[Update: A year later I can safely say that the Sony SmartWatch is pretty crappy. While the iPod nano certainly isn't the best watch, the Sony SmartWatch is no better. In fact, it's worse. It's buggy as hell and the UI is rubbish. I returned mine.]
If you're a regular reader of these page you already know that I have a fetish for watches, especially for the iPod nano as a watch. The problem is that the nano's never really lived up to expectations on the wrist and it's not very practical as a watch.
I fully realize that Apple only markets the iPod nano as an iPod, but it knows full well that people use it as a watch. An unnamed Board of Directors member told Steve Jobs as much and Apple sells watch kits in its stores -- not to mention that million dollar Kickstarter project!
Truthfully, the nano's terrible as a watch. Case is point is the almost two second latency from the time you press the nano's wake button to the screen actually lighting up. Complete fail. Ideally it would include an accelerometer so that lifting up your arm could wake the nano/watch so that you could see the time, but that's probably asking too much.
The other thing that the iPod nano needs to make it a more viable wristwatch would be a Bluetooth and/or Wi-Fi radio so that you could easily sync music, contacts, calendars, etc. without having to connect it to your computer with an expensive, proprietary USB cable. What is this? 1999?
But forget all that. Sony just ate Apple's lunch.
Alongside Sony new Xperia smartphone it launched a cool accessory called SmartWatch ($150, pre-order). Unlike the iPod nano, which is an iPod being forced into being a watch, SmartWatch is an accessory to an Android phone. It connects via Bluetooth so that you can receive email and SMS notifications, answer calls and keep tabs on social networks like Facebook and Twitter -- in addition to playing music. Plus it clips to any standard watch band.
Something like SmartWatch is perfect for those times when it would be inappropriate to be constantly looking at your phone and might be the ultimate accessory for people addicted to social networks -- "Honest honey! I was checking the time!"
The downside is that I'm not sure how much functionality it has without the host phone, so you're lugging two devices. But still, I'd take the SmartWatch over the nano-as-a-watch any day.
Update: In addition to the Sony Xperia line of phones, SmartWatch works with the following handsets: HTC Desire S, HTCEvo 3D/Shooter, HTC Sensation, HTC Wildfire, HTC Wildfire S, Motorola Defy, Motorola Droid 2/Milestone 2, Motorola RAZR, Orange San Fransisco, Samsung Galaxy 5, Samsung Galaxy Ace, Samsung Galaxy Fit, Samsung Galaxy Gio, Samsung Galaxy Mini, Samsung Galaxy S II, Samsung Galaxy SL.
There's defeintely a trade-off here. The iPod nano has onboard storage (making it a standalone music player) while the SmartWatch is really a surrogate/client to the host Android phone -- it's probably using it's interior space for the BT radio as opposed to NAND Flash.
But nothing's stopping Apple from making a nano that's a client to the iPhone, right? Sadly, since Apple chooses to build and market a very small fraction of its ideas, it's probably a pipe dream to see a little more than an incremental upgrade to the current iPod nano, but I'd love for Apple to take the whole watch thing a little more seriously.
Another watch in this category, to um watch, is the inPulse smartwatch ($150-$200) from Allerta.
Here's a promo video of the SmartWatch:
What's on your wrist?