Monday, 25/9/2017 | 6:30 UTC+0

The Uvolt is a very clever watch that doubles as a spare battery pack

The Uvolt Watch is not a smartwatch. It does not connect to your phone via Bluetooth, or buzz your wrist with notifications, or even do the basic task of tracking your steps. Instead, the Uvolt is essentially a wrist-worn battery pack for charging your phone on the go, in one of the more creative spins on wearables yet.

The watch itself — yes, the Uvolt actually can tell time with simple analog hands, unlike some other wearable gadgets — has a pretty bulky, square face in order to accommodate the battery pack, which slides out from underneath it to attach to your phone. And even though it may result in a larger size, a removable battery is really the only intelligent way to have a watch-based charger — the idea of dangling a cord from your wrist while out and about just doesn’t appeal to me.

As for the power reserve itself, Uvolt has four options, with a choice of either an integrated Lightning, USB-C, or MicroUSB cable, or one with wireless charging (although the wirelessly charging reserve will still need to be removed from the watch to function.) Each reserve offers 600mAh of extra battery — not enough to fully charge basically any smartphone, but good enough for a few extra hours on the go.

The UVolt also has a few clever tricks up its sleeve to extend that time, though. The bracelet links of the watch each contain their own miniature power packs that can together fully recharge the battery reserve once its been drained, doubling the amount of power you can carry. Additionally, the entire face of the watch is actually a solar panel that slowly recharges the batteries in both the power pack and band whenever there’s light available — according to Uvolt, the reserve can reach a full charge over the course of one sunny day.

The watch itself charges through a wireless charging pad that comes with the device, although Uvolt hasn’t specified yet whether its charger is a proprietary system or a more common wireless charging standard like Qi.

Now, the caveats: first and foremost, Uvolt is a first-time company that’s never shipped a product before, which is always worth considering when backing a Kickstarter — especially a hardware one, which tend to have the highest likelihood of failing to deliver the promised product. While the company is selling a version of its battery pack with an integrated Lightning cable, Uvolt doesn’t seem to have Apple’s MFi blessing, a certification which is usually nice to see when buying anything that charges your very expensive smartphone. And there’s no getting around the fact that while the Uvolt is a genuinely interesting idea with a lot of smart, thoughtful touches, it’s not a great-looking watch when it comes to fashion or style.

That said, as someone who both loves weird gadgets and is increasingly tired of traditional smartwatches, I do like the concept of the Uvolt. The Uvolt is available to back on Kickstarter for a range of early-bird prices between $119 and $139, depending on when you back, with the company hoping to deliver finished devices by December later this year or January 2018.

#gadgetbingo

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