintop) the switchboards were jammed with callers ready to
order. Curiously, the ad agency invented their own version of
a wrist phone for the commercials, rather than borrowing our mock-up.
The LG Watchphone just debuted at CES in 2009- very credible, and with a bluetooth headset, eliminates the need for a swing-out microphone.
By 2017, you could purchase a wrist telephone from Samsung:
Pre-2006 links- some may be dead: