BACRELONA, Spain — Acer and Swiss watchmaker Victorinox are teaming up to make a smartwatch that isn't actually a smartwatch. Instead, they've created a device that slips over Victorinox's standard I.N.O.X. watch and adds on some digital smarts.
Whether that turns out to be a smart move for either company remains to be seen. The I.N.O.X.'s smart companion, dubbed the Cybertool, has no set launch date or a price tag.
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The Cybertool pairs with your smartphone over Bluetooth; Acer says its companion app will run on both Android and iOS phones. Once it's clipped on to your I.N.O.X., your formerly dumb though stylish-looking time piece can track your fitness by measuring steps taken and calories burned. It can notify you when there's an incoming call or message: The Cybertool beeps and vibrates against your wrist.
If you run into trouble, simultaneously pressing both Cybertool buttons sends an SOS alert to an emergency contact you've designated. That message will include your location. And the Cybertool has a phone-finding feature as well for whenever you've misplaced your mobile device.
The Cybertool has a small screen where it can display a stopwatch or other information like steps taken. Otherwise, it's just a black circle that lays on top of the I.N.O.X. — or at least the version we saw at Mobile World Congress was. The Cybertool has just two buttons, one for toggling between functions and the other for selecting one.
You can understand the rationale as to why Acer and Victorinox would opt for a smart clip-on to a regular watch rather than build a smartwatch from scratch. Imagine spending $549 or more on an Apple Watch only to have Apple come out a year later with new features. Cybertool promises some measure of upgradeability via its software, and even if it is left behind by the inexorable march of time, at least you've still got a stylish Victorinox watch on your wrist.
That said, the Cybertool struck me as a bulky cover for the otherwise sharp-looking I.N.O.X. — like shoving a particularly sleek smartphone into a drab-looking case. And despite the features the Cybertool can boast, its functionality is limited compared to leading smartwatches. You won't be field phone calls on this wristwatch.
Fans of Victorinox's watches may take to the Cybertool if they can get past its less-than-striking looks and want to add on features like fitness tracking and notifications to a traditional wristwatch. But in a world Fitbits offer fitness tracking on end of the wearable spectrum and the Apple Watch and Moto 360 offer good looks and more features on the other, the Cybertool-equipped I.N.O.X. could struggle to find an audience.