The top-of-the-range model in Australian company NV Mobile's line of watch phones, the Sapphire is heralded by its manufacturers as a revolution in mobile communications. Although we do appreciate the "wow" factor, this watch phone does have its flaws.
Classified as a "smartphone" that can be worn as a watch, the NV Mobile Sapphire is chunky and rather odd-looking. It is finished in a brushed gold and matte black plastic colour scheme, and it looks like a watch that may have been fashionable in the early '80s — but not in 2009. While we understand that people's tastes vary, we couldn't find one person who didn't describe the Sapphire as ugly. It is also one of the bulkiest watches we've ever worn, and its weight makes it uncomfortable to wear for long periods. The NV Mobile Sapphire isn't waterproof either.
Build quality is a mixed bag. Designed in Australia but built in China, the NV Mobile Sapphire feels like it can take a few knocks, but the rear battery cover is flimsy and the battery itself needs to be pushed awkwardly into place. The plastic flap covering the proprietary USB port on the left side feels cheap, and it is difficult to pry open with your fingernails. Like most regular watches, the wristband can be adjusted to suit most wrist sizes.
NV Mobile does deserve credit for the general operation of the Sapphire, which is controlled via a resistive touch screen. A small stylus is included and it slots into the wrist band (it's difficult to remove when it's pushed all the way in). The touch screen is responsive, and the interface is simple, well designed and speedy. This makes general operation fairly straightforward. Some of the buttons and menus are quite small, however, so you do need to be fairly precise with the stylus.
At the bottom of the screen is a row of four touch-sensitive shortcut buttons that provide quick access to messages, dial pad, music player and camera functions. Annoyingly, they only work from the home screen, so if you are in another application, pressing them does nothing. A button on the left side of the watch takes you to the home screen, but we still think the way the shortcut keys are implemented is odd.
Unfortunately, call quality is mediocre, whether you are using the included Bluetooth headset or the watch itself. Our callers regularly complained of a lack of clarity and volume in outgoing audio (despite using the highest volume level), while incoming audio was also well below average. This was especially evident when you make a call without a Bluetooth headset.
Text messaging is tedious, but this is to be expected. Handwriting recognition is an option and it works reasonably well, but the symbol buttons across the bottom of the write screen are too small, as is the regular ABC keypad. There is no T9 or predictive text option, though you can send MMS messages and access your voice mail.
Despite the small screen and limitations of a watch phone, NV Mobile has included in a number of multimedia features. A VGA camera sits on the right side, and the phone also includes an image viewer, video recorder, audio player and sound recorder. The screen isn't the best when viewed in direct sunlight and its viewing angles are poor, but video playback is reasonable. Audio quality through the built-in speaker is poor, but A2DP Bluetooth means you can use a compatible set of headphones or speakers.
Next to the SIM card slot is a microSD card slot, so you can expand the Sapphire's memory. When you connect it to your PC the watch acts like a normal USB drive, so you can simply drag and drop multimedia files onto the unit. Other features include a WAP browser, calendar, to-do list, alarm, world clock and an e-book reader.
Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.