Friday, April 29, 2011

Rely On Your Ears

by Drew Martin

Rely on your ears is RadioShack's slogan for its Talking Watch (pictured left) geared for the visually impaired. There is no light on it, but when you press a button, a lady's voice (who I have nicknamed Radia) announces the time and this is also true of the stopwatch function.

I recently bought this watch for twenty bucks because I needed a new way to record my mile track times. I did not want to hold a digital stopwatch and I also did not want to spend $100+ dollars for a Garmin. The Talking Watch sounded intriguing, especially because I typically run before sunrise and don't like to look down at a wristwatch. I recently tried to carry my BlackBerry for a trial mile because the app I downloaded showed the splits nicely but it was too awkward to use and it slowed me down.

The Talking Watch is geeky and clunky (it's quite thick), but I love it for timing the mile. When you start the stopwatch, Radia's voice counts off "One second, two seconds, three seconds..." she continues to ten and then counts off every ten seconds, "Twenty seconds, thirty seconds, forty seconds..." when she gets to one minute, she continues to only call out the minutes, "Two minutes, three minutes, four minutes..." At four minutes it is all or nothing and I know I need to bring it in before she says "five minutes." It works for me because I don't have to bother to look down. I can even stop the stopwatch when I cross the finish line and then, when I am ready, press the talking function to hear her read off my final time.

When I went to RadioShack to get a stopwatch, the young sales guy gave me a nice, digital hand-held one but I did not like the split function. When I inquired about the Talking Watch, he shook his head and said "You don't want to buy that."

"Wow," I thought "it must be really bad if he is dissuading me." But I took it out and looked it over and liked it because it was so bizarre, so different than what other runners are using.

When I went to look for an image of it today, the salesman's comment hit home. I read the scathing reviews...people really hate this watch...they're furious about it and rightly so; most people bought it for an elderly, blind parent. Apparently there was an older version that everyone loved, which RadioShack discontinued. Here are just some of the comments:

Too many features. Not user friendly. Stopped working and not even a year old.

Please do not buy this watch for a blind person. It is very bad and unusable.

Have used older flat watch for over 10 years as alarm clock. Liked the rooster crowing. Do not like this version at all - tried to return but over 30 day return limit. Would buy older version if I could find it - ANYWHERE!!

Bought this for my blind 96 year old mother. She has been user the older version for several years and likes it very much. Too many buttons, and I don't think it was really designed for blind people, but lazy people who do not want to look at the watch. Would like to get the older version if available anywhere.

I bought this for my blind mother who had been happily using the previous RadioShack Talking Watch for years until the battery died. The new one has too many features, is very hard to hear...I'm not sure who this was designed for but it wasn't elderly blind people.

I have been buying the old style for my blind mother for years. She cannot handle the buttons on the new one and she cannot understand the voice. Also, the band is uncomfortable. The old watch had a band that could be replaced with an expansion one that is easy for older (mom is 100) people to use. I am returning the watch. You should do research on your products before presenting them to the public.

Old watch was very clear to hear. I bought two (new watches), one for my blind mom and aunt. Both started to get upset because the watches were not clear and not nearly as loud as the old watch. Very disappointing.

My 94 year old mother with low vision had used the former model with ease. This new watch has too many buttons and she keeps pressing the wrong ones. I am constantly having to re-set it as she has low vision and it is too complicated for her to do. She cannot hear the voice clearly unless she puts it quickly up to he ear and even then sometimes it is too late. We had previously taken the watchband off and relaced it with a Velcro band to make it an easy off-on for her but could not do this with this one. It is not user friendly.

Voice is totally inaudible...Please bring old model back.

Purchased this watch for my dad who cannot see nor hear very well. The older watch was perfect. This one does not speak loud enough. Please bring back the other one!!

I have been buying LCD Talking Watches for years from the Radio Shack for my blind mother-in-law. I replace the watch band with an expandable watch band. An elderly blind person has difficulty with the bands that come on the watch. Now this new design you cannot replace the band. Therefore I must take it back. Very poor design. Why the change from the 63-5042 model?

It hurt my finger to push the talking button. The button needs to be on the face and it needs to come with a flexible metal band.

Sounds like there should have been a recall/redesign...or at least, bring back the old model.

The wristband is nearly impossible to use and the sound is a bit muffled, but I mumble too, so I won't part with Radia because of her speech problem. I do like how you can set it up so she calls out the hour on the hour, which I find comforting.

While looking for the Talking Watch image, I also found some cool digital braille watches online (one of them pictured right) but if you misplace it, it would be much harder to find without Radia calling out to you.