Packed with features to allow the aspiring hardware hacker to take full advantage of all the possibilities afforded by having an internet-connected E Ink display worn on their wrist, Watchy received warm interest from those looking to level up their timepiece tech game.
But with the interest of a captive market, comes the inevitable user feedback.
There are two ways of dealing with feedback. The initial, knee jerk reaction that many of us feel — that someone could possibly see fault in our flawless design — is often an unpleasant feeling.
But, you can also choose to see the other side of it, in that it's finely focused market feedback, from the very people you are targeting with your design.
That's the route SQFMI have chosen to take, incorporating the feedback from potential customers into a revised version of Watchy, enabling it to edge ever closer to production, and onto our wrists.
The most notable change in my eyes, is that the SQFMI team have taken the leap in laying out their own ESP32-PICO-D4 implementation, eschewing the former choice of the WROOM module.
This affords notable improvements in the layout and routing of the module, but also provides the team with he ability to bring the overall thickness of the watch PCBA down to a slim 8.5 mm, including the battery that powers the device!
That's a definite design win for a device that is meant to be worn on the wrist. Especially for clumsy people like myself — the slimmer the stack, the lower the chances are of catching it on corners, etc, as you walk about on your day to day business!
The choice of the ESP32-PICO-D4 also lets the team incorporate the component layout onto one side of the PCB, which in turn, enables the EPD panel to sit flush against the front face of the PCB. This adds a huge amount of physical strength to the display portion of the design, without the requirement for a 3D-printed tray, or framework needed to add some structural integrity.
Other tweaks include items that are all too often overlooked in the pursuit of a perfect user interface, such as upgrading the buttons to ones that have a firmer 'detent' to them. Allowing the user to feel the action of a button can save them having to reveal the watch, just to be sure that they've dismissed notification, etc. — a nice, thoughtful touch.
The Watchy hardware edges ever closer to production, and we can't wait for it to hit distribution through the various hacker-friendly hardware channels.