Those were brave days when we went out the door without knowing
the weather, headline news, sports scores and our horoscopes. But
those days are over. The new digital age shows us how easy it is
to get all that information before having your first cup of coffee
in the morning by simply lifting your wrist and looking at your
SPOT watch. SPOT (Smart Personal Objects Technology) watches were
introduced by Microsoft and some major watchmakers including Fossil,
Suunto and Citizen in Jan. 2003. These watches do double duty as
a time piece and a personal information device that can receive
news from major new sources, stocks from US and International indexes,
weather for local city and any other cities, sports scores, movie
listings and much more. Microsoft created MSN Direct to update
the information which is sent via FM radio towers. MSN Direct categorizes
the information sent to your watch using Channels and you can personalize
the channels to get only the information you want.
Since the announcement of the SPOT platform,
several SPOT watch models from Fossil, Suunto and Tissot have
been released. The latest addition to the market is the Swatch
Paparazzi SPOT watch line. The main features on these watches
are similar and are based on Microsoft’s specs. The major channels offered by MSN Direct
are the same with only some variations of watch faces and watchmaker’s
specific channels. When you shop for a SPOT watch, style and comfort
might just be the deciding points.
Above: the Fossil Abacus and Swatch
Paparazzi SPOT watches
Design and Ergonomics
The Swatch watch is a sporty and hip addition to the SPOT watch
line up. While most SPOT watches come in black and silver color
combinations, the Swatch SPOT watch aims to steal the lime light
with four color combinations: blue and beige, black and silver,
red and black, orange and blue. We tested the red and black color
watch in this review.
The watch is larger than the Fossil Abacus and thicker
than most other SPOT watches. The Swatch has the same number of the control
buttons as the other watches, however instead of the “knob” design,
the Swatch controls are embedded in the watch body. The control buttons
are easy to use and are covered in black dotted plastic in contrast to
the red cover that surrounds the watch face. The rest of the watch is
in black with a red band that’s made of rubber and is stiff because
it contains a metal antenna. Be sure not to twist or damage the band
as the antenna is required to receive FM radio signal for the information
sent by MSN Direct. The rubber band has size adjustments and the smallest
size is about 7 inches. You can not make the size smaller by punching
additional holes without risking damage to the antenna. The rubber material
isn’t breathable so you don’t want to wear the watch very
tight. The rubber material of the watch band also attracts dirt easily
and the blackened band isn’t very easy to clean.
The display screen is slightly bigger than the Abacus
screen and has very nice contrast that makes the watch easy to read. The
nighttime mode is also very easy to see with green backlighting turned
on. Swatch is Swiss made and is water resistant up to 2 ATM. Swatch didn’t
make the SPOT watch waterproof because the FM radio signal can’t
reach deep underwater.
The Paparazzi has a rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery and comes with
a wall charger. You will find the charging port on the top right corner
in the back of the watch. The manual states that depending on your usage,
the battery will last 3-5 days. In our tests, the Paparazzi consistently
got 4 days on a charge.
The Paparazzi has basic digital timepiece functions
and SPOT smart watch features. The basic functions include alert and
alarm sounds (hourly chimes available), stopwatch functions, a countdown
timer and a calendar with monthly view. The smart features on the Paparazzi
include receiving wireless content provided by the MSN Direct, automatic
time zone updating and time syncing (this means you don’t ever
need to adjust the watch to the correct time) and Internet time which
is a special feature offered by Swatch. For most of the content served
by MSN Direct, the Paparazzi offers personal customization functions.
For example, if you are getting headline news from MSN Direct channels,
you can set the number of stories you wish to see on your Paparazzi.
If you are getting weather for multiple cities, you can set the watch
to display only your local weather or include the weather from other
cities. Similar customizations can be made for sports scores, stock
quotes, messages and more. These customization features help you customize
the watch to provide the exact information you need.
Even though the Paparazzi blends basic digital watch features and SPOT
smart features together well, it does offer a control to shut down only
the FM radio on the watch so that you can enjoy the timepiece features
(but not wireless data) when in flight.
MSN Direct Services
To take advantage of the wireless content offered by MSN Direct,
you will need to activate the service and choose your channels.
MSN Direct offers two plans; one is a monthly $9.95 and the other
is a $39.95 yearly plan. For an additional $20 per year, you can
add one-way (receiving) Personal Messaging via MSN Messenger and
Outlook Calendar sync for your appointments features. The service
is available in most US metropolitan regions.
MSN Direct currently offers 13 channels that include News, Weather,
Stocks, Sports, Movies, Watch Faces and more. You can not only
select the channels from which you wish to receive information,
but more importantly you can also specify the sources of the information,
location and the amount of the information you wish to receive.
Go into each channel page to make the modifications such as selecting
news sources from major and local news providers, add the cities
you are traveling to for weather reports, change sports teams you
wish to get scores on, downloading new watch faces, etc.
For road warriors, MSN Direct offers an
easy way to get all the information you are used to getting at
home when you’re on
the road. Simply add the cities you are traveling to on the MSN
Direct channels, and you will receive the local weather, news and
other information, and the watch adjusts to the new time zone automatically
as soon as your plan lands. We tested the Paparazzi in three major
cities and the radio tower switch over was fast and smooth.
Two of many watch faces
The Paparazzi’s sporty design changes the SPOT watch’s “business
only” image. It will attract younger users who like high
tech timepieces but also want to look.
Pro: Swiss made high quality watch. It’s
the first SPOT watch to offer four color combinations. The display
screen is large and easy to see and has a nice nighttime view
option. Good battery life and loud alarm audio. Strong radio
signal in metro areas and towers switch seamlessly when you are
in new cities. The watch is relatively reasonably priced. Reliable
service from MSN Direct with a wide range of information offered
by the channels.
Con: The non-breathable material used in the watch band could
cause mild skin discomfort, especially in hot weather. The band
attracts dirt and gives the watch an unattractive look. Generally,
SPOT watches, including the Swatch are too large for women. For
digital watch users who are used to having vibrating alarms, this
is not the watch for you as it lacks this feature.