STMicroelectronics says its 2x2mm LSM303C is the world's smallest MEMS compass. It combines a three-axis magnetometer with a three-axis accelerometer for ultra-precise 16-bit, six-axis resolution. (Source: ST)
A year ago I would have said that verbally responding to texts was not ready for prime time, but after using Siri for 8 months, I'd have to agree with you--voice-to-text works great and on a watch it would solve 90 percent of the "Dick Tracey" problem.
Colin: You're probably right -- that sounds like a very plausible idea. But that would be so disappointing. I'm sure there are probably wristwatch phones out there already -- now that most people I know have stopped wearing wristwatches. I'd trade mobile web access for a feature phone the size of my watch, especially if I could reply to texts verbally. Would you?
Yes, I've also been waiting for the Dick Tracey watch, but it looks to me like it will be tethered to the smartphone that everybody has in their pocket anyway. That way the watch only needs low-power Bluetooth, and can use the smartphone screen for any graphics it needs to display. And by adding a digital compass to a watch, it can log and trigger by location for all sorts of apps--from health to entertainment.
As someone who pops my phablet-phone into my pocket every time I head out somewhere, I'm sort of looking forward to the further evolution of the wristwatch to become the Dick Tracy-style phone of the future. This compass is a small step in that direction. The problem is that for anyone over the age of 40, it will be hard to rely on that for anything but the shortest of messages. For emails, photos, and even longer texts, I guess we'll still need phones with readable screens.
This suggests that we will have an "arsenal" of tech weapons to choose from as we leave the home. Watch, phone, tablet, laptop. Each might need a data plan in addition to WiFi unless something changes soon. That adds up to a whole lot of money for the average person.