If you haven’t gotten the memo yet, the smartwatch is coming. With just about every company out there scrambling to put some technology on your wrist it’s a virtual inevitability that the concept is here to stay. Now all we have to do is define what exactly the concept is, and find a device that can deliver on it. In search of that goal, I recently reviewed the Burg 12—a smartwatch that is also a smartphone. Or maybe it’s a watchphone.
The Burg 12 looks and feels impressive. The one I used has a large silver oval watch attached to a black rubber watchband.
It is heavy, but in a way that makes it feel like it’s constructed of quality materials more than just being bulky.
At over half an inch thick you won’t soon forget it’s on your wrist, and you need to be careful not to bang it on walls or door frames as you’re walking about.
It has two buttons on the left side: one above and one below an access panel that opens to expose the microUSB port. The top button powers the Burg 12 on or off, and ends a phone call and the bottom button is the “OK” button for navigating through the Burg 12 interface, and places a call.
The Burg 12 includes a USB to microUSB cable to charge it. It does not come with a wall charger, so you’ll have to connect it to a PC or use some other USB-capable wall charger. The box also includes wired earbuds with a microphone that plug into the microUSB port so you can speak and hear without having to hold your wrist up to your head.
It might be quicker to list the functions the Burg 12 doesn’t have. It’s a phone, messaging, multimedia playing, voice recording, camera, calendar, FM radio, calculator, touchscreen enabled device with Bluetooth 3.0 wireless technology and up to 16GB of microSD storage that you wear on your wrist.
You can add a SIM card to the Burg 12 and use it as a standalone smartphone…or watchphone. It can make or receive calls, and send or receive text messages using its own SIM even without pairing to any smartphone.
Or you can pair it with an iPhone or Android smartphone. It sets up a two-way communication that enables the Burg 12 to make and receive calls, and send and receive text messages on the watch through your smartphone. It can also synchronize the phonebook or contact list from your smartphone to the Burg 12 so you can scroll through and find the person you want to call or message without having to check your phone.
It can play music stored locally on the SIM, or through its FM radio, or streamed from your paired iPhone or Android smartphone. If you don’t want to try and listen to music from a tiny wrist-based speaker, the Burg 12 also comes with earbuds that plug into the microUSB port on the side of the watch, or you can pair it with Bluetooth headphones.
Oh. It’s also a watch. So, it tells you what time it is.
The watch was a bit bulky and took some getting used to. I’ve worn an iPod Nano “smartwatch”, Pebble, Moto 360, and Omate X. The Burg 12 is much larger and heavier than any of those. That is partly a function of how solidly it’s constructed, and partially due to it also cramming in the technology to act as a standalone smartphone.
Call quality was good. The person on the other end of the calls I made with the Burg 12 had no complaints and didn’t realize I was talking into a watch. The sound quality of the watch-based speaker on my end was another story, though. I highly recommend using a Bluetooth headset of some sort, or the microUSB earbuds supplied with the Burg 12 for any phone calls—whether from the Burg 12 itself, or using two-way communication to make or receive calls through your smartphone.
The Burg 12 was able to go two or three days on a full charge with moderate use. I didn’t make or receive any lengthy calls using the watch, and I didn’t spend a lot of time watching music videos. I just used it as I would use a watch…or smartwatch. I’d probably still recommend charging it nightly. It also just seems to make sense because I don’t wear the watch to bed so it may as well be charging while I’m asleep.
The camera is pretty bad. Plus it’s on your wrist and pointed at you so it’s not really good for much more than a grainy selfie. I certainly wouldn’t rely on the camera for anything, but I suppose it’s convenient to have a camera—even a bad one—available in a pinch if you really need one.
The touchscreen display sensitivity is poor—at least with a finger. It works much better with the stylus—a tiny collapsible stylus is embedded in the watchband near the buckle. You can also use anything else for a stylus. I used a mechanical pencil tip (without the lead extended in case that’s not obvious) and it worked fine. What I did find as well, though, is that interacting with the touchscreen got easier the more I used it. I figured out that with a little more pressure, and slower, more deliberate motions I could navigate using my finger as well.
My biggest complaint about the Burg 12 is the little metal door on the side that lets you access the microUSB port. It wouldn’t stay latched shut. Most of the time it wasn’t a problem, but quick movement or raising my hand above parallel to the ground were often enough to make the little door fly open. For any future Burg smartwatch models I recommend they come up with a better way to secure that port cover.
I’m not sure what the “right” price point is yet for a smartphone. At $200 it costs twice as much as the popular and successful Pebble. It also does much more. It’s cheaper than the Moto 360 and the Samsung Gear 2, and the Apple Watch is expected to start around $350 when it launches. Basically, $200 seems like a reasonable price for the Burg 12.
The Burg 12 is solid. I almost want to say it was bulky—and compared to most other watches it is both thicker and heavier—but mostly that made it feel like a quality, well-constructed device. Since I wasn’t sold on the idea of having my smartwatch be a standalone phone able to make and receive calls with its own separate phone number, though, the added bulk probably isn’t necessary.
If you want a device that can pair with your iOS or Android smartphone, and allows you to make and receive calls from your wrist, the Burg 12 is worth checking out. I wouldn’t plan on capturing your child’s birthday party with the Burg 12 camera, or watching The Matrix on the wrist-based display, but Burg gets more right than wrong, and the price is fair for what you get.
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