Everything about the $300 Wristcam for Apple Watch sounds ridiculous on its face. There’s the price, which is more than the entry-level Apple Watch SE. There’s the fact that it requires a separate inductive charger, though it can charge at the same time as your Apple Watch. There’s the product itself, which is a water-resistant watch band that has two built-in cameras: an outward-facing, 8-megapixel lens and a 2-MP selfie lens. I imagine anyone who uses it will look like a really silly spy.
And yet I find myself intrigued. I often use the Apple Watch as a remote control for my iPhone camera—usually when I’m shooting videos of myself for work—so the idea of using the watch itself as a camera is appealing. Apple has come a long way toward making the Apple Watch a device that can operate independently from a phone, with cellular connectivity and a native App Store, so I can appreciate an accessory that takes that promise further.
So let me paint a picture of Wristcam, how it works, and why it might be useful or, dare I say, cool, and you can let me know if I’ve lost my damn mind.
The Wristcam as a concept is not new. It debuted under a different name, CMRA, back in 2016. But that iteration of the band was a Kickstarter campaign—the company is now fulfilling preorders for those original backers with Wristcam, as the product is called now. It also has some new features and is available to buy starting today from Wristcam’s website.
So why, exactly, would a person want not one, but two cameras on their wrist? Well, there are some moments we find ourselves in without phones immediately on hand—at family gatherings or while doing extreme sports. It’s hard to predict when those moments will happen, but when they do, Wristcam’s founders think their watch band will be the perfect tool for capturing them.
Actually using the band’s cameras sounds as easy as it could possibly get (though we haven’t tried it yet). There’s a physical button that acts as a trigger; a quick press lets you shoot a photo, a long press lets you shoot video, and a double click toggles between the self-facing and rear-facing cameras. Wristcam says it has created a complication for the Apple Watch face, so you can tap it to immediately open the camera and see what it sees. A double-tap on the screen switches between the two cameras. Exterior LED lights on the band activate when you take a photo or video, so people know exactly what you’re doing. That minimizes the creepiness factor, but also good luck trying to subtly raise your wrist to capture a selfie or a video without anyone noticing. This is not a product designed to be surreptitious.
The coolest part, to me, is the fact that the band is designed to complement the watch, not suck the life out of it. Wristcam charges separately from the watch because it has its own built-in battery, which lasts about an hour with continuous usage or two days with heavy usage. If you’re not using it constantly, the band goes into standby mode to conserve battery, which extends the life up to a week. Wristcam also has 8GB of on-board storage that can store up to an hour of HD video (both cameras shoot in 1080p, which is more than I would expect from a watch band, to be honest). The band also packs in wifi and Bluetooth 5 connectivity, so it can connect directly to your phone to sync photos or connect to a wifi network on its own. When you charge the band, it should sync everything you’ve captured to the Wristcam app on your iPhone and to your phone’s Camera Roll, then erases the on-board storage. This is all pretty clever shit.
But what do the photos actually look like, you ask? Wristcam sent me some samples, so check ‘em out below.
As you can see, they’re not mind-blowing quality, but they’re also fine!
The band can also shoot live video, which allows you to use your Apple Watch as a Walkie-Talkie using the Wristcam app to communicate with a friend using their own Wristcam or their iPhone. You can already do something similar with Apple’s native Walkie-Talkie app, but that’s audio only and, frankly, kind of sucks to use in practice. I can’t imagine how Wristcam’s feature would be better or more useful than simply using your phone to FaceTime, but to each their own.
Given how jam-packed the hardware is, the band itself is a bit gigantic, though it only weighs 35 grams, which is about the same weight as an aluminum Apple Watch case itself. And when it comes to the price, well, Apple is selling its own watch bands made of fabric with absolutely no smart features for $100, so clearly there is no rhyme or reason to Apple Watch band pricing. (Wristcam has Made for Apple Watch designation, which means it complies with Apple’s specifications for watch bands.)
I’ll be honest: I can’t see myself wearing this thing all the time, if ever. But I also kind of love it. After all, the best camera is the one you have with you, and if that camera is tucked inside an Apple Watch band, well, sure. Why not? This weird little gadget is at least fun and ambitious, and I don’t hate it, which is more than I can say for literally anything else about 2020.
Wristcam is available to order today through Wristcam’s website in five shades: black, white, grey, a rosy pink, and a sage green. The current lineup is made of a sporty plastic material, but the company is working on more options to launch next year.
Updated 12/3/2020: A Wristcam spokesperson clarified that the original Kickstarter campaign did result in sales, and that those preorders are now finally shipping to the company’s backers.