Review Fossil's Wrist PDA has been a long time coming. Announced in November 2002, it was supposed to ship the following June. I heard it had been put back to January 2004, though Fossil denied the product had been delayed. But come early 2004, it still hadn't appeared, and Fossil was forced to confess it was returning to the drawing board.
And it was such a good idea, too: a wristwatch capable not just of telling you the time, but providing you with Madame Za-Za's phone number and reminding you to visit the Special Clinic a week on Thursday. It wasn't the first timepiece to do so - Timex's Datawatch probably has that honour. But the Wrist PDA was the first to cram a fully functioning Palm OS-based personal organiser into a case you can wear rather than carry.
Or not, as it turned out. In January 2004, the Wrist PDA seemed forever vapour. Skip forward to November 2004, however, and Fossil suggested the project wasn't dead. And in January 2005, it shipped. Had Fossil managed to get it right and to solve the "production complications" said to have hampered the device first time round?
The Wrist PDA is beautifully engineered. I'm not a fan of the styling, but with its leather strap and brushed-metal casing it's clearly a quality item. It's also a very large one. There are some chunky boy-racer watches on the market, but this one not only takes the cake but has clearly eaten a few too. Unless you have a particularly girthsome wrist, Fossil's device will make you feel like you've got one of those electronic tags they put on parolees, or make you look like you stepped off the set of a 1970s cult TV show.
The styling is certainly classic late 1970s or early 1980s digital watch, with push buttons on either side of the screen to control the PDA's functions. On the right-hand side are Page-up and -down buttons, and between them a rocker switch for information navigation and selection. On the other side, there's the Back button, recessed reset switch and, behind a rubber panel, the USB connector. Above the screen, a little way around the casing, is the IR port.
There's a stylus of course, cunningly located in the strap's buckle. Again, it's well-engineered, locking into place so you don't lose it and comprises two parts, a metal body and a plastic pointer, hinged together so the stylus opens out to a reasonable length. Cleverly, the pointer is slightly longer than the body so can still use the stylus when it's folded up.
The trouble is, the buckle and stylus were obviously developed separately from the strap. With the stylus locked in place, it's almost impossible to get it out while the watch is on your wrist, unless you have very long nails. You can navigate around the compact user interface using only the Wrist PDA's buttons, but even if you don't need to write on it, you're going to need to use the stylus sooner or later, if you want to see the details of an appointment or search for a contact, for example.