The Fossil Wrist Net is a Smart Watch that uses the MSN Direct service to receives information such as news, weather, sports results, stock prices, MSN messenger messages and more via FM radio signals.
At a high level, how it works is: you buy a watch and sign up for a subscription with MSN Direct ($59/yr linked to a .net Passport) where you specifiy your home and commute areas. As long as you are in range of FM towers in those locations you get data sent to your watch automatically.
We got hold of a Fossil Wrist Net Smart Watch to review. Keep reading to see what we thought.
The packaging of the Fossil Wrist Net Smart Watch is very professional and instantly tells you that this is more than just a watch.
Working out how to get the package open is almost like a rite of passage: are you smart enough?
I admit it took me a couple of minutes of struggling in vain to remove the top of the barrel shaped package before realizing you open it at the bottom.
With that revelation out of the way the barrel came apart revealing the AC adapter and instructions in the base and a piece of dense black foam holding the charger and watch in place in the main part of the barrel.
Overall the package includes:
- Fossil Wrist Net Watch
- Quick Start Guide
- Reference Guide
- AC Adapter
Taking the watch out of the barrel we get our first real look, and it is bigger than I expected: The Fossil Wrist Net Square is the largest MSN Direct Smart Watch at 2 x 1.5 x 0.5 inches (excluding the rather substantial strap).
You can see how big it is compared to my regular watch, and wearing it took some mental adjustment: it just seemed a lot heavier and bulkier than what I was used to (the question to be answered is if the features of the watch make the bulk worth accepting).
Setting up the Watch
Before you even buy a MSN Direct Smart Watch you need to make sure the FM radio towers provide coverage where you live.
You can check the coverage maps on the MSN Direct site at http://direct.msn.com/about/coverage.aspx
Here is the coverage map for New York City:
Initially I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to use my watch as where I live (Stamford, CT) shows as no coverage. In the end I had no problems with coverage, even well outside the areas shown on the map.
Once you have checked you are in an area with coverage and have your watch unpacked the next step is to charge it.
Using the charger is simple. Just plug the AC adapter into a wall socket and into the base of the charger then place the watch on the charger, it beeps and starts charging. No need to plug anything into the watch…. isn’t technology marvellous!
Note that the watch needs to be recharged every few days (less often if you don’t do much with it, more often if you are constantly switching screens etc), this isn’t a problem as long as you put the charger by your bed and charge while you sleep.
Now is the tedious part of using almost any new gadget: waiting for it to charge.
Once it is fully charged (about 6-8 hours) you can go to the MSN Direct and register/activate your watch.
Activating is quite an easy process:
- Sign-in using a .net Passport account
- Enter a 16 character activation code that is unique to your watch
- Choose a month ($9.99/month) or yearly ($59/yr) service plan
- Tell them your home location (and if desired commuting location)
- Select and customize channels
It can then take up to 12 hours for all the new data to be sent to your watch but you can still use your watch in the meantime.
You can log into the MSN Direct Site at any time and configure/change your watch details.
The location screen shows the locations you have listed for your watch, and if you are traveling you can enter up to 5 travel destinations where the local FM transmitters will be sending your watch data (only one travel destination can be active on a specific date).
The account screen contains information on, and lets you modify, your service plan, billing address, credit card, watches, and locations.
The channels screen is where you will spend the most time, choosing which channels to have displayed on the watch and configuring those channels.
Here is an example of configuring the weather channel, you can choose which local city weather is displayed (adding additional data such as UV index, humidity, wind chill etc), add up to 10 other cities, and cloose to display brief details (temperature and weather conditions) for about 100 US and 70 international cities.
Other channels and what you can customize are as follows:
Glance: A brief look at the main information of other channels such as messages, weather, news etc.
Messages: You can install a plug-in into MSN Messenger and then use it to send messages to an MSN Direct watch.
News: Select up to 10 news sources such as MSNBC Business, Washington Post, Reuters International, AP Sports, NBC Local News, Reuters Space, MSNBC Weather etc.
Stocks: Up to 15 stocks and/or stock indexes.
Calendar: Sychronize Outlook 2000 (or later) appointments with your watch.
Horoscopes: For one of more astrological signs.
Watch Faces: Get new watch faces sent to your watch.
Sports: Game times, scores and standings for your favorite teams.
Lottery: Lottery numbers.
Daily Diversions: Trivia and fun facts.
Using the Watch
At the end of the day the Fossil Wrist Net is a lot like any other watch, you adjust it to fit then wear it, and it has some buttons that let you do stuff.
You want more detail than that? ok….
Adjusting the watch is pretty easy. Push out a metal pin (I used a paper clip for this), move the buckle, check it fits, then push the metal pin back into place.
Most of the time the watch displays the clock, and there are about 10 different watch faces you can switch between. The clock face can also display icons telling you if you have a new message, if the battery is low, if you are getting a poor signal or no signal from the FM towers etc.
The watch has 5 buttons as shown above that allow you to navigate through a simple menu system and it also has the usual digital watch functions like a stopwatch and alarms.
When there is a newsflash it is displayed on screen and you can then use the previous/next buttons to scroll through the news.
All other channels are just selected using the channel button to get then displayed on screen, then using the previous/next buttons to move through the information.
Once you have used the watch for a while it all becomes intuitive and it is easy to get to what you need with just a few button pushes.
At first I was put off by the bulk of the watch but this is just one of a number of MSN Direct Smart Watches that are available, and some such as the Tissot High-T seem considerably smaller.
Once I started using the watch I was impressed at the amount of information I had access to and how easy it was to get to what I wanted.
I am looking forward to seeing how Smart Watches evolve over the next few years, in terms of size, display quality, and functionality: sign me up for the first Smart Watch that looks like a classic analog watch but has a clear overlay type of screen in color that displays MSN direct information.
Fossil Wrist Net Negatives:
One-way communication only
Fossil Wrist Net Positives:
Puts useful information at my fingertips
MSN Direct site is easy to use
Coverage area and signal strength seem a lot better than expected
As long as you recharge every few days there are no battery problems
Overall Rating: 7/10
The Fossil Wrist Net Smart Watch is available in many places online including at Amazon.com:
Or it is free at Amazon.com with the pre-order of any Portable Media Center using coupon code SMARTWATCH02 (expires 8/22).