American musician-cum-entrepreneur Will.i.am thinks he’s got a radical gadget to beat the band: a massive, app-infused wrist wearable that he says can do everything a phone can, and more.
The self-proclaimed tech fashion guru unveiled the Puls on Wednesday, a smartwatch-type device designed to be worn throughout the day. It will run at least a dozen apps, handling everything from Twitter to phone calls to fitness and maps.
Will.i.am unveiled the device onstage at the Salesforce Dreamforce conference in San Francisco, after at least a year of backing from Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Will.i.am said. It arrives after months of teasing by the artist/tech developer.
The device will be sold this holiday season through a variety of channels, including physical AT&T stores, fashion stores and online sites, Will.i.am said during an interview with the press following the launch event. A firm price was not disclosed, but it will cost less than a smartphone by a big margin, Will.i.am said.
Will.i.am’s gadget marks the entrance of yet another wrist wearable into a sea of competitors vying for consumers’ attention. Google is now a big player in the space, partnering with a number of companies like Motorola and LG to get the Android Wear OS on their timepieces. Apple, meanwhile, is slated to launch its Apple Watch early next year.
But unlike those devices, Will.i.am’s Puls will make phone calls without requiring smartphone tethering. In the U.S., users will need a data plan from AT&T; O2 is required for the U.K. Pricing details for those plans were not disclosed.
The device will also have 1GB of memory, 16GB of storage, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, a pedometer, and accelerometer. The Puls runs a proprietary OS, has a curved screen, and wraps around the wrist like a cuff.
“This is not a watch,” Will.i.am stressed during the event. “It’s a new type of communication on your wrist,” he said.
But beyond the on-board calling, the Puls looks pretty similar to many smartwatches already on the market. A slew of apps will run on it, with partnerships through other companies like contacts management company Humin and mapping analytics firm Esri.
The look of the device is sleek, and it will come in a variety of colors. It’s not quite as over-the-top as Samsung’s Gear S, another wearable with calling capabilities that’s essentially a smartphone plopped on your wrist.
Outside of his musical work with the Black Eye Peas, Will.i.am has been active in tech for years. Given his technology projects, he is to music what actor Ashton Kutcher—Lenovo’s new “product engineer”—is to film. Will.i.am is a co-founder and early investor in the Beats Electronics headphone maker and music streaming provider.
Two years ago, Will.i.am launched the foto.sosho, a US$400-plus iPhone case that tried to transform the phone into a camera with a slide-out keyboard. It failed to catch on with consumers.