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Spice Smart Pulse smartwatch Review

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Spice unveiled the Smart Pulse smartwatch a while back. It holds many titles – it is the first smartwatch from an Indian brand, it ranks among world’s most affordable smartwatches and most importantly, it is a quad-band device i.e. it can support 4 SIMs at a time, two can fit inside the watch, while two others can be supported via a Dual-SIM smartphone. The smartwatch is priced at Rs. 3,999 and has actually seen good numbers in the market, being out of stock for a long time.

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But, this isn’t an Android Wear smartwatch and does not come from a brand with experience in smartwatches such as Samsung. Will it really match up in the market? Well, its price definitely puts it in a different segment than all other smartwatches in the market, so let’s just say that, for now, there is no competition for the Spice Smart Pulse.

But, is it actually worth for a layman consumer to invest in it? Will it actually ease the burden of your day? Will smartwatch usage just be something that you do for kicks and never do it again or will you actually make this watch a part of your regular routine? That remains to be seen.

Here is our detailed review of the Spice Smart Pulse smartwatch.

Hardware

One look at the Spice Smart Pulse and you will be reminded of the Samsung Gear range. This entails that Spice kind of used a set formula since it was in a hurry to attack the market. But, if you take the Gear smartwatches out of perspective, the Spice Smart Pulse smartwatch doesn’t look bad. I am not saying that it is Rolex-esque elegant, but it’s not something that you will actually resist wearing because of how it looks.

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The Spice Smart Pulse comes with colorful straps and a plastic dial. It also has little hints of metal here and there. While the device I got for review had a blue strap, there are also two other straps in the box – a black one and a yellow one. You can think of this as a watch which you can suit to your taste by changing straps regularly, which is a point in favor of Spice. But, I believe that Spice could have used better materials in the strap since there are tons of leather and metallic straps out there that could have lent some elegance to this watch. The plastic straps can only be called just bearable.

It is also not advisable to try to change those straps yourself and in fact you might have to go to your watch repair shop to get them changed. I would have preferred an easy attachment and detachment system on the lines of the Samsung Gear Fit.

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The dial, as happens with every smartwatch, is the soul of the Spice Smart Pulse. As far as the dial is concerned I was left a little desirous and wondering about what it could have been, but saying that alone would actually be unfair to this smartwatch.

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The design of this smartwatch is akin to the Samsung Gear. But, the dial is a little thick on the sides and mostly plasticky in feel. The 1.6-inch display has capacitive buttons at the bottom, a silver metallic design, complete with screws and some texturing to give it a metallic feel. I, for one, would have been more satisfied had they just opted for a simpler design.

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On the right side of the dial, the MicroUSB slot is located along with power button while, on the other side, you will find the camera, accompanied by flash. The dial opens up to show a teeny-tiny 420 mAh battery inside.

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If you take out the battery you will find two SIM slots – one for a regular sized SIM and other for a Micro-SIM along with a MicroSD card slot. All of them can be easily opened and inserted.

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A small innovation is that you can also put in your headset in the MicroUSB slot, which is cool.

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The one thing that I can singularly point out at the onset, is the speaker above the display, which I would call nimble at the best. It’s mostly useless, since it can get muffled in the noise and you can’t hear music or make a call, just using the touchscreen display. This makes it imperative to carry a pair of earphones or the Bluetooth headset along always, which mars the functionality. What you are left to do is, that if you are using this smartwatch as your standalone phone, then it is not totally the phone it claims to be since it always needs an accompanying accessory. If you are using the smartwatch while it is connected to your phone, it is a different quagmire. You will actually be using the smartwatch as an accessory to your smartphone and then if you use a Bluetooth headset with it, you are using an accessory accompanied to an accessory – that’s just weird.

That being said, what will surprise you, is something that is a unique feature of the Spice Smart Pulse – Quad-SIM support. It is actually possible and Spice has done well on this account. This is an innovation and something that is out of the box, which is pretty cool. If you are in fact, one of those people who has to use more than two phones, this will be a welcome respite from the stress of carrying two phones at the very least.

As far as the hardware goes – you can only have two feelings about it. You can either choose to reject it as a cheap smartwatch and not something that suits your taste. Or, you can actually think about it as an affordable smartwatch and see what it offers. I chose to do the latter. And when I settled with it, it did leave me a tad delighted with what it offered and a little desirous for more.

Display

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The Spice Smart Pulse comes with a 1.6-inch display with a 320 x 240p resolution. I cannot say that I haven’t seen better displays in smartwatches, but in fact, I have even seen better utilized display. Spice does not let you change the display settings much and you have to contend with a fuzzy wallpaper that you might not like.

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The Spice Smart Pulse display is capacitive and normally responsive. Swiping through the menu was easy and did not give me any problems. But, it is a small screen and not truly a Watch phone, since you cannot use the dialer or messaging app unless you are a liliputian or a rat, but that’s a software problem more than a display problem.

There is a fuzzy kind of noise in the display normally and this seems mostly a hardware issue which needs sorting. Spice could also have used better lighting, since the display is below normal brightness in indoor settings and not too usable outside, since the sunlight visibility is below par. The display doesn’t get too smudgy though.

The display, like the rest of the watch, is a mixed bag of good and bad stuff.

Software

Apart from the display, it is the software that goes a long way to show what any smartwatch can offer. The software is something that leaves you desirous but hopeful.

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How? Well, for starters, you will be somewhat excited by what this smartwatch offers and disappointed by how the software pulls it back. The homescreen lights up showing four icons – the dialer, contacts, Bluetooth connection and multimedia icons. The icons look good. As you delve further into the menu, which you can do by pressing the capacitive home button, other icons open up. These are explained along with how they work below.

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Messaging: Messaging on the Spice Smart Pulse is actually useless. They have tried to create a mobile-esque functionality and not adapted it to smartwatches. This results in a tiny keyboard that’s not worth using since even if you have the tiniest of fingers, you will actually end up typing the wrong words.

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Call Center: This is something interesting and something that left me delighted. You can actually get all call details you need of a connected phone or the SIM in the watch. I got everything I needed and I have to say that it was very easy to access.

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BT Dialer: This one lets actually lets you connect with devices. It stored the details of four phones. But in a primitive way, you have to actually go in the sub-menu and disconnect to one to connect to the other. You cannot just override and connect to the other device, which is a hassle.

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Phonebook: The Phonebook offers you two options – Local and BT. The local one lets you connect to the SIMs on board and the BT one will show you contacts on board a connected device. I could easily access all my contacts.

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Multimedia: This one offers various options. These are – Camera, Image Viewer, Video Recorder, Video Player, Audio Player, Sound Recorder and FM Radio. The Camera, Image Viewer, Video recorder and Sound Recorder are actually features which will be mostly used when you are actually spying on someone.

The Audio player was difficult to connect to a paired device, but local music is easily accessible. The FM Radio worked pretty well on connected earphones and it will be a convenience on the way to work.

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Settings: This one leaves me a little desirous. The Spice Smart Pulse offers 4 kind of sound profiles – General, Silent, Meeting and Outdoor.

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The Dual SIM Setup lets you select a Master SIM from the two SIMs onboard. Apart from this, you can also set up your language as Hindi on the watch.

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You can also set a password on the smartwatch, although I cannot actually recommend doing that, since the keyboard is not user-friendly and you might end up putting in the wrong password.

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There are no connection modes onboard apart from Bluetooth. I would love to have a smartwatch which could be connected over Wi-Fi, NFC and others apart from Bluetooth. You can also moderate the notifications and here’s the biggest fix, there are no notification settings for WhatsApp and such apps, which mars the functionality of the Spice Smart Pulse, both as a smartwatch and a phone. You will keep on missing this functionality. I would have preferred to have this functionality and would have been willing to shell out a bit more rather than going for a smartwatch that doesn’t offer this. Spice should work on this and offer a software update at the very least that brings along notifications for third-party apps.

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File Manager: Not much on offer. You can actually access only 77.5KB of 145KB on board which doesn’t mean much.

Remote Capture: This is another interesting feature that lets you actually use your smartphone’s camera from the smartwatch. So you can just keep your smartphone at a random location and click from your smartwatch. You will first have to install the BT notifier software on this smartphone.

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Remote Notifier: This one lets you easily see notifications and decide which ones you want.

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Tools: This one offers you Calendar, Alarm, Notes, Calculator, Stopwatch and Torch.

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Services:  Lets you connect to the net but only via 2G over a SIM card who will use with the watch.

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Fun: There is also a game onboard for timepass.

The software is something that kind of seems a product of a restricted imagination. It has actually created a phone out of a watch, which is definitely good. But, the emphasis has been on this, not on becoming a ‘smartwatch’ i.e. some smart features have been ignored, which I do not feel good about. This can either be a Bluetooth accessory to a smartphone or a smartphone itself. Had Spice opted for something related to Android, like it happened with Samsung’s Galaxy Gear range or something different such as Tizen or Android Wear itself, the Spice Smart Pulse would have become a dreamboat instead of a smartwatch. That is the thing that pinches, although I will still consider it satisfactory in terms of software, considering the price tag.

Camera

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The Spice Smart Pulse actually has a camera on board and this one can be mostly used to sneakily click pictures. It can actually let you easily make a sting video or something like that. Since the camera resolution is too low, it wouldn’t be of much use. It’s just a VGA snapper at the end of the day.

Performance and Battery life

As far as the performance of the Spice Smart Pulse goes, I would rate it as marginally above average. Well, there is nothing to compare it to, as yet.

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The connectivity though is something worth elaborating on. Spice has done a good job when it comes to ensuring voice quality via the microphone, but speaker onboard needed to be much louder, for the Smart Pulse to be actually used as a phone. Bluetooth connection is a small hassle and I would advise you to use the phone to connect to the smartwatch (i.e. search for devices in the phone only and connect), because the smartwatch takes ages to do so. Also when connected via Bluetooth to a phone, this smartwatch needs to be in close proximity and if you keep them too far, it will lose connection.

The battery life though was more than decent. I actually used it for 2-3 days on a charge, but not with heavy usage. It can actually last a decent amount of regular usage, which is better than you can expect at its price tag.

Verdict

To be honest, I actually started with low expectations with this smart watch and was left delighted to find out what it can offer. It can be many things – it can be a backup phone for SIMs. You can use it as a dialer and FM Radio. It will be great while driving.

But, it could have been a little more. One thing that I missed the most was WhatsApp notifications.

But in totality, the Spice Smart Pulse smartwatch actually lets you attend calls easily and gives you a lot more at a very affordable price tag. You can easily attend calls on it and you can easily do stuff such as listen to the FM Radio and more. The smartwatch industry is currently in a developing state and the Spice Smart Watch will actually contribute to the developing low-end smartwatches. It is definitely an amazing device that can come in handy for the traveller on-the-go or people who are busy with too many SIMs. I am mostly positive about this smartwatch and the sales figures too echo that opinion. It is the only smartwatch that has gone out of stock, compared to other ‘high-end’ smartwatches which haven’t given us much to talk about in terms of sales figures.

The experience is mostly good although it leaves a little to be desired.

But this being a product from Spice, leaves me immensely helpful for the future. Spice is an expert at adapting to new platforms, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it comes out with an Android Wear Smartwatch in the near future.

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