Burg smartwatches were amongst the first around, with the earliest Burg prototype dating back to 2009.
The company was owned by Dutch lifestyle designer Herman van den Burg, who had a successful history in designing consumer products for major global brands like Walmart and Ikea.
The Burg 12 was his first real market entry and it was released back in 2014.
It aimed to combine style with the most densely feature-packed functionality of any watch that year and probably even for 1 or 2 years after.
The upshot is, this caused mixed results from overcomplications in usability and designs.
Still, the Burg 12 was only $200 or so when it came out and you could argue it represented some value for that price tag.
The Burg 12
The Burg 12 was an important milestone in smartwatch history. It successfully married together a reasonably stylish wearable watch with a fully-fledged independent phone and messaging device.
The watch featured its own SIM card slot – it was the first smartwatch to be used independent of phones.
The Burg 12 had a touchscreen that enabled users to text, call, and use apps like calendars and calculators. It was supposed to be a valid replacement for phones, allowing people to exit the house without even picking one up.
Whilst it broadly fulfilled these criteria and more with an added camera, FM radio, and MP3 player also, its densely-packed feature-set was also largely its downfall.
It’s all well and good packing in features but if the interface isn’t easily usable and the features aren’t accessible, the whole design of the watch falls down.
The Burg 12 is obviously quite chunky. Tech even in 2014 was significantly chunkier than it is now.
It isn’t particularly compatible with long sleeve shirts and protrudes enough from the wrist to look rather conspicuous.
However, the dust and splash-proof casing, dial, and strap do look pretty good and overall, this watch is well-designed and aesthetically pleasing. It’s heavy but so is a Rolex.
There are a couple of cool extra touches, like a telescopic stylus hidden in the casing and easily interchangeable wrist bands. This might seem like a novelty but you really do need a stylus to operate this watch’s largely unresponsive touchscreen.
The dial itself is pretty clear and does what it needs to do by displaying the time. You can choose from 7 different analog or digital style dials.
Overall, you’d have to say the Burg 12 feels and looks relatively decent. Measured up against today’s standards, it would likely feel clunky and far too large but for the time, it was decent.
It seems durable and is splash-proof and dustproof, it’s comfy if a little cumbersome. The micro USB charging slot on the side is easy to access but removing the back to access the SIM card and Micro-SD slot is fiddly.
Recommended: See how the Samsung Gear S3 Frontier compares to the S3 Classic next.
The Burg 12’s screen is pretty small at 1.5-inch (240 x 240 pixels), about the size of a postage stamp.
This ultimately makes it hard to use with your fingers, hence why the stylus is included. Browsing menus aren’t too complicated and you’ll likely only need the watch for a few of its available apps and features.
The screen is fairly drab and nowhere near bright enough for decent performance in bright sunlight. You’ll likely have to shade the watch with your hand to tell the time if it’s too bright. It’s also very hard to operate when damp, or when your fingers are damp.
Burg’s aim was clearly to ram the Burg 12 with tech in an effort to make it more impressive and useful and they somewhat accomplished this.
The Burg 12 impressively features an FM radio, fully functional MP3 player and a 2.0mp camera mounted on the top. Though the tiny and well-concealed camera does evoke images of James Bond and secret agents, the quality is pretty awful – Q would not be proud.
It’s also very hard to focus a camera from your wrist. It might allow you to take a snap of something clear and simple, e.g. a document if you’re not equipped with your phone but that’s about it.
Sadly, it doesn’t feature any form of activity tracking. New developments in both activity tracking and mobility tracking have seen big jumps in this kind of tech recently. However, none of it is present on the Burg 12.
In the Box
The Burg 12 was at least ready to roll out of the box. It contained everything you needed to strap it on and go.
In the box, you get a SIM card that works on 850, 900, 1800, and 1900MHz bands for US users and a free 4GB Micro-SD card.
The 3.7v Lithium-Polymer battery was pretty robust and powerful for the time and it boasted impressive battery life – up to 3 days on standby or 2 with standard use.
Calls and Texts
The headline act of the Burg 12 is its ability to operate as a phone and communication device.
To do this, you’ll need to use the included micro-USB earphones as the speakerphone is too quiet to be easily audible in most environments.
The bottom line is, it does work and you can make calls relatively easily, providing you can find a contact in the menus.
Texting will require the stylus and longer messages are tricky to type.
Pros of the Burg 12
- Looks and feels decent
- Great battery life
- Comes with bundled SIM card (with $25 credit depending on region) and 4GB SD card
Cons of the Burg 12
- Poor screen is hard to use in rain or bright sunlight
- Slow touchscreen which is hard to use with fingertips
Key Features List
- 1.5 inch 240 x 240-pixel touchscreen
- MP3 player and FM radio
- 2.0MP camera
- Can make calls and texts without being tethered via Bluetooth to a phone
- 2 to 3 days of battery life
The Burg 12 was pioneering even if it was quite bad in practical terms. The long feature list presented more problems than it solved.
Many subsequent smartwatches ditched features like the camera, which were fairly pointless additions whilst they remained very low quality.
The Burg 12 was innovative though, and as the first smartwatch that functioned independently as a communications device, it has to take a place in smartwatch history.
The Burg 12 comes with a SIM card included. It’s incredibly well priced for a smartwatch and shook up a market that has been monopolized by big players like Apple and Samsung.
It has a camera with 3x zoom and a MicroSD slot for upgraded memory. It can also use Bluetooth to aid connections with other devices. An MP3/MP4 player is also included so you can listen to music.
The big benefits of this watch are the value for money, the extra-long battery life, and its ability to make and receive phone calls (and messages).
Drawbacks include a shaky camera that doesn’t compare well with more expensive smartwatches, a cheap build quality, and its bulkiness.
Overall, considering what you pay for the Burg 12 smartwatch, it’s worth a look at.
You have to commend Burg for making smartwatches accessible to all, when before they were prohibitively expensive for a lot of people.