A Bit Of Braille For The Road: An Honest Review Of The Dot Watch

Review Category: 

Review: 

'Foreword'

Let me start this by saying that, for reasons of morale and ethics, I would never advertise any device—even if I was paid for it. The reason I decided to take the risk, and buy the Dot Watch, is simply that I am a 'braille person'. The more braille/haptic feedback, the less speech, the better for me. So I felt it was worth a try. And, since I have not seen any reviews that make it clear that the author is independent and not in any way benefiting from writing a positive review, I felt I had to write one myself. I am hoping that some may find it helpful in deciding whether or not to get this Watch.

Initial Remarks

Before going into any further detail, it is important to understand that the Watch uses a completely new braille technology. So, we really should try to forget everything we expect from a usual braille display. This technology feels totally different—and it is not all good.

Basically, the dots do not change all at once, but 'dot by dot', and touching the cells interferes with the output. “What?” you may be thinking, “How am I supposed to read if I am 'not allowed' to touch the cells? That does not even make sense.” And that is partly true. If we keep touching the cells while they change (which, considering there's only four of them, is basically all the time), some cells will fail to come up, while others that should go down, will stay up.

But it is possible to get used to this. You have to remember to lift your fingers for a brief moment when you have touched the watch face to read the out put. Basically: touch, lift, touch, lift … It only takes the briefest of touches to read the four cells, then lift and touch again—by which time the cells will have changed.

Yes, that sounds horribly inconvenient, and almost ridiculous, I know. But it can be done, and it is possible to get used to it, and actually read. Of course, for texts longer than a few sentences, a normal braille display is still necessary. So you can forget about the idea of reading books on the Watch—not with the technology as it is at this point in time. It is not fast and efficient enough, and much too cumbersome.

With that out of the way, what about the Watch itself? Is it any good in everyday situations? Do we even need such a device? Before going into that, let us deal with the usual stuff a review is supposed to contain.

In the Box

My Watch came in a cardboard box that felt like an Amazon box—though I did not by it from Amazon, but from Dot Incorporation directly—so it had to be opened with a pair of scissors.

Inside, there was the actual Dot Watch box—which should be the same for everyone, I expect. There's the usual (unnecessary) plastic wrapping to remove. The box is made of smooth cardboard; the material feels like an iPhone or expensive speaker box: a good start.

On the front, it says in braille: on the left: “Dot Watch,” and on the right: “Reinventing tactile communication.” On the left side of the box, it says again “Dot Watch,” and on the right side, it says “Manual.” This is actually a strip of paper of the manual itself. Pull on it carefully—the braille manual comes sliding out. Once this is out, we feel the actual 'box' where the Watch must be. Sliding it out reveals that, unfortunately, this is made of hard plastic. On the back, there's another “Reinventing tactile communication.” On the side facing you, there is the cable, with a magnetic charging port, and the Watch itself, with a magnetic mesh band.

Getting Started

It is best to charge the battery before starting to play around with any device. Incidentally, the so called 'sweet spot', experts say, is from 40%-80%. So, if you want your batteries to 'live long' (which is also good for the environment, as it uses up less resources, less heavy metal, etc.), it is a good idea to not actually fully charge the battery, and never let it fully discharge. I have long done it that way, and my iPhone's battery is still at 88% of its original capacity after two and a half years of constant use.

Examining the Watch more closely: a circular device, but with edges, 'mathematically speaking', you might say, “two circles on top of each other,” with flat edges. It is made of aluminum and feels quite solid, and not at all cheap, as some have suggested.

In the middle of the watch face, there is the braille display: four braille cells with, unfortunately, only six, instead of eight dots. So you can forget about the idea of finally being able to read the time in computer braille on a watch. On the right side, there are three buttons: the middle one is the Crown which you can turn in both directions, the one above the Crown is the Select button, the one below is the Home button. Plug the cable into your iPhone charger. The cable must face in the same direction as the buttons. The magnets make it easy enough to get this right.

When it starts charging, the Watch will vibrate, and you will see the remaining battery in percentage (“60,” it said in my case).

Now, we may have a hard time getting used to that braille technology. Touching the cells messes up everything. We can start playing around, changing the settings on the Dot Watch app on our iPhone, examining the touch sensors, located below the second and third braille cells, and fulfilling the functions of 'panning buttons'. The app, Dot Watch 2 by Dot Incorporation, is accessible, easy to use and pretty much self-explanatory. We should find that, once we stop touching the cells while they change, the mess will become readable.

So, Does It Stand The Test?

My main reason for getting this Watch, was that I wanted a digital braille watch. This task, the Dot Watch fulfills perfectly. Press the Select button, and you are shown the time and date. So, if you want a watch that silently displays the time, this really is it. You can also set hourly alerts, so that the Watch will vibrate, and you can then check the time—all silently and discretely.

All notifications also get pushed to the Watch. So, for example, let us say you are on a crowded bus, and your phone rings. Instead of having to pull it out, you can touch the watch on your wrist, find out who is calling (auto-scroll: Select button, short press), and accept (Select button, long press) or decline (Home button) the call from the Watch—which, of course, has no microphone. It will also vibrate when any notifications appear on your iPhone screen. You can turn the Crown clockwise once, select 'noti' from the Watch menu, and read the notification. You can auto-scroll by pressing the Select button from the text of the notification. I have found it quite efficient to be able to read text messages, or whatever it may be, on the fly while on the road, and, once able to sit down and write, to be able to act on them straight away.

The Timer feature I find particularly convenient in everyday situations, especially because it does not require any iPhone connection. You can access the timer from the Watch menu, set it by turning the Crown, and confirm by pressing the Select button. Instead of some noisy iPhone alarm sound going off, the Watch vibrates quietly on the wrist. This I find especially valuable while cooking—no more need to clean my hands, just to turn off that iPhone alarm, and then running to attend to the cooking.

The Memo feature is also valuable in everyday situations. You can create a memo on the Dot Watch app, and it gets pushed to the Watch. This is ideal for reading shopping lists, while you are standing in a busy supermarket. No more need to take out your iPhone, open the Notes app, trying to listen to the text through the noise of the supermarket, which is so inefficient that you end up not bothering with it. Instead, use the Crown on the Watch to get to 'memo' on the Watch menu, press the Select button, and read whatever it is that you wrote there, right from your wrist. You can create multiple notes there.

Conclusion

As features may keep changing with subsequent app updates, or new features may be added, it does not make sense for me to elaborate any further at this point.

Suffice it to say, if you want a digital braille watch that silently displays the time, has a timer, and an alarm, and a bit of braille for the road, then this Watch may be worth considering over the Apple Watch. If you want more reliable braille output, to read longer texts, or to learn braille, you will have to invest in a normal braille display.

Ultimately, this Watch may be worth it if you are a 'braille person' like me. For me—I would say that it was worth the money, also given the fact that my purchase helped support a new and much cheaper braille technology, that, it is safe to assume, will only get better with time.

Devices Accessory Was Used With: 

iPhone

Rating: 

3 Stars

Disclaimer

The review on this page has generously been submitted by a member of the AppleVis community. As AppleVis is a community-powered website, we make no guarantee, either express or implied, of the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in this review.

20 Comments

#1 user guide

where is the user guide for this

#2 Thanks for the review

Thank you for writing this. I've received several promotional emails from dot watch with rather biased reviews attached so it is good to read something from a real world user.

I know you did delve into it a little regarding how the brail works, but I'm still a little confused. Is the brail slow to emerge in its, effective, four cell blocks? Does it auto scroll? Does it use a sensor to know when you've read a "block" and then show the next "Block"?

Thanks

Ollie

#3 A fine review

Congratulations, succinct and fair.

#4 Their website

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Thanks for writing; it’s always interesting to hear about new tech like this. I don’t know whether this would be for me but I was curious to learn more, so I had a look at their website and I noticed two things.

First, it looks like it’s unavailable at the moment, at least in the UK. Their store page didn’t have any way to order their product, and I eventually found my way to a page that told me it’s currently unavailable in my region. This confused me because their homepage advertises a new update to their app, and offers to update the firmware on your watch if you send it back, so it can’t be that it hasn’t launched yet. Perhaps it’s temporarily unavailable, or unavailable in the UK.

Second, their site is full of badly labelled images. As just one example, one is labelled “photo1.59b49c96716c.png”. On a mainstream site, it wouldn’t bother me quite as much, because it’s easy to guess what the image is (probably a photo of the watch) but as this is the website of a product for blind people, I hold it to a higher standard. Honestly, it makes me think they didn’t ask any blind people (their target customers) to test their website, which in turn makes me wonder whether this is a company I can trust to produce a quality product.

#5 asthetics

thanks for a good review. one more thing i wanted you to comment on is the look of the watch itself. how awkward is it to wear a watch, as i assume, with no actual screen. how it is described by your sited friends or family members? elegant, strange, normal, ETC.
i know that some may say that one can use it so long as it is useful, but i think watches and glasses are exceptions for me, because they are part from the outward appearance of the person wearing them. for instance, tissott and bradley watches are mainly aimed at the blind customers, but they look elegant and mainstream.
goodluck

#6 I wonder if they understand blind folks

On Facebook they had a video advertising the watch with guess what? No audio it was only music. Are you trying to market this thing to me as a blind person or are you only trying for sighted folks awe factor? Screw this company I will never do business with them for this reason.

#7 How much audio did you want?

Joe, in all fairness, what were they supposed to do? You have a "braille" watch. So it's obviously not going to make much sounds. Plus, isn't it more likely to have music, because it's a commercial of sorts? I'm not defending the company as just making a few points. oh, and this is not something I'd ever want. I won't send it back to update it.

#8 Re: How much audio did you want?

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Siobhan, I would’ve expected their video to have someone talking about the watch and describing whatever is being shown visually. If their product is designed for blind people, their marketing needs to work for blind people, otherwise who exactly is that video aimed at? I would’ve thought it was a basic rule of doing business that you market to your target customer, not to whichever random people happen to be looking at Facebook. Because of this and the problem with images on their website I described in post #4, I’m a lot less likely to buy from them, and I won’t be the only customer they’ll lose.

#9 thank you Lysette!

Lysette is exactly right. My sighted friend shared a video there was nothing that even told me it was a dot watch I actually commented and my friend responded saying I was correct. If that doesn't bother you fine. Were all able to have opinions. My opinion of this company is they are all about the marketing to mainstream tech companies and they do crap to tell me the blind person what this watch does that makes my life better. Furthermore Apple has a watch for example that vibrates the time maybe show why the braille watch is better? There are vibrating watches or the bradley time peace yet they do nothing to persuade me to go to there product rather they market to my sighted friends who just go that's cool and move on.

#10 Responses

Wow, thanks so much for all the responses! I wasn't expecting to get so many.
I am very encouraged by the fact that some thought this review was fair ;) . That was my goal.

OK, maybe I'll get round to writing a user guide as well. But it really is not very difficult to use, or anything. The app is also accessible and really easy to figure out. ;)

Promotional emails? Ouch :( . That is not good.
I never received anything from them, until I wrote them an email with a few basic questions in late 2016. They responded in detail. And our correspondence continued over the next years. They were always very much willing to answer more questions, to update me on the release/shipping process, and so on.

Yes, the braille is a bit slow to change, in comparison to normal braille displays, but not extremely slow. And as I said, it is possible to read it ;) .
It does not automatically scroll, unless you set it to auto-scroll by pressing the Select button while reading any text. The touch sensors fulfil exactly the same function as panning buttons: Touch them, and the braille moves back 4 cells or forward 4 cells. The auto-scroll thing wouldn't work because the display is so small, and you would keep scrolling unintentionally, because you would always come into contact with a touch sensor. As it is, you have to press on the touch sensor a bit to activate it, which is probably the only way to make this work realistically ;) .
Hope that makes sense, and that it was an answer to the question.

Thank you so much for your 'endorsement' ;) !
I really am glad you thought the review was alright.

If I wanted to know whether it's available where I am, I would write them an email: dot@dotincorp.com . They really have been very kind, responded to my feedback, considered my particular situation etc. They delivered it to me and covered the shipping.
I'd say contacting them directly is your best bet. Their website may not be that reliable – as many have seen.
There should not be badly labelled images on their website. But, I am sorry to say, I could not be bothered to point this out to them. I am more interested in helping to make the Watch itself better. They are saying they will see how many of my suggestions are technically possible.

And just to make that clear as well: They have done some improvements, like making the touch sensors more responsive and so on, and are now offering customers to get their older watches upgraded for free. So this is not just a firmware update, and it is just a one-off. We don't have to send the Watch to them for every firmware update, of course.
Basically, we are now on 'Dot Watch Series Two', but instead of having to buy a new device, they are offering people to upgrade for free.
Now, they only ship out the newer, updated, improved models, which is the one I got.

Updating the firmware is, in fact, very easily done through the app.
The older Dot Watch app, it seems, is only relevant to people who have not sent their watches to be upgraded. 'Dot Watch 2' is the app we are using now for the new models.

I am probably over-concerned with aesthetics ;) . Not in a million years would I wear something that feels strange, clunky, gives people the idea that blind people, and specifically me ;) , do not care about how things look etc.
But the Watch does not look awkward. Family members who I have every reason to trust with these matters, are saying it looks cool', 'stylish', 'interesting (because it is not always clear to sighted people what it is, but must be some cool device – possibly a watch'), 'a designer piece'.
Another friend commented, 'You have a watch?' and was clearly impressed by the fact I was able to tell him the time - just like that ;) .
So I would not worry about that aspect.
As I said, it feels alright – a bit like an analogue braille watch, metal, not heavy or clunky.

Yes, I agree. They do seem as if they just wanted to 'be seen', marketing the Watch, but not understanding blind people. It does seem like that – at least a bit ;) - from their website and promotional videos.
But, as I said, I have been in regular correspondence with them, and they have been perfectly normal, answering questions, taking on board feedback. And now that I actually got the Watch, they seem more than willing to seriously consider my constructive suggestions.
I would say write them and see how they respond, before writing them off. I mean, if we only went by their public marketing strategy, we could make a similar argument about Apple. The way they describe VoiceOver, or some of their instructions, also seems as if they did not understand blind people. But write to their Accessibility Department, and you always get a perfectly sensible response from a person who does understand what we are talking about ;) .
So, let us try to be fair here as well, I would say.

Also, let us keep in mind that this is a new braille technology, and buying this product actually supports the development of this technology. Surely, we all agree that a cheaper braille technology is needed, long overdue in fact.
I think that in itself would be reason enough to choose this Watch over the Apple Watch. But then, I am a braille advocate.

Also, this is still all relatively new, and the app will, in all likelihood, get better, more features will be added, and so on.

For me, it is definitely either a digital braille watch, or no watch at all. Not in a million years would I consider the Apple Watch.
This Dot Watch really gives you a bit of braille while you're on the road. You can set it so that it vibrates every hour, and then you can just check the time by touching it. No need to holding it up to your ear to listen to VoiceOver, or anything like that.
Battery life, so far, also seems within the normal range – you can easily go a few days without charging it. Or is that above normal? Good, anyway.

Please write again if you have anymore questions, or if I overlooked something.

#11 Thanks and questions.

Hi a Woman: Thanks so much for the review. Maybe I missed it somewhere but: What's the company's web site? And, how much is the watch?

Thank you.

#12 Website is in the review

The Watch is about $400.
But if you want information on how to get it etc., I would not rely on their website, but write them an email: dot@dotincorp.com or support@dotincorp.com; .

#13 Update from August 03, 2018

Dot Incorporation is saying that the protective skin on the braille display of the Watch can interfere somewhat with the output, and this can be remedied by 'straightening' the protective skin by pulling down on the bar below the braille cells. I did this, moved my fingers around there, and tried to 'adjust' the protective skin somewhat. And the braille output has improved noticeably. The dots are now considerably less liable to get stuck. A definite improvement! So you should do this once a while, when you notice the dots get stuck too much. This will help.
Incidentally, this thin cover helps to protect the braille cells from dust and so on, and should not be removed. Also, if you remove the protective skin, this is not covered by the warranty, they are saying. So, if at all, only do this once your warranty has expired ;) .

#14 Apple watch

With the Apple Watch you can have vibration for the time also. Furthermore having only 4 Braille cells seems like even reading a text message would be cumbersome I agree I want to support cheaper Braille technology but your writing off a watch than can do a lot. FIne the Apple Watch isn’t your cup of tea but I can dictate a text from it instantly something I can’t do from the dot. I am glad we have options though and that’s why were all different.

#15 User guide exists

Hello,

the user guide for both the Dot Watch 1 app and the dot Watch 2 app can be found on their website here.

You can also find it in the app by going to Settings > User guide.

#16 My views on watch!

I do agree about the marketing. If you're selling it to me the blind user, you should actually have someone narrating the video. That to me is just common sense and tone deaf on the part of the company.
This watch misses on a few points for me. While I'm sure it could be learned, a differing braille layout is a bit much. Just another thing to learn. We all have our preferences though.
I find myself going to things like the Apple Watch more often. Just so I don't feel segregated. I also realize that I can't fully abandon braille altogether. Even though I know some who have.
I personally think the cost is a little excessive. It reminds me of the price gouging we are accustomed to on accessibility related products. Like blind readers. Sending a $400 watch to be updated is ridiculous as well. Shipping mishaps are known to happen. Just my own opinion.
This was a good overview of the watch and functionality though. Thank you!

#17 Responses

Yes, the marketing is perhaps not ideal. But remember that they also have produced videos where people talk about the Watch and so on. So it is not all bad.

I'm not sure how I gave you the impression that the Watch uses a 'differing braille layout'. It is just 6 dot braille, no need to learn anything new.

For people who want to be able to read braille discretely while on the road, rather than having to listen to VoiceOver on the Apple Watch, I'd say it would be worth considering the Dot Watch.

Yes, $400 (probably a bit less, certainly not more) is not cheap. But it is a braille product after all. And it is a new braille technology. Keeping that in mind, it is not that bad, really.
Also, there is the aspect of helping to support and new and cheaper braille technology to consider. Apple doesn't need our support, this new braille technology – arguably – does.

I thought I made that clear earlier: Of course, the Watch does not have to be sent to them for updating the firmware.
Rather, they have done some improvements like making the touch sensors better and so on, and are offering people to upgrade for free. So basically, this is now 'Dot Watch Series Two', but instead of having to buy a new device, they are offering people to get their older Watches upgraded for free.
Updating the firmware is, in fact, very easily done through the app, Dot Watch 2 from Dot Incorporation.

Thanks for the 'endorsement'! ;)

#18 battery life?

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

HI a Woman. This is a man, though that's not my user name. LOL. Anyway, it sounds like the Dot Watch 2 is quite an upgrade from the original, which I currently have. One of the great things about the Dot Watch 1 is the amazing battery life. Have you found the battery life to be significantly less with the Dot Watch 2? Regarding the protective cover over the cells, do you find it looks any less elegant than the original?

I'm awaiting their new place to have it shipped before I send mine off. I have been in contact with the company, and they say they are using a different distributor starting in September. So.... I will have to patiently wait for my new one and a new charger. I lost the charger when I moved earlier this year.

I agree with you about the braille being spaced slightly further apart than is standard, but I also understand the logic of doing it that way. For many individuals who have calluses on their fingers, or for some people experiencing a less serious form of Diabetic Neuropathy, having a slightly wider space than normal between cells can sometimes make a huge difference. When I worked at a rehabilitation center for the deaf-blind, I sometimes found that consumers could identify 1 letter on a line at a time. Whenever I gave them an entire word, some would struggle to recognize the individual letters... Until I put a space between each letter. For some, this was what allowed them to read labels with much more reliability. My guess is that Dot Incorp had a similar idea in mind when creating the cells on the Dot Watch.

#19 Response

Sorry for the user name ;) - just to stay anonymous ;) .

I only got my Watch recently, so don't know how the Dot Watch 'Series One' was different.
But battery life is still great. I more or less forget that it is an extra device to charge ;) . A week is certainly realistic.

The braille cover is hardly noticeable, so not inelegant or anything. If you pull down on the bar below the cells, 'straighten' the cover once in a while, the braille output improves on the Dot Watch 'Series Two'.

I would definitely send it to get upgraded.
Luckily for me, I am not an early adopter, but a careful consumer, so waiting to get the Watch - and thus not having to bother with getting an older model and then having to send it to get upgraded - really proved worthwhile for me, it seems ;) .

Only now that you say it, I realise there is possibly more space between the dots than is standard. ;)

#20 No worries at all on the user

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

No worries at all on the user name, I was just having some fun with it, or trying to. Anyway, it sounds like the battery life is about the same as the Dot Watch 1, which is excellent news! I'm glad to see that they incorperated a lot of the user suggestions from the first version. I know the dust cover was one of those, as were the timer and also an optional hourly notification. Thanks for the review and for choosing to post it on AppleVis!