Will smartwatches ever replace smartphones? And, if so, how will we play Candy Crush and watch Netflix or Sling TV on the go? Neptune, the company behind the ridiculously oversized Pine smartwatch, is back with a new device that tries to answer that question.
The Neptune Duo starts with the Neptune Hub, a standalone 4G smartwatch. But it also adds an accessory that addresses the gaps left by even the most powerful standalone smartwatches. The "Pocket Screen" may look like a phone, but it reverses the roles that watches and phones play today: in Neptune's world, the watch has the smarts, and the phone serves as a second screen for viewing larger-form content that small screens aren't good for.
The million dollar question is why would you do this? If you still have a watch on your wrist and a phone-like device in your pocket, with the sum total of functionality not very different from today's watch/phone combinations, why bother flipping the roles?
Neptune's answer (apart from the implied we need a follow-up product that makes headlines) is that you'll never lose your personal info. Since the computing happens on the watch, and it's strapped to your wrist, you're less likely to leave it behind. And since the Pocket Screen is largely a dumb accessory, drawing its smarts from the watch, you can lose it on the train, swap out a new one or even borrow a friend's – without losing or giving away any personal data.
Interesting pitch … but also quite a reach, as most smartwatches have lost phone alert features that buzz your wrist if you walk away without your phone. Doesn't this simple and ubiquitous feature that you can use on most watches today solve the same problem as Neptune's US$800 pair of devices?
Back to the hardware itself, the Neptune Hub (again, that's the actual watch) runs Android 5.0 Lollipop with its own custom UI. The product page showcases a grid full of the most popular Android apps, suggesting (without actually stating) that it will run full Google Play services. Based on Google's policy on watches that run full Android, though, we wouldn't hold our breath for the Play Store coming preinstalled. Don't be shocked if the Neptune Duo launches with its own app store and requires you to sideload any apps that aren't lined up for yet another mobile marketplace.
The Hub has a 2.4-in touchscreen (by comparison, the large Samsung Gear S has a 2-in screen, so this puppy is going to look huge), with a quad core processor and 64 GB of storage. The pocket screen, meanwhile, has a 5-in 720p display (very mid-ranged resolution, by today's standards) and picks up the watch's slack with a pair of cameras (8 MP on the rear, 2 MP on the front) and a 2,800 mAh battery. Apparently you can charge the watch with the screen, supposedly leading to several days' worth of battery life.
You could argue that the battery is another case for the product's existence, but we've found that current watches like the Gear S, LG G Watch R and Asus ZenWatch can last around two days or more with regular use. By the time the Duo reaches customers' hands, we'd be surprised if the latest flagship smartwatches weren't all lasting two or more days.
We've been eying the possibility of a smartwatch-centric future for the last few years, and, if nothing else, we have to tip our hats to Neptune's bold movement in that direction. But we also have to scratch our heads at its skewed logic, and acknowledge that this all reeks of a solution in search of a problem. Like the Neptune Pine, it's an exciting "why not?" concept, but when it comes to selling it as a consumer product, it's hard to see this getting past a very niche, early adopter audience.
If you are the early adopter that Neptune is looking for, then you can reserve the Pine now, or make a pledge through the company's website. It's going to cost $798 for Hub and pocket screen. The Duo is estimated to ship in late 2015.
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