Matrix is back at CES this year with the PowerWatch 2, a follow-up to last year’s wearable that was powered entirely by the body heat emitted from your wrist. For the second iteration, Matrix has made a surprising amount of progress, because the PowerWatch 2 has evolved from a black-and-white screen to a 1.2-inch color display, with support for thermometric and solar charging, as well as with GPS and fitness tracking. The main attraction remains the same: this is a watch that never needs to be plugged in to charge.
Still, despite such a headlining feature, this isn’t supposed to compete with your Apple Watch. You can’t download third-party apps, it has very limited notification support, and it can’t place calls. The company says that the target audience is in fact, “outdoor types”; for those who might be situations where having to lug around an extra charger is more a nuisance than a convenience.
Even if you’re not a hiker or a hunter, there’s also the fact that the PowerWatch 2 is compatible with both Apple HomeKit and Google Fit, allowing you to use it as a rugged fitness tracker that never needs to be charged.
The PowerWatch 2 is a rugged solar and thermal-powered fitness wearable
Wearing and adjusting the prototype PowerWatch 2 on my wrist makes it clear: this is a durable, bulky 42mm watch with an aluminum case and a rubber strap. The solar cell ring is housed inside the watch’s bezel, which Matrix says can store power from indoor or outdoor light. Compared to last year’s watch, the PowerWatch 2 is slightly smaller, but it’s still a sizable device that won’t be comfortable on small wrists.
The PowerWatch 2’s LCD color display is always-on (although it can be turned off) and is also well-suited for the great outdoors, thanks to a scratch-resistant screen and water resistance to 200 meters. It has vibrant color reproduction with sharp text, making it a better-looking display than say, one of the defunct color Pebble watches from yesteryear, but it’s not nearly as colorful as a touchscreen Wear OS watch or Apple Watch. Personally, I might use the PowerWatch 2 while swimming just to see how visible the screen is and how the water resistance holds up.
Some of the PowerWatch 2’s other useful features include GPS tracking, heart rate monitoring, a compass function, pace, and even cadence tracking. Most of these features are already present on other wearables, including the Apple Watch and Galaxy Watch. But once again the PowerWatch 2 has another trick up its sleeve, granted by the unique way that it stores power. Because the wearable is constantly calculating and tracking the body heat you produce (then converting it into thermoelectric power and storing it), it also has an energy production counter. Yes, the PowerWatch 2 can tell you how much energy it’s receiving from you.
Between a battery that lasts as long as you do and a rugged body that can take on the elements, it’s hard to tell if the PowerWatch 2 is even destructible. But you can be sure about one thing: this is an exciting development for self-powered wearables.
If you’re interested in pre-ordering the PowerWatch 2 for $199, you can support it on Indiegogo. The price is slated to increase to $499 should it hit retail, with shipments planned for June 2019.