Wristcam review: Snap happy with an Apple Watch smart strap

We see if the Wristcam Apple Watch camera is an add-on you need on your wrist
We tried Wristcam - the Apple Watch camera
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We haven't seen a camera on a high profile smartwatch since the Samsung Galaxy Gear.

It felt gimmicky at the time, but the idea is back with the Wristcam.

So step forward the Wristcam, a smart strap for the Apple Watch that carries a Made for Apple Watch badge and essentially plants rear and front-facing cameras onto your Watch that can capture stills and video. It also works to let you broadcast live video through an accompanying messenger app.

At $299, the Wristcam though is not cheap. That's more than you'll pay for a brand new Apple Watch SE.

With new Apple Watch Series 7 in hand, we decided to strap the Wristcam on and see if this Apple Watch smart strap could impress more than the last time.

How Wristcam works

Wristcam

The Wristcam is made up of the core module, which packs in Sony-based, 8-megapixel rear-facing and 2-megapixel front-facing cameras, microphones to record video audio, an integrated battery and 8GB of storage capacity.

That core comes in either your choice of black and and grey looks and slips into one end of the strap that uses the same lug connectors as official Apple Watch straps.

There's two sized straps in the box along with a charger cable and you'll also need to download the free Wristcam iPhone app, which also installs the Apple Watch version and then you're good to start snapping.

We used a mixture of the full and beta versions of the app to get early access to features before they started rolling out to all users.

Wristcam build and lens

There's a Modular watch face that supports a Wristcam complication

There is an additional Wristcam Messenger app that adds the ability to access live video messaging that works with iPhones. My focus here was to look at what the Wristcam is like to take pictures and video.

Other things worth mentioning here is that you can import photos and video automatically over Wi-Fi to the companion app and to the Photos iPhone app.

As a package, you're getting something that's IPX68 water resistant, which means it's fit to be submerged in water up to 1 metre and 30 minutes and does mean you can shoot underwater with it too.

Time to snap

Wristcam thickness

As mentioned, This isn't the first Apple Watch smart strap we've used, and our fear once again was whether this strap would ruin the svelte form factor of Apple's Watch.

I first paired it up with an Apple Watch Series 6, and then the Series 7, and on both Watches the Wristcam for me stood out for the wrong reasons.

Yes, it's light at just 22g and is easy to strap on, but that module needs a serious diet.

Getting the strap on is as easy as your standard Watch strap. Simply slide it into the lug connectors and you're good to go. Wristcam includes small and large strap sizes, but I also found myself mixing things up and using some of Apple's own sports-friendly bands to pair it up with when using it on runs.

When you're ready to start shooting, you'll need to open the Wristcam Apple Watch app and wait for a few seconds for the strap to connect the app.

Then you're met with what is a pretty straightforward user interface. There's an icon to switch between front and rear cameras, the on-screen shutter button and you can swipe to move between photo and video modes with a gallery mode available as well.

There's also a physical button to snap or record built into the strap, which can come in handy when the screen isn't accessible, like shooting underwater.

There's support for Siri shortcuts to give you handsfree control to take photos, start recordings, take selfies or take a 30-second recording.

You also have access to a Wristcam watch face, which essentially a version of the Modular watch face, which adds a shortcut to let you take a photo or video from the watch face.

It's fair to say that $300 these days can buy you a smartphone with a pretty capable camera packed onto it.

The experience of taking photos, which is awkward at best. Because of the positioning of the sensor, it takes some getting used to correctly lining up your snapping or filming targets that are close or far away.

If you're taking close up shots for example, like the shot of a tasty cheese blanket below, you need to actually move yourself back to get everything in shot. The software can feel a little sluggish when moving to another spot to capture as well, which can make the Wristcam frustrating to use at times.

Wristcam sample pic

Wristcam (above) can struggle to focus for close-up shots. Smartphone picture (below) for comparison

I used the Apple Watch Series 7 to take pictures instead of my phone

In terms of that image and video quality, I'd say you're going to get pictures that are fine for sharing with friends, but won't make your family album.

They're not particularly detailed, vibrant and colours in images generally looked a bit muted to us. It does feel like you really need to have optimal lighting conditions to get a really good picture here. Even then, images can seem a little over processed for our liking.

Wristcam sample pic 2

Wristcam (above) fairs better for landscape shots where there's better natural lighting. Comparison smartphone picture below.

Wristcam sample pic 3

With video, things did seem a nicely steady, but again it's not going to surpass what you'll get from even a budget phone these days.

Trying to frame and capture something worthwhile feels like a challenge to do on that small screen, getting the sensor into the right position and dealing with at times sluggish software.

I used the Apple Watch Series 7 to take pictures instead of my phone

Wristcam (above) and smartphone comparison picture (below)

I used the Apple Watch Series 7 to take pictures instead of my phone

Another not-so-great feature here is the promised battery life. It's primed to give you a day's use and just over an hour of sporadically taking pictures saw the battery drop to 50% from 100% charged.

What's more concerning is that flimsiness around the way the proprietary charging cable connects to the Core module.

It's very easy to knock out of place and there were plenty of times where we left it on charge, and it seemed to have dislodged itself slightly, stopping the charging in the process.

Time to ditch the phone?

I used the Apple Watch Series 7 to take pictures instead of my phone

We're more enthusiastic about the idea of a camera on a smartwatch than before our time with WristCam.

If companies are putting cameras on smartglasses why shouldn't they be on smartwatches too? Especially if you're someone that doesn't like wearing specs.

The Wristcam isn't the perfect smartwatch camera strap solution right now however. The design needs to be slimmer, the camera quality needs to be better, and it also needs to address the gripes we have about the battery from both performance and charging points of view.

It's proof though that a smartwatch camera can exist and have value, particularly if you an explorer and love going on adventures and don't have the capacity or want to reach for your smartphone on a regular basis.

If Wristcam can address some of these quite crucial issues, it could be closer to delivering the dream smart strap. Right now though, $299 for this Apple Watch smart strap feels a little too rich for us.