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Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012

TECH_JAPAN

TOYS

Watch out for latest 'nano'tech time piece


When Apple released its diminutive sixth generation iPod Nano back in September 2010, Steve Jobs quipped that one of the board members at Apple was planning to use it as a watch. And since then a number of different companies have put forth various watch strap solutions that can integrate with the iPod Nano. The latest of these is from right here in Japan, and comes courtesy of Tokyo-based entrepreneur Enrique Bonansea and his company emonster.

News photo

I had a chance to catch up with Bonansea recently, where he showed me his Nanox watchstrap conversion solution for the Nano. He told me that he had looked at existing Nano watch kits out there, but didn't really like any of them. Since he had always been good with his hands (he notes he likes fixing cars and making things) he decided to create his own.

It was clear that Bonansea respects the original Apple design of the Nano and wanted to build something that approaches that same standard. He says that he doesn't build anything inferior, noting that "If it isn't any good, then why bother making it?"

The kit includes two aluminum parts which join together to encase and protect the iPod Nano. As Bonansea explained, these aren't just any aluminum components either. The pieces are cut from solid aluminum blocks at factories that he selected in China, and they use the same aircraft grade, 6061 aluminum alloy that Apple uses for its Nano. And taking it a step further, he told the manufacturers to match the Nano colors as close as possible. The Nanox comes in seven colors, corresponding to the different flavors of Nano that Apple creates, and when I had a chance to compare them in person, I thought it was pretty much indistinguishable. Even the case for the Nanox resembles a case that you'd see an iPod packaged inside. Once the aluminum pieces clasp around the Nano, there are two silicone pieces that are inserted on the sides which lock them together.

I was pretty surprised by many of the small details that went into creating the Nanox watch kit. The silicone straps are both flexible and durable, as Bonansea demonstrated by wringing and twisting them infomercial-style before they bounced back to their original shape. The buckles on the straps are composed of the same colored aluminium alloy as well, matching up with the kit body and your iPod Nano.

In addition, the Nanox can not only accommodate Apple headphones but also regular headphones, and this is a point that Bonansea says many watch-strap makers do not consider. He drew my attention to a small groove in the metal casing, which he says is intended to make room for larger headphones. It's so subtle that you might not notice it otherwise, but it shows great attention to detail in the design process. For this project, Bonansea sought the help of Japanese designer Noriaki Miyata, who loved the idea and came on board.

The Nanox kit also includes two pieces of anti-glare, anti-fingerprint film to help protect your iPod's touchscreen. In addition, the design of the aluminum casing of the kit is such that if you were to strike the watch face against a flat surface, it would be protected by the raised edges. But, surprisingly, the case doesn't add very much thickness or width to the Nano.

Emonster's Nanox kit was recently featured on popular technology website TechCrunch, so it's beginning to get some exposure around the world as a quality watch solution for the iPod Nano. So far, it's available to buy on Amazon.com, Amazon Japan, and on Amazon U.K. Bonansea is speaking with other local retailers about selling the Nanox, and the kit is on sale at the Lattest Omotesando Expresso Bar. Given its ¥9,800 price tag, though — on top of ¥10,000 for the Nano itself — the Nanox is not what you would call a cheap watch. But then, it's not uncommon for watches to sell for far more than that.

For anyone who is a fan of Apple design and doesn't mind paying for it, then the Nanox might be an attractive purchase. Having a touchscreen watch with all the features of the iPod Nano (music, clock, FM radio, pedometer, Nike+) is certainly a good selling point, which few companies can compete with. On a related note, Sony recently showed off its new SmartWatch here in Tokyo, so consumers aren't just limited to iPod Nano solutions these days.

It is good to see that in a day and age when most people tend to rely on their phones to see what time it is, that the watch still ticks on in one form or another.

Rick Martin is an editor at Penn-Olson.com. Read more of his work at 1rick.com.


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