Smile!

And here we go again.

Well, not immediately. But another round of furor over hidden cameras is likely on its way.

I can’t be the only person who remembers how much fuss there was when smartphone cameras got good enough to take pictures that were more than vague, fuzzy blobs.

Bans on phones in health club dressing rooms. Mandated “shutter” sounds. And, naturally, the debate over “creep shots,” which is still raging in Britain, years after pretty much the entire rest of the universe has agreed they should be criminalized.

As SlashGear reports, Apple is resurrecting the idea of putting a camera in a watch.

The kid’s “smartwatch” I got for Christmas a few years back has a camera. It’s a lousy camera, but it works. And, as SlashGear points out, it’s incredibly awkward–and obvious–to use. Unless you’re taking a picture of something directly in front of you at sternum level, you’re going to have to contort your wrist in a direction wrists were never intended to bend to aim it, and then hope you can press the shutter button without pushing the camera off target.

Mind you, kids are, generally speaking, much more flexible than I am. Your typical preteen likely would have no trouble at all using the darn thing.

But even on the wrist of a child, it’s still very obvious when they’re taking a picture.

Apple’s patented notion of putting the camera in the watch band will make it possible to snap a picture subtly. And, don’t forget that you probably wouldn’t have to press anything to trigger the shot. After all, Siri is listening through your AirPods. Twist the watch band a little and mutter, “Hey, Siri, take a creep shot,” and it’s done.

Okay, maybe I’m blowing this out of proportion. We can trust Apple with our privacy, right? Maybe they’ll build in a mega-bright red LED that flashes whenever the camera is operated.

Or perhaps they’ll sell an “Apple Watch Camera Blocker”. The Atlantic noted a couple of years ago that Apple had filed for a patent for a device that would use “infrared rays to force iPhone cameras to shut off”.

If Apple built the Watch-Blocker into the iPhone XII, releasing it at the same time as the Apple Watch 6 with iStrapCamera, how many people would plunk down $1500 for the phone?

When I reviewed my Kidizoom watch, I said “Ball’s in your court, Apple.”

Looks like Apple is finally getting ready to swing their racquet.

Watch This!

Why is it that I only seem to get the urge to do product reviews around Christmas time? Last year it was the USB aquarium. This year, how about a smartwatch? Specifically, the VTech Kidizoom Smartwatch”.

I got one of these for Christmas (by request; I figured that it would be likely to do everything I need a smartwatch for at a price point well below what Apple and the various Google affiliates* are demanding. So far, my expectations have been met.

* In the feudal sense, naturally.

It might just meet your needs too. Apple lists five features of their offering. Let’s see how the Kidizoom stacks up.

  1. Timekeepingksw“Apple Watch is first and foremost an incredibly accurate timepiece.” Man, I’m glad to hear that. I’d hate to think Apple might release a watch that doesn’t keep time. Yes, the Kidizoom also keeps time. Apple doesn’t offer any specs on exactly how accurate “incredibly” is, so I can’t offer a direct comparison, but the Kidizoom is still accurate to within a minute after a week (it doesn’t display seconds). Apple’s watch also allows you to “Choose a face and customize it” and to set alarms, check the weather, and see sunrise and sunset times. The Kidizoom offers dozens of faces, in both digital and simulated analog formats. I’m currently using a face with a selection of cheerful monsters. Beat that, Apple! The Kidizoom, like the Apple Watch, also features an alarm. It doesn’t do weather or astrophysics, but I don’t regard that as a major failing: there are so many other sources for that information (including looking out the window), that I’m not missing it on my watch, and I doubt you will either.
  2. New Ways To Connect – “With Apple Watch, every exchange is less about reading words on a screen and more about making a genuine connection.” Good for Apple. If I wanted my watch to be filled with words, I’d also want new eyes to be able to ready teeny type. Mind you, I’m not hugely impressed with most of the types of connection Apple offers. Emoji? Recordings of my heartbeat? Writing e-mails and text messages for me? Really? My Kidizoom displays photos, matching Apple’s offering in that respect. And, like the Apple Watch, it has a voice memo feature, but unlike Apple’s weak effort, the Kidizoom comes with five different voice modification presets, including the ever-popular robot voice!
  3. Health & Fitness – “Apple Watch is designed…to keep you moving.” I’d rather my watch didn’t order me around, thanks. The Kidizoom is water-resistant, so I don’t have to stop playtime just because it starts raining, but it doesn’t order me to get up and move around. Nor does it record every calorie I eat and report back to my health insurer.
  4. Design – “There’s an Apple Watch for everyone.” The Apple Watch comes in two different sizes, six different colors, and at least six different bands styles. There are so many variations that even Apple can’t keep track; they’ve had to create three “distinctive collections” to keep it all under control. The Kidizoom comes in one size and six colors. Simple and easy–and don’t forget that you can buy all six Kidizooms for less than one Apple Watch.
  5. Technology – “…we invented all-new ways to select, navigate, and input…” Do you want to learn a whole new interaction model to use your watch? Or would you rather just put it on and, you know, use it? Can you tap and swipe the screen? Can you push a button? If so, you can use the Kidizoom.

Not bad, huh? I’ll admit that the Kidizoom lacks a few features Apple offers. It doesn’t connect to my phone to let me make calls by talking into my wrist. It doesn’t monitor my calendar to nag me about meetings; I still use my phone for that. And it nag me to read my e-mail, so I can’t throw away my computer. But it does have one killer feature Apple forgot to put into their so-called smartwatch: a camera. Yep, I can take pictures–still and video–without pulling out my phone. And even add photobooth-style overlays. Slick.

Ball’s in your court, Apple.

Bottom line: I love my Kidizoom smartwatch, and there’s a good chance you will too.