Outdoorsy smartwatch works as a walkie-talkie in the wilderness
Wearable walkie-talkies for outdoor enthusiasts are slowly growing into a significant category, with the emergence of products like the Combat+ Sync headphones, Coros Linx bike helmet and Bonx earpiece. The StarVox adds one more product to that group along with a new form factor. Instead of sitting on your head, the SmartVox straps to your wrist. Not only is it a two-way radio, it's an outdoor-specific smartwatch with touchscreen, GPS, pedometer and more.
There are already wrist-top walkie-talkies out there, but others we've seen are more toy, less smartwatch. The StarVox seems more the latter, putting two-way radio communications into the greater feature set of an outdoor smartwatch. With a 1.5-in color touchscreen-based interface, it gives the user GPS tracking, step counting, temperature reading and altitude logging. It also includes Bluetooth, a compass and a hygrometer.
We're not sure the StarVox is going to give the Suuntos or Garmins of the world a run for their money, but the walkie-talkie feature does set it apart from those and other outdoor watches. It's easy to imagine built-in radio communications proving useful for all kinds of activities, including skiing at a resort, mountain biking, hiking through the forest, or roaming around a festival.
StarVox designers say that the 400- to 470MHz radio system can support an unlimited number of users, so even larger groups can keep connected. The antenna is integrated into the watch strap, keeping the metal watch body fairly streamlined, though it certainly looks thicker than your typical timepiece.
The rechargeable 420mAh battery provides up to 1.5 hour of active talk time or 192 hours in basic watch mode. It charges in approximately 100 minutes.
Of course, stuffing all those electronics into a wrist-based timepiece isn't without compromises. The most glaring compromise appears to be the limited radio range of 1.2 mile (2 km), which seems like it could be wholly inadequate for a lot of outdoor uses where you might quickly stray farther than a mile from other members of your group. The aforementioned Combat+Sync headphones offer a 10-mile (16-mile) range, and the new Garmin Rino 750, a handheld GPS/radio, offers 20 miles (32 km).
StarVox designers are raising money on Kickstarter now, where they've surpassed a US$20,000 goal. The watch is available at pledge levels of $59 and up or $99 for two watches. The watch's estimated retail price is $109.
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