If you love the notification features of a smartwatch, but wish there was a better, more private way of taking calls on it, other than speaking to your wrist, the only real option is to also wear some headphones. Available on Kickstarter today for $169, the Pinn aims to combine both of those functions in what is basically a modern pager built for smartphones.
The Pinn is a slim plastic and metal clip with a dockable earpiece, connecting to your phone via Bluetooth. You can use it to activate Siri or Google Assistant, play music, check notifications, take calls and even remind you when you've forgotten your phone (it'll play a loud, constant sound until you bring them within proximity of each other).
We've been using the Pinn for a week, and we think it has potential. It's a niche use, but it turns out having a device that mirrors your phone notifications while also allowing you to take private calls saves you a little bit of time. Plus, there's something charming about holding a tiny clip and checking your iMessage notifications. However its tiny display makes viewing notifications feel a little long, since you have to wait for your messages to scroll across the screen. It's designed to easily clip to whatever you're wearing; I've clipped it onto a thick jacket collar, my belt, and my jeans.
The earpiece docks into the clip for charging. It's easy to slide in and out of the dock, and satisfying to boot. The earpiece also comes with three in-ear bud sizes, so you're not stuck with a one-size-fits all thing here.
The interface on the clip can be operated with three fingers, with the menu button on the top of the device and up/down and select buttons on the bottom. These are used to access the mirroring options, which lets you take a look at your latest phone notifications, access music, access settings, check your call log and, yes, take a selfie. The camera mode on the Pinn lets you control when your iPhone or Android takes a photo. iPhone users will have to make sure their camera app is open for this to work, however.
In our tests, call quality was a little suspect. Some of the people we phoned reported not being able to hear us, while others said the quality was akin to a Wi-Fi call. On our side, we found the sound quality to be a little muddy, but mostly fine. Pinn tells us it's already got upgraded hardware for better sound quality, which will feature in the finalized device.
There's also a companion app for both iOS and Android that lets you control what notifications are funneled to your Pinn. They're grouped into subject rather than by app though. For instance, you can be alerted of schedule notifications, entertainment, voice mails, news, health and fitness and more. Oh, and if you lose your Pinn there's a 'find my Pinn' ability that'll play a sound on the device to help you locate it.
The key question. We spoke to Brian Hwang, Pinn's head of marketing, about why people might want to wear the Pinn in their daily lives, and why they'd want to back the Kickstarter.
"If you can't do private calls on a watch," Hwang says. "And on wireless earbuds there are no visuals. When you combine both you get the convenience of both."
That desire for convenience comes from Sean Kim, Pinn CEO and founder, who was sitting around one day when he noticed a man wearing the LG Tone. "He didn't like the look of it and wanted something sharper and more professional," Hwang said. Thus, the Pinn was born.
After going through "a lot of prototypes," the Pinn is ready. "We are just about finalizing hardware right now," Hwang told us. "Everything is ready to go and all we're doing is catching minor bugs." The company is already reaching out to potential retail partners.
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So why the Kickstarter? It's kind of a way to jump start the company. "The Kickstarter funding will go towards mass manufacturing of Pinn, to have it ready for retail at a much higher quantity." So not only will Kickstarter backers make it easier for future Pinn customers to get ahold of the device, they'll also get the purchase the Pinn at a discount.
Those who backed the project on launch day will get the $199 device for $117, while other backers will be able to buy it for $169. You'll also be able to buy packs of two, three or four units, going for $259, $389 and $519 respectively. The devices are set to ship in July 2017.
While we can't guarantee that everything will go according to plan, we can say that in our time with the Pinn we found the device to be useful and sturdy. If the company can increase audio quality and deliver at mass quantities, it would turn out to be a worthwhile device for those in its niche.