April 14, 2012
Texts On Your Wrist? Sony Makes It So
Michael Harper for RedOrbit.com
The idea is as old as Dick Tracy. Dreamers and technology enthusiasts alike (two subgroups with an overwhelmingly large overlap in a Venn diagram) have always wondered what it would be like to wear a phone on your wrist, just like a watch.
In the past years, engineers have been able to cram interesting pieces of technology into the small watch package, usually something along the lines of a calendar, calculator, or database. Seiko, on the other hand, made several very interesting watches in the digital wristwatch heydays of the 80´s including a watch with a built-television as well as a watch with a thermometer.
Now, Sony is taking the mantle from Seiko as they announced the Sony Xperia SmartWatch. Pairing with Google´s Android operating system via bluetooth, the SmartWatch offers control of some of the more frequent uses of a smartphone without the hassle of fishing the phone out of your pocket.
Users can read incoming text messages and emails, as well as social media updates, manage phone calls with “simple touch and swipe,” and even act as a viewfinder for your Android´s camera app.
This isn´t Sony´s first attempt at sending data from phone to wrist. The Sony Ericsson LiveView was released in the midst of the 2010 holiday season, though it was met with some disappointment. With no touch screen display and some consistency issues, the LiveView has been updated and replaced with the SmartWatch.
The first improvement is a 1.3 inch color OLED touchscreen, capable of two-finger gestures that promise to make navigation easier than the LiveView´s button controls. A spring on the back of the watch attaches it to a thick, black rubbery wrist band. This means you can attach the SmartWatch to a backpack, coat, purse, or anything else if you´d rather not wear it on your wrist. Housed inside is a Bluetooth 3.0 radio instead of the newer, lower power Bluetooth 4.0. Therefore, the non-accessible battery should be good for a week of “low usage” or a day of “heavy usage,” according to Sony. A vibration motor and tiny speakers can alert you of any incoming notifications.
Available for free in the Play Market, your Android phone must be running Sony´s LiveWire application with the SmartWatch plugin installed. Most recent Sony phones already have the app and the plugin installed natively. The app allows you to choose what kind of notifications you receive, as well as what kind of actions should be performed when the SmartWatch is plugged in.
The remaining question, however, is “Who would use this?” The SmartWatch doesn´t let you make any phone calls, only answer or deny them. You cannot respond to texts or emails, you can only read them and be notified of their arrival. It´s also interesting to ponder how one would read any email longer than a paragraph on this wrist-bound device.
However, if you are already throwing your money at the screen in anticipation, you should be able to pick one up mid-April for $119.99. Love the idea but love iOS even more?
You might want to check out Pebble, a Kickstarter project which was recently funded. The Pebble has many of the same features as SmartWatch in addition to being customizable with apps. The makers of Pebble also say their wristwatch can last for a full 7 days and will release an SDK to allow anyone to write their own apps for the device.