Build Your Own Pebble-Like E-Paper Smartwatch with This $50 Kit

Watchy's schematic

It’s time to set aside your expensive Apple Watch and go back to the basics. SQFMI’s open-source Watchy forgoes fancy features for a simple design, an 1.54-inch e-paper display, a nearly weeklong battery life, and endless options for customization. At just $50 (on sale for $45 at the time of writing), the Watchy kit is perfect for those who want to ditch their Apple Watch or build a custom smartwatch from the ground up.

As smartwatches get more and more complicated, I can’t help but wonder where things went wrong. The first “real” smartwatch, called the Pebble, didn’t bother with superfluous features and boasted a 7-day battery life thanks to its e-paper display. Unlike today’s smartwatches from Apple and Fitbit, the Pebble didn’t cost a fortune, it didn’t need to be charged everyday, and it didn’t bother you with unnecessary features.

In that way, Watchy is like a spiritual successor to Pebble. It’s cheap, it has a long battery life (5 to 7 days with Wi-Fi turned off), and it doesn’t bother with features like sleep tracking or heart-rate monitoring. Watchy vibrates when you get a notification, it shows you the temperature, it counts your steps, and that’s about it. The included Wi-Fi and gesture support allow you to control Spotify or shake away phone calls, but again, Watchy is pretty bare-bones out of the box.

A photo of Watchy with a custom Tetris watchface and Gameboy case
Watchy with a custom ‘Tetris’ watchface and Gameboy case. SQFMI

But that’s where you, the genius programmer, can finally shine. Watchy is hacker-friendly and open source, enabling you to code your own watchfaces, 3D print your a custom watch case, upgrade the watch’s hardware, or rewrite everything from the ground up. It’s hard to find wearables with this level of customization, especially at a price that puts some Raspberry Pi products to shame.

You can order a Watchy kit on Tindie for just $50 (on sale for $45 at the time of writing). Keep in mind that the kit doesn’t come with a watch strap (standard straps will fit), and it requires some very basic tool-free assembly. I suggest looking through some Watchy documentation on SQFMI’s website before pulling the plug, especially if you’re an ambitious DIY-er who wants to make the most of Watchy.

Source: SQFMI via Gizmodo

Andrew Heinzman Andrew Heinzman
Andrew is a writer for Review Geek and its sister site, How-To Geek. Like a jack-of-all-trades, he handles the writing and image editing for a mess of tech news articles, daily deals, product reviews, and complicated explainers. Read Full Bio »

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