Intel Unveils $500 MICA Smart Bracelet (Hands-on)

With new wearable devices getting launched every day, it's hard for something new to stand out. Intel seems to be going for the gold, however, teaming up with fashion house Opening Ceremony for its $495 My Intelligent Communication Accessory (MICA). At Intel's unveiling event today (Nov. 17), I had a chance to preview a working unit of MICA before it goes on sale at Barney's in early December, and was intrigued by what it has to offer.

At $495, MICA is one of the most expensive wearables on the market. Smartwatches, such as LG's G Watch R and Motorola's Moto 360, go for about $250, while smart ring Ringly costs $195. But what sets MICA apart is its fashionable roots. Designed for the "busy woman," according to Intel, the bracelet is made of such premium materials as 18-carat gold coating, sapphire glass touch screen, white water snake skin and obsidian. And of course, as Opening Ceremony clarified at the event, men can wear it too.

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I really liked the premium build of the band and the big, bright and responsive touchscreen on the back. Both the white and black versions looked great in person (photos I had seen before looked dubious), and the bangle was easy enough to open, thanks to the sturdy hinge.

As far as fashion accessories go, the MICA is more a statement piece than a subtle addition to your outfit. The chunky bangle is eye-catching, but can go with looks ranging from casual to formal. That's important because, as Intel said at the event, the device is supposed to accompany you every day, wherever you go. It only comes in one size, though, and while it fit comfortably on my relatively small wrist, larger-boned fashionistas might find the MICA a tad tight.

More intriguing is the fact that the bracelet can work independently of a smartphone, thanks to a built-in 3G radio. The $495 price includes a two-year wireless service subscription on AT&T's network, and comes with unlimited international data roaming for use across the globe. The device comes with its own number that you can give to a select group of people to reach you on the MICA.

In addition to delivering your calendar and messaging notifications and vibrating alerts to your wrist, the bracelet also acts like a personal assistant. It detects your location, looks at your calendar to figure out your next destination, and calculates how long it takes to get there. Thanks to a Near Me feature, and a partnership with TomTom GPS and Yelp, the device will also look up Yelp recommendations in your surroundings when you're looking for something to eat or do.

You can also set a priority list of contacts to only allow notifications from certain people, so that your bangle is not vibrating all the time.  MICA's curved sapphire touchscreen is on the back of the bracelet, which adds a touch of privacy that keeps your notifications from the front of your wrist. 

The bangle's Linux-based operating system is simplistic. You navigate the interface mostly by swiping left and right to move from home screen to apps, then up and down to scroll through features. Swiping up from the home page brings up your schedule for the day. I found the system responsive for the most part, although the screen didn't register some of my swipes. MICA can store up to 50 messages, and you can respond to your friends with customized short responses, such as "I'm in a meeting" or "I'll call you back." You can configure these via a web portal for the device.

Intel says it is committed to making the device compliant with modern security standards, but did not elaborate on what that means. MICA's onboard battery charges via microUSB and will last two days on a charge, depending on use, according to the makers. You can also access the bracelet, locate or wipe it remotely from a web portal if you've lost it.

MICA is not the first fashionable wearable device to hit the market. Netatmo's June sun-monitoring bracelet is a beautiful accessory that detects the UV rays you are exposed to, while Ringly is a good-looking ring that delivers smartphone notifications to your fingers. Even tech giant Apple is bringing a touch of fashion to its handsome Apple Watch wristband, which will start at $350 when it launches in 2015.

Staff Writer Cherlynn Low wants all her fashion accessories to be smart. Follow her @cherlynnlow. Follow Tom's Guide at @tomsguide on Facebook.

Cherlynn Low

Cherlynn is Deputy Editor, Reviews at Engadget and also leads the site's Google reporting. She graduated with a Master’s in Journalism from Columbia University before joining Tom's Guide and its sister site LaptopMag as a staff writer, where she covered wearables, cameras, laptops, computers and smartphones, among many other subjects.