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Regular readers know that I spend a lot of time with watches and arguably the Apple Watch Series 6, see our full review, is the best smartwatch currently available. There are an almost unlimited number of band options available for the Apple Watch, but one that takes things to the next level and adds functionality that helps you lighten your load is the Wristcam.
Last month the company launched Live Messenger video communication support for the Wristcam and we spent a few weeks testing it out at the beach, while running, while working, while traveling, and more. It adds a capability to my Apple Watch that finally lets me leave the phone at home during a run.
I upgraded from the original red model to a navy blue LTE-enabled Apple Watch 6 so that I could leave the house without my iPhone. In most cases, a cellular Apple Watch works fine by itself. However, when I run and walk I like to have the ability to take photos and videos of things I see while out and about. This is especially true when I travel and go running in local communities. With the Wristcam I have been able to capture things I would have missed with my phone behind and there are even more use cases I found where it is a better option than a phone.
Cameras: 8MP outward facing and 2MP selfie
Internal storage: 8GB for 2000 photos or 1 hour of video
Dust and water resistance: IP68 rating
Connectivity: WiFi and Bluetooth 5.0
Battery: Rechargeable battery provides up to a day of use with hundreds of photos or approximately 30 minutes of video content
Weight: 35 grams, with silicone band
The retail package includes a teal metal box with the Wristcam core unit, silicone band pieces, and a charging cable. One side of the silicone band houses the Wristcam core unit while the other side has holes for watch band solution that is modeled after the Apple Sport band.
When I first opened the package and saw the Wristcam I thought there was no way I could wear such a large accessory comfortably for any period of time. Looks are definitely deceiving though since I was able to wear it for a week and didn't notice any difference in comfort or weight when compared to my Apple Sport band. The Wristcam core unit is encased in a hard plastic shell that has a bit of curvature to it so it wraps securely around the outside of your wrist.
The Wristcam core unit is positioned on the outside of your wrist with the selfie camera well positioned to capture you as you naturally lift your wrist and look at your Apple Watch. I think the outward facing 8MP camera is too high though as it requires you to angle the watch display away from you to capture content in front of you. If you hold your wrist in the same position as you do for selfies then you will just capture images of the sky.
The power button is positioned further down the outside from the outward camera and I would love to have seen the camera in that position instead. I'm sure there are technical space requirement limitations that drove the current design, but I think it would be a bit more practical to have the outward facing camera further down the outer band.
There are LED lights that turn on by default when you take a photo or record a video so that people are aware you are capturing content with the Wristcam.
The Wristcam is charged with a dedicated charging cable with a cylindrical end that houses the contact points. Magnets help you align the charger properly to the back of the Wristcam core unit. There is space available to put your Apple Watch on a wireless charger and charge the watch and the Wristcam unit at the same time. It's not the cleanest solution to have the cable running over your Apple Watch to charge the Wristcam while charging your Apple Watch, but it is nice to see the Wristcam have its own integrated battery so that your Apple Watch battery is not drained by using the Wristcam.
It's nice to see the high level of dust and water resistance, IP68, on the Wristcam and I put that to the test by swimming in the Gulf of Mexico to capture photos and videos while at the beach.
Wristcam review: in pictures
After charging up the Wristcam, the next step is to install two apps on your iPhone to take full advantage of the Wristcam. The Wristcam app has detailed information on how to perform various functions on the Wristcam, review the gallery of content captured by the Wristcam, and manage all of the settings for your Wristcam. The Live Messenger app is used to enjoy live and recorded video content messaging with family and friends.
Setup your Wristcam connection via the Wristcam app while also managing the import mode. By default, content captured by your Wristcam is automatically imported when charging and then deleted from the internal Wristcam storage. Your content is also then saved to your iPhone gallery for further editing and sharing functionality. You can also setup manual and custom import practices if you desire.
Siri shortcuts to control the Wristcam experience are also managed in the Wristcam app. You can have shortcuts to take a photo (outward camera), take a selfie, start and stop recording, and take a 30-second recording.
A watch face with a Wristcam complication is available to download and install as well. The Wristcam app is also used to update the firmware, factor reset the Wristcam, select video resolution, and select your desired aspect ratio.
The Live Messenger app and capability in the Wristcam is the newest feature launched by the company. I highly recommend you view the How To video below because it is not an intuitive experience. Wristcam did a good job making the experience a comprehensive one, but there is a lot going on with the app and Live Video functionality that is best described in the video. People you interact with from your Wristcam do not need a Wristcam to communicate with you, but they do need an iPhone.
Apple Watch software
The Wristcam application on the watch is fairly straightforward and easy to use. You simply swipe right and left to move between the image gallery, photo mode, video mode, and Live Video chat mode. An icon in the top left of the display switches between the two cameras on the Wristcam while a tap on the shutter button or record button initiates content capture.
Spin the Apple Watch digital crown to change aspect ratio of your camera on the fly.
In the Live Video section of the app you will see different options appear on the display when you watch an incoming video, such as exit, reply, and restart. You can send Live Video content to any of your contacts with an iPhone and they will be prompted to install the Live Messenger app to interact with you from their iPhone and with the iPhone cameras.
Daily usage experiences and conclusion
While I was in swimming in the water at the beach (a good scenario to leave your iPhone on the beach and out of the saltwater), I tried taking an underwater photo using the Apple Watch software. However, when I submerged my Apple Watch and the Wristcam, the capture button was not active. I then recalled that you can capture a photo with the Wristcam by simply pressing the hardware button once, even if the Wristcam app is not active and open on your Apple Watch. You can also capture video content by pressing and holding the mechanical button below the outward facing camera.
While there is a mechanical button on the Wristcam that allows you to press and hold for eight seconds to turn it off, you never really have to turn it off. It can be on your wrist and ready to go at all times. When you launch the Wristcam app it will activate the Wristcam and let you use your Apple Watch display as the viewfinder, but you can also capture content with the mechanical button.
The saying goes that the best camera is the one that is always with you and the Wristcam band ensures that you can have a camera with you at all times, even when your phone is left behind. The Live Messenger feature enhances the experience and brings sci-fi communicator experiences to the present day, but not quite as fluid and seamless as we see in the movies.
I enjoyed my time with the Wristcam and can definitely see use cases for it. However, it is an expensive accessory, the outward camera is a bit too high and needs good lighting to capture quality photos, and the charging experience is a bit messy when you also have to charge up your Apple Watch daily. The Wristcam is good for those who always leave the phone behind and with continued enhancements to the watchOS experience we may see this become more common in the future. One great thing about the Wristcam is that it is completely adaptable to the Apple Watch band system even if Apple happens to change things in the future, although that is unlikely given the band market Apple has created.