Working for a company that designs silicon IP and also has a consumer electronics division means I get to see new and exciting products weeks or months before their official release. There are several categories of devices that I am following closely right now – and wearables are probably at the top of my list.
But today I would like to shine a light on one of our OEM partners that is building a serious following in China. GEAK is a rising company backed by China’s leading online gaming company Shanda; it has recently unveiled its highly anticipated GEAK Watch 2.
The new smartwatch is available in two versions: standard and professional and can be pre-ordered from the company’s website for RMB1,999 (around US$327) and RMB2,499, respectively. GEAK has also initiated a campaign on Pozible where it has reached 4800% (yes, you’ve read that right) of its funding goal.
I had the pleasure of meeting Xu Peng, CEO of GEAK during our Imagination Summit event in Shanghai; what follows below is part of our conversation.
Can you please introduce yourself, your company and why did you choose to venture in the wearables market?
I was involved in the online games and entertainment industry, and then moved into a hardware role. During my time in the hardware industry, I was in charge of the customer service department and was responsible for designing some very exciting products. The former helped me reach and interact with lots of consumers and understand their thinking; the latter taught me how to meet their needs.
When we first created GEAK, we decided to focus on designing unique devices. People need wearables to help them manage their health, track their fitness goals or use them in business meetings. Wearables can offer a more personal experience, acting as an extension of the human body.
Can you describe the innovative technologies inside the new GEAK Watch 2 wearable and how you chose them? How difficult was it to move from a rectangular design in the first generation product to a circular shape for the current smart watch?
A lot of new technologies are incorporated in the new GEAK smartwatch. For example, we are very proud of how we’ve designed the multi-purpose screen. We feel a round screen design fits the traditional aestheticism of watches. That’s the shape consumers expect a watch to have.
There were many difficulties to overcome in building the world’s first round smartwatch. The wiring of a round screen is far more difficult than that of a square one. The backlit panel was a big challenge too. Additionally, you have to use more raw materials since cutting techniques will certainly lower the yield rate.
Furthermore, our TF Screen also features a unique combination of E Ink and LCD technologies. E Ink screens perform better under direct sunlight and save power while LCD displays offer much richer colors indoors. The GEAK watch can be used in E Ink mode when in stand-by while the LCD screen turns on whenever users want to interact with the device. This level of functionality can hardly be achieved by other smartwatches without sacrificing battery life.
How did you manage to achieve such impressive battery life? What were the advantages of choosing a MIPS-based processor in terms of performance and power consumption?
For the past four years, we’ve been gathering experience in the design of low-power electronics. For example, our first ever commercial product was an e-book reader designed to provide very long stand-by time.
More than one hundred technologies have been adopted when designing the new GEAK watch. Using a MIPS-based Ingenic processor has greatly contributed to achieving impressive power savings; we’ve also included the best battery technology possible to guarantee the best possible experience.
Unlike some similar products which must be charged on a daily basis, our watch can normally run for more than five days.
Creating the right software for wearables is equally important to having optimized hardware. Can you talk a bit about the work you’ve done for the GEAK Watch OS?
A great deal of effort has been put into software development. I would actually say it is one of our key advantages. We also made our own operating system based on Android: GEAK Watch OS. It features many performance optimizations and improvements, but its most significant characteristic is its ability to adapt the user interface to a round screen whether in the shape of rendering effects or user interaction.
We created a simple user interface and limited the number of onscreen buttons or operational controls so users can operate the watch intuitively. We don’t think watch UIs should be complicated.
There is also a dedicated app store for the watch which will be updated continuously. Users get a simple but complete experience out of the box. They can then download the apps which they find most useful and personalize their watch.
Can you tell us about your plans for the future?
GEAK will continue innovating and making smart wearable devices. Our goal is to make GEAK a household name and the best smart wearable device enterprise in China. We also hope our products will be recognized worldwide. The success we’ve seen for our recent global crowdfunding campaign indicates we are on the right track.
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