The downside is the CMRA costs upwards of $150 and won’t be shipping until spring.
In building its smartwatch, Apple designed it without a camera — a sensible choice given the challenges that come with trying to design a wearable that is small and yet has enough battery life to make it through the day.
Yet, there could be some usefulness in having a camera on the wrist, both to enable video chat as well as to capture moments that would otherwise be missed reaching for a smartphone.
Glide, a company known for its messaging software rather than for hardware, says it is stepping up to fill that void. The Israel- and Bay Area-based startup is building CMRA, a smart watch strap that adds both a two-megapixel selfie cam and an eight-megapixel shooter for capturing what is in front of the watch wearer.
“The camera is only valuable when it is out and ready to take a photo or video,” says Glide CEO Ari Roisman. “Our phones live in our pockets.”
The idea of having a camera that is closer than our smartphones is one with some appeal, if done correctly. It’s the same idea behind Snapchat’s Spectacles and even part of Google Glass’ limited appeal.
And goodness knows the smartwatch industry still needs some help in finding the right mix of features to transform the category from a novelty to a must-have gadget.
That said, we should remind readers this is hardware being made available for preorder — and preorder hardware has a terrible track record, with products often shipping later than expected or not at all, even from those with the best of intentions.
Glide is taking preorders starting Wednesday, but the camera strap is not actually set to ship until spring.
Nor does the CMRA come cheap. It’s designed to sell for $249, though the company plans to offer it for preorder at $199, with the earliest orders getting it for $149.
And, I’ll be honest. The mere mention of a camera on the watch strap brings up painful memories of the carbuncle-like module that adorned the earliest Samsung Gear smartwatch. Thankfully, the lenses on the CMRA appear to be significantly smaller.
The Apple Watch serves as a viewfinder for the CMRA, though the device works even when the watch is off or out of power, storing photos and videos in its 8 GB of built-in storage.
Glide’s CMRA also comes with an integrated charger for the watch and camera band, one that also packs a built-in battery big enough to charge both devices twice over. Glide is hoping the combination will be valuable enough to make the product take off.
As for why it is taking orders so early, Roisman offers up the standard answer for small companies looking to do hardware: It needs to know how many to build, and the best way to do that is to sell them publicly before the first units roll off the manufacturing lines.
Roisman said the lower preorder price is his company’s way of rewarding those willing to plunk down for hardware months before it is ready.
Glide has been working on the product for 18 months and has working preproduction units with final hardware components in place, Roisman said.
Here’s Glide’s video showing the CMRA in action: