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Abacus Wrist Net Smart Watch for MSN Direct (AU4000)

Abacus Wrist Net Smart Watch for MSN Direct (AU4000)

List Price: $69.99
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Product Info Reviews

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Rating: 4 stars
Summary: Watch + Data = Smart Watch for MSN Direct
Review: I heard about Microsoft's Smart Personal Object Technology (SPOT) devices a while back, and it intrigued me. Although as a certified gadget geek I have a number of wireless devices that can receive news, weather, and sports, I had always thought that the perfect device would replace my existing watch. While this first generation device isn't perfect, it's not bad.

Opening the box containing the Abacus Wrist Net Smart Watch for MSN Direct (there's a mouthful!), you'll find two small manuals, the watch, and a two-piece charger. The charger consists of a plug (thoughtfully made to fold flat) and a rather clunky charger with an "arm" that rotates into place to hold the watch. You just lay the watch onto the arm and it starts charging through induction - no charging port or contacts to get dirty!

You need to activate the watch through MSN Direct to get your news, and it's best to take the $59 one-year subscription rather than go with the $9.95 monthly plan. You will need a credit card to subscribe. Once you've entered your unique watch ID and personal information, you get to pick the type of content you want sent to your watch. At this time (1/7/04) the sports channel powered by ESPN isn't available, but it's supposed to be ready soon.

It takes about 10 minutes to get a confirmation message on the watch telling you everything's OK, and then it can take up to 12 hours for all of your info to show up.

There are five buttons on the device that are used to turn on the white backlight (rather uneven, I thought), change channels, and navigate (enter, next, and previous). The buttons seem a little spongy, but not too bad. The Abacus AU4000 isn't waterproof but will survive splashes. If you're used to very expensive thin watches you'll hate this, but anyone who likes clunky multifunction watches will love this. From a design standpoint, the $299 Suunto N3 sure looks a lot nicer, but functionally it doesn't do anything different than this watch.

A charge is supposed to last 2 - 3 days, and I think I may just put my watch on the charging arm every night when I go to bed. Heavy use of animated screens will drain the battery faster; like any first-generation electronic device, battery life is an issue.

So far I'm fairly impressed, and find the display to be clear and easy to read. Just showing the Weather Channel info to friends has been good for a lot of positive comments, and folks have been sending me MSN Messenger "pages" just for fun. If you're an early adopter, you'll probably want to get one of these new watches; if not, wait for the second generation devices.

Rating: 1 stars
Summary: Not ready for prime-time or any time.
Review: Do yourself a favor - wait on this technology!

I live in suburban Chicago - clearly within the published coverage area of MSN Direct service. I was unable to receive any signal with the watch. $179 is a lot to pay for a bulky digital watch. Be aware - it is quite a bit larger that it appears in the pictures and the strap is very cheap for a watch of this price. Also, it must be charged on a stand at least once per week (the stand is well made and has a great cool factor though)

Technical support a Microsoft was simply no help. In one call they told me they were giving my case to a upper-level support tech who would work on it and call me. In my follow-up call (I initiated after not receiving a call), they stated that it must be the watch. They could not tell whether the network was up or down, or what an upper-level tech support person could do - maybe they are flying someone out to look at the watch.

In conclusion - Unless you live in the HEART of a coverage area, do not count on the product working. If you have trouble, do not count on MS technical support. If you want to know what time it is, do not count on this watch.

Rating: 4 stars
Review: Well I must start by saying the watch is bigger than you might think. The students in my classes said, "Dang, that's one big watch". However, when I showed them the features they were quite impressed. If I was only out to impress people this would be quite an expensive status symbol. Being a self-comfirmed Gadget FREAK I enjoy new technology and try to find ways to incorperate it into my so-called life as a teacher. I jumped on board when the first PDAs went on the market and haven't looked back since. The Abacus by Fossil works very well (once it's charged) and instant messaging seems to be quite speedy at 2:03 minutes per message (an average of 30 attempts). Set up is an absolute breeze. For this item I had my non-tech-savvy wife set it up and she had NO problems whatsoever. After the initial set-up it took only 30 minutes for all of the channel content to appear. Most channels were ready to view in 5 minutes or less but it was my local weather channel that took 30 minutes. The channels are easy to switch to and news content and messages are easily erased. The cool feature with this watch is that you can set-up breaking news to be instant messaged to you. On early Wednesday morning, when the trains in Madrid were targeted by a terrorist organization, I was quickly informed of this news. (I would suggest that you set your tones to off or to sound only when an instant message comes in, otherwise your watch will be beeping with every news flash that is stored in you news channel.) The band is a bit odd. However, on the fifth day of owning this watch I have figure out "the trick". I would tell you "the trick", but I want you to have a huge sense of accomplishment after you have placed it on your arm in under 1 minute. Overall, this is a great product. I subract a star because of the band learning curve, and the thickness of the watch.

Will the second-generation devices be better?.....yes, but until then I can check the news while using the bathroom. And if that's not cool, and geeky, I don't know what is!!!!!!!!!

Rating: 4 stars
Summary: Pretty amazing for what it is
Review: No, this won't replace your cell phone, and you can get more current info off the internet, but if you want to have sport scrores or stock quotes or brief news items available to you wherever you are, at the push of a few buttons, then this might be for you.

For me, the two most useful items are perfect time-keeping, linked to US national standard time, and MSN messaging.

I don't leave my cell phone on, and I don't give out the cell number, because I hate it when people think I'm at their beck and call. But this gives me the ability to get some messages, at MY convenience, wherever I am. A lot like email, but portable, and on MY terms.

I bought one at CES from the Fossil booth, and it took all of 20 minutes to register it, set up preferences and get my first message.

One small note: the antenna in the Fossil watches is in the watchband, so you're stuck with the watchband they provide. Suunto makes a SPOT watch with the antenna in the watch's rim, so you can change bands. They lose a little reception strength due to the smaller antenna, but it's a trade off.

As far as the Fossil's reception -- I've had good reception in places (like buildings) where my cell phone doesn't see signal. That's all I can ask.

The watch has a rechageable battery. THe claim 2 days between recharges, but, even with my excessive new-toy usage, I still had 35% battery after 3 days, so a good 3 days is a better estimate.

Oh, the bulk of the watch isn't as bad as some say, although the fx-3000 model is bigger. I have a Nike sports watch that is substantially larger.

Rating: 3 stars
Summary: Lots of gadget geek appeal, but not ready for prime time
Review: Wow, that guy from Boise sure has a lot of watch rage! Most of what he/she says doesn't make sense and is not even accurate. Anyway, I've had this watch for a little over a week now, and let me give you a quick review.

The upshot is, at first I found a lot to complain about, but after a week, it started to grow on me, and right now, I like it a lot, and everyone I show it to is impressed, although most don't think it's worth the price + subscription fee. Anyway, I don't regret this purchase like I did with the T-Mobile Sidekick.

- Lots of geek appeal with real-time information updates
- Changeable watch faces
- Can receive updates from Outlook Calendar
- Atomic clock auto-syncing
- ESPN channel coming at end of January
- 10-second white backlight at the touch of a button
- Alarm clock, chronograph (stop watch), timer, time zones
- FM radio frequency, so low power and potentially low chances of us getting tumors from wearing this

- Kinda large, not for slim wrists
- Not particularly attractive physically
- No color
- Battery life can be an issue; I've recharged only once but it's only because I use the animations sparingly and turn off the radio at night
- The wrist band is hard to use and adjust (this is one thing the rage man from Boise got right)
- Update can be slow at times
- You need to set up a travel schedule to receive personalized information (i.e., Outlook appointments) when you travel, which is totally stupid, especially as the set-up page on the Web is a perfect example of stupid programming (but not unlike the typical Microsoft goofs) -- too complicated to explain here, let's just say it doesn't work the way it should.
- Coverage is not consistent, and only works in the U.S. and Canada

My initial impression was this deserved no more than 2 stars, as the watch was kinda ugly and all the information you get (weather, news headlines, up to 15 stock quotes, Outlook calendar, etc.) is nice to have but totally not necessary, especially for people like myself who sit in front of the Internet all day and half night. Plus, set up was more confusing than warranted, and the battery life issue was a big turn off.

But there is just so much gadget-freak factor in this watch. It's actually more useful than my Casio camera watch or some prototypes of communicator watches I've seen in Asia, because, at least for a guy, the size is acceptable, and there's something about getting real-time weather and stock quotes that just fascinate me. The weather channel is especially impressive, especially on cold wintry days like these in New York. Pressing the channel button to cycle through the various channels -- BTW there's also a special channel that automatically cycles through the channels for you -- has a certain magical power of its own, and I just love showing this off to friends and coworkers, and get lots of pleasure when people come into my office to ask "oh what is like outside?" or "hey show me your watch again."

Should you buy this? It's very hard to say. Luckily MSN Direct offers a free month if you sign up with the monthly plan. Then if you like it, you can switch to the annual plan and save 50%. If you don't, at least Amazon offers a nice 30-day MBG policy.

Rating: 2 stars
Summary: Functional but Unconfortable
Review: This is perhaps one of the most innovative (yet imcomplete) inventions since the watch (time piece). Incomplete in that, it is also the most unconfortable thing to where. Not to mention very bulky. A leather (or some kind of elastic) band would have solved all of that. I returned it in one week. ...did I mention it needed a leather band. Oh yeah, LEATHER BAND PLEASE.

Rating: 5 stars
Summary: It's new, so...
Review: Pros
-Use it like a pager
Only those who you let know your email can send you messages
For $59/year, not too high cost for the option. Users of MSN can send as many messages they want, with several lines of text.

-Better than a PDA if you're looking for just a calendar
Less clunky, easy to synch with Outlook. Great for someone who would rather carry around a watch, than a PDA.

-Great for News / Weather / Stock Hounds
Keeps you updated on the latest of all three, and does it very well. Even gives you tiny stock chart.

-EXTREMELY easy to set up.

-No ability to communicate with others
Calendar/Month view doesn't show notations or offer ability to move through month view.

-Large (not for women at all! unless you're big boned)

-Not as many channels as I would like to choose from

-Stopwatch/timer feature not as advanced as it could be

Overall, for the price, it's not bad, especially if you like to be an early adopter. And it shows lots of promise. Had no problem in an office building in Alaska receiving messages. Some people may end up getting 'early lemons', which I assume is the reason for the other bad reviews.

It's perfect for technology challenged types who would like to have a pager, cell phone and PDA, but really doesn't need all the overkill and hates being 'electronically chained' to a cell phone. PERFECT for delivery people!

Rating: 5 stars
Summary: The first computer-data watch I will actually keep using
Review: First, I have to admit I am an incurable early adopter and gadget lover. But, regardless of that bias, I have to say this watch reaches a new level of usefulness (and coolness). (And no, I don't work for Microsoft or Fossil.) I have tried several other watches in the past that offered data storage and synching with PC data, either through a cable or through an infrared connection. I gave them up within days as clunky and impractical. With this watch, though, I can put it on, and (once the MSN Direct account was activated, which was easy)I can forget about it until I want to check the news, weather, stock quotes, time, calendar, etc. I don't have to take any steps such as dialing a cell phone to get the news; I just press a button and get headlines, and more of the story with another press. The functioning is quite user-friendly and intuitive; I have spent very little time with the reference manual. The radio signal has been fine inside my office building downtown, and I was easily able to send myself a text message from MSN. The subscription price is very reasonable. I don't mind at all sticking the watch on the charger every night; the instructions say there's no "memory" effect, so it's OK to charge it before the battery runs down.

There have been some problems. The watch band is a little clumsy to manipulate, but it's manageable, and works OK with a little effort. The watch is a little big for my wrist, but after a couple of weeks I'm used to it, and it feels fine. The worst problem was that, after about a week, the watch stopped receiving the time signal or any data. I made numerous calls to MSN Direct tech support, and got through to them quickly, but they were unable to solve the problem. I think they were trying, but evidently were located somewhere halfway around the world, and had only minimal suggestions to make. Finally, with one quick call to Fossil, I found that the problem was that the metal band was not completely snapped together, and that the antenna therefore was not functioning. I don't recall seeing any mention of that issue in the documentation, which is not very thorough. Anyway, now it's working again with no problems.

All in all, this is the type of product I have been waiting for. Having all this information so easily available on my wrist is, in my mind, a quantum leap forward in useful (and fun) technology. Maybe not everyone cares about having the exact time, brief weather information, and news headlines on their wrist, but if you do, you should appreciate this watch. The text messaging only allows a small number of words; so tell your friends to be brief!

The bottom line is, it works, the service is not expensive, and it seems to be very reliable, at least in the Washington, DC metro area.

Rating: 5 stars
Summary: Loved it!
Review: I brought this recently for my husband and I must say I think it is great. Everything right at your wrist. I am able to send him messages; get my lotto numbers; get my horoscope and he is able to keep up with his sports and select what teams he wants to get updates on. Excellent, Windy today, humidity, just look at your watch. Excellent. You do have to have a subcription for 60 a year. but its worth it. Your also able to change the face of your watch. COOL!

Rating: 1 stars
Summary: Stay Away For This Model
Review: My only reccommendation for this model is stay away from it. Get something different. My second watch in less than a month just died and won't reset.

These models are a piece of junk that should never made it to market. I like the MSN Direct technology, but with watches like this I'll not be wasting anymore money on the watches or the service from Microsoft.

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