Hands-on with the Android-powered i’m Watch smartwatch

I was walking around some of the more esoteric booths at the Venetian Hotel, reserved for spillover exhibits and smaller companies, and I came across a plush white carpet and expensive-looking showcases. Inside were buxom Italian ladies modelling i’m watch, “the first real smartwatch.”

What is it? Firstly, it’s made in Italy. An Android-powered Bluetooth-enabled watch with a 240×240 pixel 1.54″ multitouch screen, 64MB RAM and 4GB internal storage. Without mentioning Android anywhere (that I could find) it’s clear the i’m watch is using a custom build of Froyo without acces to the Android Market. Instead, the company provides what it calls “custom apps” for the interface, which tethers its internet connection with Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Symbian, bada and Windows Phone devices. The 454Mhz IMX233 Freescale processor does most of the legwork, with “integrated mixed signal analog audio with a 1.5W Mono speaker amplifier, a stereo headphone DAC with 99dB Signal-to-Noise ratio and stereo ADC with 85dB Signal-to-Noise ratio with integrated amplifiers,” according to the spec sheet.

How does it work? Once an internet connection is tethered, it works much like a tiny smartphone: you can listen to music, check the weather, tweet, and take calls with the built-in microphone. It has a 3.5mm headphone jack and a USB connector for charging and transferring files.

While the design is admittedly stunning, with a brushed aluminum build (on the base model — there are two higher tiers that use premium materials such as titanium) at $329 for the base model (which has multiple colours) and $389 for the 128MB model it encroaches upon “Are You Kidding Me?” territory.

With the upcoming Sony SmartWatch coming in at $149 it’s hard to recommend the i’m watch to anyone but the rich fashionista. That being said, I am neither of those and am still intrigued, so I suppose that’s saying something. Perhaps there’s some nice Android hacking potential… Ice Cream Sandwich anyone?

If you’re interested in pre-ordering one, head on over to the i’m Watch site.