[MWC 2019] The Voixatch is an idea with potential, but it's lacking direction

The advent of smartwatches made it easier to keep up with everything that you would usually need to check on your phone, but for calls, unless you use earbuds, they're not the most practical solution. The Voixatch is a concept that, in my opinion, is very easy to sell. It looks very much like a normal smartwatch, except the big bezel around the screen can be pulled out and used as an earpiece, giving you back your privacy when you're taking phone calls.

The sales pitch for this is very enticing, but once you start taking a look at it, things begin to fall apart. Voixatch says the watch is running Android Wear, but even when we set aside the fact that Google's OS for wearables is just called Wear OS, you can clearly tell that the interface is not from that operating system. It's a custom skin running on top of a full version of Android, and after insisting for a while with the representatives, I did manage to glean that it's running on Android 7.1, and that does seem to be the case based on some of the UI elements that pop up.

As you might expect, there are a few situations where this doesn't work well. Adjusting the volume, for example, brings the volume slider at the top of the screen, cut off at the edges due to the round screen. The Android keyboard also feels cramped and hard to use on such a small screen. The UI elements that were designed specifically for the watch actually don't look bad at all, and the animations are pretty smooth.

I tried to ask if, when the watch actually launches, it will be running a newer version of Android or actual Wear OS, but I didn't get much in the way of answers. I was told that the focus of the watch is voice interaction, which makes it seem like the touch experience won't get much better than it currently is. Then I asked if users could use Google Assistant to control the watch, but that doesn't seem to be the case either, and the firm will be building its own voice control system into it. The answers I got never felt like they were very defined, so it's hard to say if these plans will change or not.

The prototypes on display had some funky hardware, too, to the point where it's kind of ridiculous. The watches being shown off were actually the second version of the hardware, though we also got to see the first iteration. This second revision of the watch added hardware buttons to the side, one for going back or locking the screen, and one for volume down. No, there is no volume up, and since the volume slider is cut off at both ends, turning the sound all the way up is impossible.

The hardware is still in development, and even the Kickstarter campaign, which is how Voixatch expects to fund the project, isn't set to launch until April. Should funding be successful, the expectation is to start mass producing the watch in July. There's still time to make improvements until then, and I really want to believe that the experience will get better. The concept of the hardware really is interesting, but based on what I saw at the show, it's hard to be really excited about the product.

Neowin is at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona taking place between Feb 25-28 to bring you coverage direct from the show floor, click here for our other articles at the event.

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