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Now, a phone you can wear like a watch [Telecom] [Times of India]
[February 26, 2013]

Now, a phone you can wear like a watch [Telecom] [Times of India]

(Times of India Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) DELHI: Having the phone ring while eating will have most rush for a paper napkin. No one wants to soil a device that has all their information, contacts and more. But when four students found themselves in a similar dilemma two years ago, their solution went beyond wiping hands. They have now come up with a wearable phone the size and design of a wristwatch. Or as they call it, a "smartwatch".

The watch with a 2-inch screen comes with a 2-megapixel camera and runs on an older version of the Android operating system. A speaker, camera and mic are built into the device. What's more, the end of the wrist-strap can be plugged into a USB socket to be used as a storage device and also to charge the phone.

The four young guns behind this are three 24-year-olds - software developer Ankit Pradhan, communications professional Pavneet Singh Puri and lawyer Apurva Sukant, and the barely-out-of-school Siddhant Vats who at 17, is their youngest member.

There are other multinational corporations that are working on similar, wearable devices, with some available in the market as well. But the Indian quartet insist their device is different.

"There are other such products in the market, but they mostly sync with a smartphone and are not phones in themselves. We have ported Android on to a much smaller board and built a wearable phone," says Sukant, a Beethoven fan who is the resident designer of the group.

The story of the genesis of the device, which the four have christened 'Androidly', is fascinating. "We have all been friends for years now and would hang out at Rajinder da Dhaba a lot. I was a member of my college student council then and was getting a lot of calls regarding the college fest. That day, my phone rang at a time when my hands were dripping with chicken curry. And I just couldn't retrieve it from my pocket," says Puri, who had been working two jobs in Melbourne during the development stage of the smartwatch.

"Later, over dessert, we discussed the episode and figured that things can be made much easier if the device is always within reach, accessible and visible. Making it a wristwatch seemed to be the most practical solution," recounts Vats, who has decided to drop a year before he joins college to be able to give time to the startup.

Popular trends would indicate that such an innovation would not sell at all. Touch phones are moving towards larger screens. Phones, market research has proven, are responsible for eating into the wristwatch market. However, with an investor on board and a prototype on their wrists, the four are optimistic about their prospects.

"I have a lot of friends who keep losing their phones at parties while dancing. In places like Melbourne, where it's not as easy to have domestic help as in India, it can get very difficult to answer phones if your hands are occupied while cooking or handling a baby. If it's strapped to your wrist, it is easier," explains Puri, who unsurprisingly, likes collecting watches.

The development from dinner table to workshop table took two years - one "informal" and the second intensive. The four were scattered across the world during the time - Vats had school in London, Puri was busy getting a management degree and interning in Melbourne, Sukant was in Patna studying law and Pradhan was in the capital, also working. But it was an idea whose time had come, and the very young were also very restless. Brainstorming, coding and designing was all done over the Internet.

Coming from upper-middle class backgrounds, with their parents in regular jobs, starting up their own company was something they could draw little help for from those at home. From finding investors to closing the communication gap with Chinese manufacturers, the four have been learning it all the hard way. "But our families have been very supportive all along," says Sukant.

A patent is nowhere on the team's mind. "We support open source technology. Look at what Linux has achieved this way. Today every major player in the tech space uses it," says Pradhan, a Delhi College of Engineering graduate.

(c) 2013 Bennett, Coleman & Company Limited

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