Apple Watch Camera Begs the Question, Why?

Go-go gadget watch (band)

Key Takeaways

  • The $299 Wristcam lets you take photos and video with your Apple Watch at the cost of bulk.
  • The camera is part of a replacement wrist band that snaps onto the Watch. 
  • The Wristcam only has 1080p video and doesn’t allow continuous video chats.
Someone wearing the Wristcam on their wrist.
Wristcam, Inc.

If you’ve ever wanted to snap photos with your Apple Watch while jogging, now’s your chance with the release of a camera that integrates with your timepiece, but don't expect too much from it. 

The $299 Wristcam is a bulky-looking wristband that features an 8-megapixel, outward-facing camera and a 2-megapixel front-facing selfie camera. An earlier version of the camera was plagued by years of development delays and never made it to shipping. Now that a camera for your Watch is finally here, some observers are intrigued but underwhelmed. 

Mark Vena, a senior analyst at the tech advisory firm Moor Insights & Strategy, eagerly ordered a CMRA (the original name of the product, now called Wristcam) when it was first announced over three years ago, but never received one. 

"While I have still not received my initial order, I'm less convinced that the camera will be a useful solution for most consumers," Vena said in an email interview.

"Most consumers now expect very good video quality, and the Wristcam only has an 8-megapixel camera with 1080p video, which isn't bad, but not particularly compelling in the 4K world that we now find ourselves in." 

Connects via Bluetooth but Not Much Else

The Wristcam has earned the coveted "made for Apple Watch" label handed out by Apple to trusted products. But users may be disappointed to discover there’s not much integration with the Watch OS, itself.

It connects via Bluetooth. There’s a big button on the band that you press to take a picture or long-press for video. The images you take then show up on the Wristcam app of your watch. 

"The phone isn’t always within reach, and it’s nice to have a camera handy when going out with your friends, or going on a run or a hike with just an Apple Watch," Wristcam co-founder and CEO Ari Roisman told Forbes

"...it might be useful for certain niche segments... where the convenience of having a camera on your wrist might come in handy during certain scenarios."

While bulky, the Wristcam boasts an impressive battery life with a claimed eight hours of use. However, Vena said he expects less than three hours with continuous usage, "though it probably won't be used for such long periods of time (not to mention it will be yet another product to charge)."

If you don’t mind looking like you strapped part of a video camera on your wrist, you’ll be relieved to know that at least the Wristcam isn’t heavy at only about 23 grams. For the fashion-minded, the units currently come in four colors--noir, blanc, gray, and sage--with optional bands available in twilight, grape crush, or henna for an extra $49. It’s got 8 GB of memory on board, which should be enough to store about an hour of video and thousands of photos. 

Video Chat, Interrupted

So, what is the Wristcam good for? It does a primitive form of live video chat. You can send live videos and receive them but not at the same time. In the age of Zoom, this seems like a curiously retro quirk.

A group of people using the Wristcam one person is wearing.
Wristcam, Inc.

Even more problematic might be the fact that, for now, you can only exchange videos between Wristcam users. However, the manufacturer says it plans to release an update that will allow the exchange of videos between Apple Watch and iPhones and, at some point, Android devices, as well. 

"The usage model is still not particularly compelling as most consumers will use their smartphones for a better video conferencing experience," Vena said. "Having said that, it might be useful for certain niche segments, like emergency workers and law enforcement where the convenience of having a camera on your wrist might come in handy during certain scenarios."

What about less savory scenarios such as secretly snapping pictures? The Wristcam has LED lights that illuminate when the camera is activated. Of course, not everyone will know what those lights signify. 

It’s hard to imagine what you might use a Wristcam for as almost everyone these days carries a high-powered camera in the form of a smartphone. But if you are out for a jog with only your Apple Watch and a cellular connection, the Wristcam could be there for you when you feel the need to record a video message to your mom.

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