Columnist Jennifer Jolly tests out the Rufus Cuff, the wearable device that features a massive 3.2-inch touchscreen.
We’ve seen a lot of wearable gadgets emerge over the last few years, but none have made as big of an impression as the soon-to-launch Rufus Cuff. All 3.2 forearm-filling inches of it. For a smartwatch, it’s ginormous, more sci-fi-strange than next-great-gadget. But if you think of it more like a powerful Android tablet that’s shrunken down to fit on your wrist, it’s not so bad.
Why would anyone wear a tablet? I’ve just had it on for an entire day trying to figure that out. It’s definitely an attention grabber that elicits all kinds of reactions. One of the best is from the cashier at Trader Joe’s, “is that a Star Trek communicator, or that thingamajig from Futurama?” I joke with him that it’s my Power Ranger Morpher.
Sadly, it does not actually give me any superhuman powers, but with this “wrist-communicator,” as the company calls it, I’m able to email, text, play games, surf the web, watch a movie, play music, and do just about everything else that I can do with any Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connected device. There’s no SIM card, so voice or video calls have to be done over the internet. For that, there’s a front-facing camera and all the right tech for hands-free audio and video. Apps are no problem, since it runs a full Android operating system, and it’s compatible with both Android and iOS.
The Rufus Cuff functions as a fitness tracker too, with on-board GPS, an accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass to track runs or get directions. I keep joking that you can use it for a strength training workout — at least for the arm you’re wearing it on— but it only weighs four ounces so it won’t really bulk up your biceps.
According to the company, the reason it has to take up so much wrist real estate is for battery life, processing power, and added antennae strength. And because they intend for it to be an everything-else killer. “It’s not just a glorified notification center, we eventually see everyone ditching their phones,” said Gabe Grifoni, Rufus Cuff’s CEO and co-founder. “This will replace the need for smartphones, wallets, watches, fitness trackers, everything.”
I think that’s a bit of stretch, but Grifoni insists that there’s a growing market of Millennials and Gen Z’ers — people between the age of 18 and 30 — who want their entire online lives to live on their wrist and they want it now. Of the more than 2,500 people who have pre-ordered the Rufus Cuff, he says most of them are young men. “They’re the cord-cutters and college students who don’t want to pay so much for monthly cell contracts,” Grifoni said.
Since its first Indiegogo campaign in 2014, early adopters have shelled out more than $750,000 to be among the first to own a Rufus Cuff. Grifoni says they’ll start shipping in early 2016. Right now, they come in three colors, Jet Black, Turbo Red, and White Out, with eight different colors of interchangeable bands, and range in price from $249 to $399.
While there’s a retro-future-cool, gee-whiz appeal to this brick-like bracelet, it’s a good thing I’m the wrong demographic for it. It’s just too dang big, and there’s too much screen for any wrist this side of an NFL quarterback. I’m excited to see where this concept goes, and I do think Grifoni is on to something here. There’s plenty of room for new wearables — just not enough space for one this size on my own arm.
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