Meet MICA: Intel's Smart (Looking) Watch

Category: Gadgets

The epitome of the old-school, conservative Silicon Valley establishment, Intel Corp., threw a screwball into the wearable tech game on November 17. While everyone else is rolling out products for geeks, jocks, and hypochondriacs, the Santa Clara-based chipmaker is going after fashion-conscious women. And they even beat Apple to the punch with MICA. Here's the scoop on Intel's high-tech jewelry for the wrist...

High Tech, Meet High Fashion

MICA (pronounced “Meeka" and short for "My Intelligent Communication Accessory") is jewelry for the wrist designed by New York fashion house Opening Ceremony with “smarts” by Intel inside. It’s available exclusively from Intel, Opening Ceremony, and Barney’s of New York for a mere $495.

MICA is in a category all by itself, and that's not just because they beat the Apple Watch to market, in time for holiday shopping. Most “wrist tech” is rather rubbery and lumpish, reminiscent of $20 1970s calculator watches with grey LCD screens, 3D pushbuttons that actually move, and plastic wristbands. If you've seen a Fitbit, the Samsung Gear or a Microsoft Band, you know what I mean.

MICA is stylishly crafted of water snake skin, inset with ornamental (please don’t call them “semi-precious” because they’re not) stones such as Tiger Eye Quartz, Lapis Lazuli, and Obsidian, and unspecified base metal with an 18 kt gold coating. It is a “statement piece,” as certain people call an attention-grabbing big piece of jewelry.
Intel's MICA Smart Watch

“Yeah, absolutely, this is the sole purpose of this, which is aesthetics,” says Intel VP and General Manager of Business Development and Strategy, New Devices Group of Intel, Ayse Ildeniz, who was obviously named at birth to usher in the era of what she calls “wantable tech.”

“A woman who puts something on herself… wants to look good and be proud of how she looks. So the intent is you wear (MICA) every day; you look good but it’s also technologically functioning,” she explains in a USA Today video interview that surely has geek girls fuming.

Under the Hood

The tech in MICA is functioning, barely. Ladies who lunch (“everyday women,” Ildeniz calls them) can receive text messages, Facebook notifications, and can sync with your Google and/or Facebook calendars. (MICA apparently disdains Twitter.) It will also display alerts from one or two GMail accounts.

Apple's wearable tech will cost about the same, but won't be available until some time in "early 2015." It will also require the wearer to tote an iPhone, which enables the Apple Watch to send & receive messages, or access the Internet. See my article Apple's Triple Play to learn more about the Apple Watch.

Not complete emails, mind you; “everyday women” are much too busy lunching for such tedious interruptions. They use their MICA’s sapphire glass touchscreen only to send “quick replies” to their “curated contacts” who are labeled “important” in GMail. When they’re really busy, as in “shopping,” additional filters further limit the number of contacts who can reach them.

MICA displays Google Calendar appointments and Facebook event notifications, and allows users to accept or reject invitations with a tap on their wrists. A “personal concierge” based on TomTom GPS technology keeps track of the lady’s location and the current traffic conditions between her and her next appointment. MICA discreetly vibrates and displays a “time to go to…” message at the ideal departure moment.

MICA’s configuration and security settings can be accessed remotely via a Web portal built into the bracelet. The device can be locked and located remotely, and battery life is said to be two days. MICA wearers will be able to charge the device with via USB or wireless charging.

Two years of AT&T data service paid by Intel are included with each MICA. Thereafter, assuming MICA hasn’t gone out of fashion, data service is at the owner’s expense.

But let’s get serious for a moment. (I never thought I’d have to say that to Intel!) MICA has one big potential advantage over its more pedestrian counterparts: a built-in 3G cellular transmitter! It isn’t dependent upon a smartphone for connectivity; (In fact, MICA won’t even talk to your phone to let you know who is calling.) With a little more circuitry and software, MICA could be a fully functional, independent communication device. But will it ever be? “Intel will let the market tell us what it wants,” says Ildeniz.

What do you think about the MICA? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Meet MICA: Intel's Smart (Looking) Watch"

Posted by:

28 Nov 2014

All this for a "mere" $500 bucks?! "Intel will let the market tell us what it wants." A better quote from P.T. Barnum would be "There's a sucker born every minute!"

Posted by:

Walt Schmidt
28 Nov 2014

So, where is the men's version?

Posted by:

Elizabeth Landry
28 Nov 2014

Dear Bob,
Are we all volunteering to buy and wear our own ankle bracelets on our wrists? Just asking? Keep in mind, everything can be hacked. Peace, E

Posted by:

28 Nov 2014

Catchy name, but not much else going for it. (And I sure don't know any women who wouldn't be offended also by that kind of marketing talk.) I doubt many of them are likely to touch this little Barbie Bauble with a 10 ft. selfie-stick... even/especially if Intel plans to reduce 2.0 down to the cutest, little, pink, ankle bracelet.

Posted by:

28 Nov 2014

How can you possibly type a message or read one on anything that small? But I have no doubt that it will sell like crazy because it's new.

Posted by:

29 Nov 2014

Spend more and get less? Why wouldn't I want one?

Posted by:

29 Nov 2014

My $39.95 quartz Timex is doing just great and keeps very accurate time. Takes a licking and keeps on ticking. (Sorry. Couldn't resist)

Posted by:

Jim Stewart
29 Nov 2014

I see the data coverage is provided by, and I presume locked into AT&T. Which in my opinion is an excellent thing as AT&T can not provide data/cellular service in Canada. The makes the Great White North a MICA-Free Zone. That is not necessarily a bad thing because there are no "everyday women" in Canada. I happen to know this as the women in Canada are basically dived into two groups. Those who live in Toronto and those who live in the real world. (Neither one will go on a date with me so they can not be everyday women but rather are exceptionally high class super women.)

But enough of that. The Canadian EHCSW would never be able to wear this as once it bleeped, or buzzed on the wrist the layers upon layers of winter wear would have to be dug through in order to access the MICA. Mittens, gloves, under gloves, would block immediate access. Then to raise the arm high enough to read the MICA's micro screen the snowmobile suit, under-parka, sweater, and flannel arms of the winter long-johns would have to be removed to permit flexibility of the elbow joint. That would take hours!

Besides, doesn't the smartphone the Canadian EHCSW have do all these things faster and on a screen that can bee seen through snow goggles?

Posted by:

29 Nov 2014

There were no posts yet, when I commented above, so it should not be construed to be in response to any other posts. It was solely regarding the subject matter of the article.

Posted by:

29 Nov 2014

Even at 73 years old, I love the new tech.
This seems so far out and incomplete, I really
don't see too many people putting out $500.00
for it. But like Larry posted, "There's a sucker
born every day"..

Posted by:

27 Dec 2014

I love it! It is exactly what I think is needed. I am one of those women who finds all the smart watch designs so far to be unattractive, and I would rather not wear any of them. Wish I could afford it.
Being able to go without a phone is a huge advantage. But, the second phone number is awkward. Still, I like the concept and the realization.

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