Asus Announces $259 ZenWatch at IFA

zenwatchToday at the IFA event in Berlin, Asus announced its first foray into the world of wearables: the ZenWatch, a new smartwatch running Google’s Android Wear operating system. The new watch offers the same smartphone connectivity we’ve come to expect from other Android Wear devices, but Asus has created a few new features and design choices that make it a bit more unique. Is the ZenWatch the new Android Wear gadget to beat?

The ZenWatch’s specs are relatively similar to the other Android Wear devices that we’ve already seen, listed by a report from TechCrunch: a 1.63-inch, 320×320 AMOLED display, 512MB of RAM, a 1.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, Bluetooth 4.0, and IP55 water and dust resistance. There’s no word yet on its internal storage, but chances seem good that it’ll be about 4GB like the other Android Wear smartwatches out there.

So what’s new? For starters, the ZenWatch’s rectangular body with rounded corners also has a gently curved design, giving the device a more elegant and refined look than the other smartwatches we’ve seen so far (looking at you, Samsung Gear S). Like the Moto 360, the ZenWatch is going to earn a lot of accolades for its stylish, fashionable design. In short, this thing actually looks like a watch, and that’s pretty important considering it’s, well, a watch. As you can see form the images, the ZenWatch looks really, really nice, and may give the Moto 360 fanboys pause.

zenwatch-curveThe TechCrunch post also reports on a few interesting software features Asus has developed specifically for the device, like the ability to unlock your smartphone with a tap on the ZenWatch. There’s also the Tap Tap feature, which will launch an app of your choosing with a double tap on the watch, as well as “cover to mute,” a phone finder, and remote camera operations. Because Android Wear has been locked down by Google – meaning that OEMs can’t make changes to the OS willy nilly like they have for the smartphone version of Android – all of these features require the installation of the Watch Manager app from Asus. The good news, though, is that if you’re not interested in using these features, it seems that you won’t have to install them, rather than being saddled with them against your will.

The only apparent downside to the ZenWatch is its $259 price, about $60 more than what we heard previously. That also will make it the most expensive Android Wear device to hit the market yet – assuming, of course, that the Moto 360 sticks with the $250 price we’ve heard in reports leading up to tomorrow’s Motorola press conference in Chicago.

Despite its high price, it seems like the Asus ZenWatch might have the style and functionality to back that cost up. No word yet on its exact release date, but it should be on people’s wrists before the end of the year.