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Smartwatch interest ticks up as Apple Watch fever rises

Matt Hamblen | Nov. 21, 2014
But smart glasses aren't as enticing, survey shows

MICA, which stands for My Intelligent Communication Accessory, was designed by fashion company Opening Ceremony and engineered by Intel. It will be sold exclusively by Opening Ceremony and Barney's in the U.S.

While Intel calls the device an "intelligent bracelet," it has many of the same functions as some smartwatches on the market, and exceeds the capabilities of many fitness wristbands because of its 3G wireless connection. (Futuresource says it is technically not a smartwatch because there are no installable third-party apps, although several apps are pre-installed; instead, think of it as a "wireless watch" or "smart jewelry.")

MICA runs on Linux, and features a 1.6-in. curved touchscreen display made of rugged sapphire.

Opening Ceremony piled on the glam. The wristband comes with an 18K gold coating and comes in two styles: one with black water snake skin, pearls from China and lapis stones from Madagascar, the other featuring white water snake skin, tiger's eye from South Africa and obsidian from Russia.

While MICA is not voice-capable, it will provide access to text messages and notifications and will display Google Calendar and Facebook events. Intelligent reminders powered by TomTom and Intel will use location information to dynamically estimate how long it will take to get to an appointment. Yelp local search is also enabled.

MICA is chargable with a micro-USB cable and should provide two days of battery life on a charge. Remote access and locking are possible.

The device's combination of styling and functionality show where at least one segment of the wireless devices category is headed. "Intel is addressing a primary issue that has held back wearable acceptance, namely the style issue that has plagued the current crop of wearables from companies like Samsung, LG, and Pebble," said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy.

"Most of the smartwatches in the market today are geeky and unattractive, but Intel's MICA is more like electronic jewelry and comes from a trusted fashion brand, Opening Ceremony, and will be sold through Barney's," he said.

While MICA's $495 price seems high, the inclusion of a two-year wireless 3G connection and a variety of intelligent functions coupled with high-fashion styling could lure buyers used to other smartwatches that sell for $350 sans 3G wireless capability.

Samsung's new Gear S
By comparison, the most recent smartwatch from Samsung, the Gear S, features a 2-in. curved display and voice calling with 4G, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless data. T-Mobile recently began offering it for zero down and $350 over 24 months. That price doesn't include T-Mobile's $15-a-month wearable rate plan.

The Gear S is Samsung's sixth smartwatch and runs on the Tizen OS. One disadvantage is that it needs to be paired with Samsung Galaxy smartphones for many of its apps and functions to operate. The Gear app store is also fairly limited.


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