updated 06:07 pm EST, Thu January 9, 2014
Fitness features paired with notifications
As expected, many CES exhibitors chose to focus on wearable technology this year. Razer was among the companies attempting to make a foray into the growing market, introducing the Nabu wristband that provides smartphone notifications and fitness features. We met with one of the product engineers this week to try on a prototype and see how it compares to Nike's FuelBand and more complex devices such as the Galaxy Gear.
Considering Razer's gaming heritage, we immediately expected some sort of gaming angle when a company representative showed us a wristband. Nabu is not about gaming, however, and we can't think of many practical reasons to use a wrist accessory as a game controller.
The Galaxy Gear has been criticized for overcomplexity and impracticality, and we believe most users will never or rarely take calls on the watch, shoot photos and videos, or perform other functions that are much easier on a smartphone itself. On the other end of the spectrum, Nike's FuelBand and FitBit's Force are more focused on pedometer functionality instead of extending a smartphone experience, but both devices have been well-received.
Rather than overloading the Nabu with a million features, Razer chose to take the existing fitness-wristband concept and enhance it with iOS and Android notifications. We hate unsheathing our phone frequently to check if an incoming e-mail is important or not, so the notification display certainly serves a practical purpose.
The company talks of potential contact-information sharing if two people shake hands while both wearing Nabu, but we suspect this will have limited adoption. The device also has been promoted as an open platform for third-party developers who want to take advantage of the onboard sensors or dual OLED displays, alongside Razer's own app for fitness tracking and other features.
There are going to be plenty of competitors in this arena, but we believe that Nabu is one of the more sensible propositions. And despite our comparison to Samsung's Gear, the devices are aimed at different buyers with different expectations.
Razer aims to bring Nabu to market by the end of the first quarter, though a launch date has yet to be pinned down. Developers can pick one up at a discounted price of $49, while consumers will likely pay around $100.