Kapture presents a solid idea with poor execution.
Rebecca Paredes --0001-11-30 00:00:00
Imagine being able to record any minute of your life. This goes deeper than just taking a picture or videotaping a moment with your phone — it’s being able to keep track of the small thoughts you have throughout your day, the hilarious remarks your best friend makes over coffee, and the ideas you want to reference after a big business meeting.
Sure, you could jot everything down in the notes and voice memo apps that come conveniently preloaded on most modern phones. You could even use pen and paper like a pre-2000s-era human. Or you could viciously karate-tap your wrist to preserve the last 60 seconds of your life with Kapture.
The Kapture watch is a solid idea with poor execution. It’s a clunky audio-recording wristband that is always listening. In theory, if someone drops a hilarious one-liner you want to steal or you have a million-dollar idea in conversation, then you can double-tap your wrist to store the clip on the device. In practice, though, the Kapture is inconsistent and lacks that level of effortless intuitiveness that we expect from devices today.
Here are the few places Kapture succeeds — and the places where it completely fails.
Thanks to its internal omni-directional microphone, you can record audio without directly speaking into the Kapture. In theory, you should be able to go about your life wearing the device on your wrist, and then double-tap to capture the last minute of audio on your voice recorder watch. In practice, that tapping has to be deliberate — and even then, results are inconsistent.
Successful wearables need to be frictionless. They need to blend into our lives without requiring a second thought or any frustrations. Kapture is not a frictionless device.
Here’s the biggest point of friction in activating the Kapture’s basic function: recording audio. Either the tap-to-record feature requires superhuman strength, or my device is broken. The Kapture is supposed to vibrate twice and switch its LED light to green when it has transfered a recording to your phone. But when I tapped on the Kapture, the light flipped between yellow and green. It vibrated erratically on my wrist, not unlike it was laughing at me (which was terrifyingly reminiscent of the Pavlok).
I was able to record a few minutes of audio (called “klips,” a word that fills me with rage) during a work conference. But after an hour of working correctly, tapping became mostly fruitless.
I figured it was user error, so I checked out Kapture’s online manual — and holy crap, this thing is confusing. It reads like instructions from the CIA on how to decipher an unbreakable secret code. Here’s a sample:
When you want to save a klip and send it to your phone, firmly tap the device twice. The device will vibrate two times, acknowledging it has received that many taps, and the LED will turn solid green. Once the klip is saved locally, the LED will turn solid yellow and the device will turn its Bluetooth back on and attempt to reconnect with your phone. If the connection fails, the device will vibrate three times. If the connection succeeds, the device will vibrate once. After that first vibration, the device will vibrate one time for every successful file transfer and three times for any failed file transfers. Once all files are transferred, the device vibrate two times then disconnect from your phone, turn its Bluetooth off to save power, and begin recording again. While recording, the LED will blink green every seven seconds.
If I have to make a blood sacrifice just to get a device to work, it’s getting shelved.
A few reviewers on Kapture’s site indicated that they would love the next version of the product to feature a screen, or an easier way to indicate which setting the device is in. And I’m sure that some devices work with greater consistency than the one I received — one review comes from an active senior with multiple sclerosis, who uses her Kapture to remind her of things throughout her day.
But I have to agree with other reviewers. Kapture, this whole tapping shtick is old news. Even Fitbit, the granddaddy of tapping, offers devices with buttons to navigate different modes. Simplify your LED light and vibrating features, consider adding a screen or multiple lights instead of one, and do some serious quality control on the devices that are shipping out into the world.
Kapture offers a few different accessories to make your already-garish device a little more personal. Notably, the company uses bright colors on their devices to mitigate privacy concerns — they purposefully wanted the Kapture to be noticeable, and to that end, they succeeded.
You can purchase a clip for the device if vibrating wristbands aren’t your deal, or you can customize your Kapture with six wristband colors. And if you want to really take things over the top, Kapture offers a chrome or golden “grill accessory” to fit over your device’s face.
The app expands on the Kapture watch in a few promising ways. Namely, it allows you to take better control of the recording feature. When you have the app open, you can set it to “buffer” mode, which means that the watch is always listening — but instead of tapping the device, you tap a button on your phone. The app also offers a “standard” mode, which works like a traditional voice recorder app.
In this way, the app fixes the issues I was having with the Kapture. The downside, of course, is that the app’s recording features make the Kapture redundant. If I’m going to keep the app open, I might as well use a voice recorder app I don’t need to pay $100 for — and really, the odds of missing that perfect 60 seconds of audio are minimal. If someone says something I really want to hear again, I can probably just ask them to repeat themselves.
Also notable on the app: the device lets you edit and piece together different audio clips, and then upload them publicly if you so choose. There’s a bit of a social networking component as well — you can theoretically listen to “klips” that have been uploaded by other Kapture users. However, the pickings are sparse.
The Kapture uses Bluetooth to pair with your phone and transmit locally saved audio clips. The app works with both iOS and Android devices. However, my coworker (who was supposed to review this device instead of me) wasn’t even able to get the Kapture to pair with his Samsung phone.
On my end, pairing and using the app works fine — it’s the device itself that causes headaches.
Kapture lasts for a respectable 15 hours on a single charge, depending on use. If your device is impossible to use and it sits collecting dust on your desk, the battery may last even longer.
Like its garish colors, Kapture was designed with privacy concerns in mind. People are bound to ask you you what that clunky thing on your wrist is. They’ll likely ask why you’re recording them, and then they might get mad, and you’ll need to run far, far away. This isn’t a device for inconspicuous recording — even the tapping and the light are intended to draw attention.
At the same time, the device is a bit of an eyesore. I know there’s only so much you can do with a wrist microphone, but still — if Apple and Pebble can cram microphones into tiny pinpricks on the sides of their watch faces, I’m confident there’s better audio technology out there than a gigantic stage mic on your wrist.
In fact, if you’re using this device for recording reminders throughout your day, upgrade to a Pebble 2 instead. It offers a voice recorder app and a full slew of smartwatch and fitness features for just $30 more than the Kapture, which is regularly priced at $99.
In short, Kapture may have made sense a few years ago, when wearables were still in their infancy. Today, though, you have options — and unless Kapture catches up, it’ll be left behind.
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