Kairos, the company behind the world’s first mechanical smartwatch hybrid (that has not actually shipped yet) has announced a new product and accompanying IndiGoGo campaign, the Kairos Tband. The Kairos Tband is a watch band that is designed to be a replacement band for any analog watch. The purpose of the Tband is pretty straightforward: to provide you with smart watch functions while letting you keep you regular watch. The Tband is said to feature notifications over Bluetooth, push alerts, remote control functions, and fitness and health tracking.
The Kairos Tband seems to be a different product to solve a similar problem to what the Kairos Smartwatch wants to solve: the longevity, reliability, and style of mechanical watches with the functionality of a smart watch. In an effort to address different styles and desires, Kairos has announced 3 different styles of the Tband. All three of the Tband models will target 2-3 days of battery life, a 32 bit ARM Cortex-M4 processor, support for Bluetooth including 4.0 BLE, a 9 axis gyroscope, accelerometer, compass, optical sensor, a digital MEMS microphone, and IP67 waterproof rating. The Tband ND is a version that lacks an actual screen but keeps hidden multicolor LEDs in the band and adds a galvanic skin sensor for gauging skin temperature and sweat production. The Tband HD features an LED display that is capable of displaying numbers and text and capacitive touch capabilities. The Tband OD features a curved display PMOLED with RGB color and capacitive touch capabilities. All 3 models of the Tband will run Kairos OS which is said to be compatible with iOS, Android, and Windows Phone.
The Indiegogo campaign is set with a goal of $50,000. The 3 Tbands are priced at $149 for the ND, $179 for the HD, and $199 for the OD. There are early bird specials with $20 savings on the models, carrying a quantity limit of 100 on each. The campaign also features mechanical only versions of the Kairos watches, and bundles of the mechanical only versions with Tbands. There are several different configurations that can be chosen and you can back the campaign for as low as $1 or go up to $1,148 for their highest priced reward.
You may or may not remember, but we have been supportive and excited about the potential of Kairos in the past, reporting on them initially, and even interviewing founder Sam Yang in a Hangout On Air. Several months have passed since then and things have changed. Pre-orders for Kairos’ mechanical smartwatch have slipped back to later ship dates. The pre-order period for the smartwatch has been extended and the price raised. Kairos is now trying to sell a mechanical only version of their watch, and they are announcing a new product. I personally have pre-ordered a smartwatch from Kairos but time breeds doubts for me. With all of that being said I thought it might be a good time to play a round of the good, bad, and ugly.
The Kairos Smartwatch is still (in this writer’s opinion) the best looking smartwatch announced to date. The Kairos Tband is an attractive and interesting product that offers a similar functionality to the smartwatch while giving you more style options and a cheaper price point. Not sure about a startup mechanical watch company? Interested in staying with a traditional watch maker? Grab the Tband and throw it on your Citizen and you may have the best of all worlds.
Kairos has already had a pre-order campaign for their smartwatch and have already had release dates slip. They also extended their pre-order campaign for the smartwatch and it is still open. Why did they have an original cutoff date and why has it been extended? Are there financial problems with this startup? Are they taking on too much? Should they really be announcing a new product and an Indiegogo campaign when they have already had to push back release dates on a previously announced product?
I want to be positive here so while I think these are legitimate questions, I want to also point out that Pebble ended up being very late with deliveries from their Kickstarter campaign but eventually did get the hardware out and have since introduced new colors, a brick and mortar retail presence, updates to their software, and a version 2 of their product. Their delays were a nuisance to backers, but it’s safe to continue calling them a success.
The only other thing I feel the need to point out is that there is conflicting info about the Tband on their website. The ND model shows in one section 2-3 days of battery life and in another 7. The ND model also shows as having capacitive touch capabilities in once section and not in another. This could just be copy and paste errors on the site but there are times where it seems like Kairos really wants to be everything to everyone. I worry that they are putting too much pressure on themselves and that it is inevitable that they will end up having over promised and under delivered when they finally launch a product.
Where does Kairos fit into this market? Time (no pun intended) is very important to this market and getting products released could be a key factor in establishing a company as a front runner in the wearable space. Kairos is projecting June 2015 as their release date but that is not a hard date. There are still things that have to be done with finalizing production. Considering there is a good chance that this will be released after the Apple Watch and that even the original Kairos smartwatch has been pushed back and could end up releasing after the Apple Watch (presuming the rumored February date is true and has not been hampered by developments with Apple’s sapphire supply). While this market is still young and will likely be building out for several years, the earlier one can establish itself the better. Releasing late in the game and after the Apple Watch is not a death knell but establishing themselves and proving to be more than vaporware will go a long way. While I was quick to bring up Pebble as a success story, there are still Kreyos and Agent smartwatches to look at as the inverse.