Will.i.am's beast of a smartwatch makes calls and more without needing a phone

But it does need a data plan from AT&T in the U.S. or from O2 in the U.K.

Will.i.am's Puls smartwatch.

Will.i.am's Puls smartwatch.

American musician-cum-entrepreneur Will.i.am thinks he's got a radical gadget to beat the band: a massive app-infused watch that he says can do everything a phone can, and more.

The self-proclaimed tech fashion guru unveiled the Puls on Wednesday, a smartwatch-type device designed to be worn throughout the day, which will run at least a dozen apps handling everything from Twitter to phone calls to fitness and maps.

Will.i.am unveiled the device onstage at the Salesforce Dreamforce conference in San Francisco, after at least a year of backing from Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Will.i.am said. It comes after months of teasing by the artist/tech developer.

The device will be sold during the holiday season of 2014, through a variety of channels including physical AT&T stores, fashion stores and online sites, Will.i.am said during an interview with the press following the formal event. A firm price was not disclosed, but it will cost less than a smartphone by a big margin, Will.i.am said.

Will.i.am's gadget marks the entrance of yet another smartwatch in a sea of competitors vying for consumers' attention. Google is now a big player in the space, partnering with a number of companies like Fossil and LG to get its watch-sized Android Wear software on their timepieces. Apple is slated to launch its Apple Watch early next year.

But unlike those devices, Will.i.am's will make phone calls without needing to be tethered to a smartphone. In the U.S., users will need a data plan from AT&T; O2 is required for the U.K. Pricing details for those plans were not disclosed.

The device will also have 1GB of memory, 16GB of storage, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, a pedometer, and accelerometer. It has a curved screen and wraps around the wrist like a cuff.

"This is not a watch," Will.i.am stressed during the event. "It's a new type of communication on your wrist," he said.

But beyond the on-board calling features, Puls works pretty similarly to many smartwatches already on the market. A slew of apps will run on it, with partnerships through other companies like contacts management company Humin and mapping analytics firm Esri.

The look of the smartwatch is sleek, and it will come in a variety of colors. It's not quite as over-the-top as Samsung's Gear S, which does not hide the fact at all that it's a smartphone plopped on your wrist.

Outside of his musical work with the Black Eye Peas, Will.i.am has been active in tech for years. Given his technology projects, he is to music what tech-developer Ashton Kutcher is to film. Will.i.am is a co-founder and early investor in the Beats Electronics headphone maker and music streaming provider.

Two years ago Will.i.am launched the foto.sosho, a US$400-plus iPhone case that tried to transform the phone into a camera with a slide-out keyboard. It failed to catch on with consumers.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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Zach Miners

IDG News Service
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