back to article Sony SmartWatch Android remote

Sony has tried this remote phone manager and viewer malarkey before with its LiveView that first appeared almost two years ago. The idea was sound but the execution was somewhat undermined by the fact it just didn’t work. Evidently, Sony thinks it’s time for another crack at this concept with the SmartWatch Sony SmartWatch …

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  1. David Hicks

    So.... pebble watch was not a totally new idea?

    Though the e-paper display might make for better battery life than this thing can manage.

    Of course, -1, Sony.

    1. thecresta

      Re: So.... pebble watch was not a totally new idea?

      Smart watches have been around for a while now. The E-Paper watch isn't even Pebble Techonology's first attempt (getinpulse.com).

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: So.... pebble watch was not a totally new idea?

      Actually, +1 to Sony for bringing not one, but two products to market. The Pebble Watch and a similar Italian effort called 'i'm watch' -from people who previously tried to sell alcohol-free wine- have yet to materialise.

      Re E-Ink display... depends how much of its energy the watch spends on the display, and how much on its radio and brains. Other factors such as how often the display changes, ghosting, colour, night-time and sunlight visibility would also influence the choice.

      It is easy to imagine simple applications not requiring a conventional display at all: a light to alert you to new messages, a watch hand could be used for hiking navigation (like a compass but changing bearing based on the maps and GPS of the linked phone) voice memos, vibrate at call alert etc.

      And regarding charging, I would have thought that the strap could function as a cable, with its end slipping into a Female USB A socket. Alibaba has dozens: http://www.alibaba.com/showroom/watch-strap-usb.html but strangely they all use full size Male USB connectors, rather than the thin contacts-only version seen on some slim USB thumbsticks.

      1. David Hicks

        @Dave 126 - Re: So.... pebble watch was not a totally new idea?

        @Dave 126

        Well, to be fair to pebble, they're still within the time they said they'd be when they launched the kickstarter stuff. It will be interesting to see if they can deliver to schedule and if they can deliver in the quantities they have pre-orders for. I suspect that there might be some growth problems as it got very big very fast.

        E-Ink displays have excellent visibility in sunlight. Night time they would need a back (or front) light to illuminate them. Colour... yeah no colour. Pebble, with it's open SDK, could easily be programmed to perform the compass function you mentioned though.

        The -1 Sony was not because of this product, its delivery or its execution, it's the other way around. A product immediately gets negative points from me simply because of the Sony label and their (lack of) corporate ethics.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So.... pebble watch was not a totally new idea?

      Sony must be in financial desperation to even market this.

      CEO of Sony 'quick what do we have in design store cupboard bottom draw? just sell it all and hope someone buy it, make ad look cool we need the cash!'

      1. Mikel
        Thumb Up

        Re: So.... pebble watch was not a totally new idea?

        More like "so... Microsft wants to sell hardware, eh? What have we been holding back in the labs that works with Android?" It didn't take long, either.

        1. Fibbles

          Re: So.... pebble watch was not a totally new idea?

          If you're going to bash Sony, surely you can do better than that?

          I don't see the point of smart-watches, maybe that's because I just don't have the foresight to see their mass appeal. Still, even I can credit myself with enough intelligence to know that a company struggling financially does not release to the public some half-baked R&D experiment in the hope of making money. No, what they do is take their main cash cow, upgrade the specs a little, increment the number on the end of its name by 1 and then tell all of their customers that their previous purchase is laughably obsolete.

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: So.... pebble watch was not a totally new idea?

            >Sony must be in financial desperation to even market this.

            Can you expand on this? I would have expected the release of niche/ experimental/ useless* products would be a sign of confidence.

            Also, have you considered how this might be received in Japan or other territories beside your own?

            *AIBO

          2. Voland's right hand Silver badge
            Devil

            Re: So.... pebble watch was not a totally new idea?

            Quote: I don't see the point of smart-watches: Meetings run by control freaks, meetings with customers, etc. If I was still in my previous job, this would have been in the post already.

            As far as their previous purchase being laughably obsolete - well, LiveView version one was dead on arrival. Bad strap design, bad watch software execution - you name it. The "proper" bluetooth watch (the one I believe Sony designed jointly with Cittizen) was too skimpy on the featureset to justify its nearly 200£ price tag. So IMO they are obsoleting Alpha (not even Beta) products here so nothing wrong with that.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's one of those inventions for the sake of invention, as a watch it works ok but has no style, but what a convoluted idea.

    So you can remote control you phone?

    Please someone tell me the point in this?

    1. Bassey

      Re: Please someone tell me the point in this?

      Okay. I'm a race-walker. I spend many hours out on the roads using my phone and Endomondo to track my training. You might not have noticed but in the UK in rains a fair bit. My phone sits in the pocket on my bottle belt. If I want to check on my progress I have to reach around, unzip the pocket, take the phone out, turn it on and unlock it. That's assuming I CAN unlock it. If it is REALLY pissing down the water buggers up the capacitive screen and I'm stuffed. With one of these, I just glance at my watch.

      Granted, I could get a GPS watch like the Forerunner 310 CX - but that costs about £240 and I would STILL need to take a phone with me for emergencies etc.

      I can also read texts to see if they are important without getting the phone out etc. etc.

      1. Some Beggar
        Meh

        Re: Please someone tell me the point in this?

        This would all be true - and equally true for runners and cyclists - except that the watch is only "splash" proof rather than waterproof and it has a capacative screen. If it's pissing down with rain then this thing will be almost as much of a liability as using a smart phone directly. In its current form I don't think it is a useful replacement for a dedicated outdoor exercise doohickey.

        1. Danny 14 Silver badge

          Re: Please someone tell me the point in this?

          I use an aquapac for my phone. Find a shop that stocks them so you can get the smallest version. Ive had mine in a canoe and up plenty of mountainsides to vouch for them. Initially I didnt trust them and used an old GW620 phone but nowadays I put my S2 in there. No issues at all.

        2. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Please someone tell me the point in this?

          Good point. Rain, and / or gloved hands... Is a touch-screen really necessary, or could its functions be navigated by a four-way menu system like phones of old?

          There was a patent for a watch screen that would move slightly (up 12 down 6 left 9 right 3) when pushed by a finger, giving you input without adding a separate D-pad. It might be better for these outdoors enthusiasts than a capacitive touch screen, though as a breed they don't seem to mind big chunky watches with barometers sticking out of them!

          (Hehe, my local train station has an exposed ticket vending machine with a touch-screen that goes haywire in the rain. All the train operator's dire warning notices about boarding the train without a valid ticket are to be ignored)

      2. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Please someone tell me the point in this?

        I assume that there are a fair few people wearing watches in Sony's home market, given Japan has a watchmaking culture of its own and and a large range of strange watches that make reading the time a puzzle.

        Also, I can imagine that people who spend time commuting on over-crowded subway trains* might see virtue in a device that lets them read messages without having to wrestle their phone from their pocket.

        *http://lostinjapan.groth.hm/archives/2006/01/frustrations-in-japan-part-2-public-transportation/ links to Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure & Transportation - (I assume it is: I can only read English and some menus so can't check)

        Sony has released an analogous product before in the mid-nineties; called the Walkman Wireless, it was a light matchbox-sized box with playback controls that you plugged your headphones into. It communicated wirelessly with its partner Walkman (a real one, it took cassettes!) that you kept in your bag. Handy for crowded places or for playing basketball. It probably extended the life span of the Walkman because the user couldn't drop it if they weren't holding it.

        Then, as you consider the multitude of devices (Walkmans, Discmans, DATS, MD and MP3 player) that Sony have released with wired remote-control units, this new watch doesn't seem too surprising.

        Strange how my, and that others here in 'the West'', first thought was of 'outdoor pursuits' applications like hillwalking and mountain biking- tasks this watch is unsuited for. Maybe it was the rubber strap that made us think that - it looks like something that reads your heartrate.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      >Please someone tell me the point in this?

      You talk like you've never heard of Dick Tracy.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Great, so

      To use one of these things you need,

      Good weather

      A bumbag to carry your phone in

      A Bluetooth headset to answer the phone in the bumbag

      Three chargers to keep things going if you go away

      I climb mountains, run marathons, cycle, mountain bike, sail, fly and still it has no use for me.

      Maybe it's a fashion accessory for going down to the pub?

      Why complicate a mobile phone?

      It's one of those ' hey this is a great idea' device but when put into practice it will end up living in the bottom draw along with all the other useless things you've bought in the past,

  3. Robert E A Harvey

    BBlluueettooootthh

    So, can you stick a bluetooth earpiece in and answer/initiate the phone using the watch and still talk via the headset?

    If so, I can see the point of using this with a 7"tablet/phone in yer manbag while walking along. If not, not.

    1. Al Taylor
      Alert

      Re: BBlluueettooootthh

      Yes you can.

    2. Rob
      Go

      Re: BBlluueettooootthh

      After what you said, this watch now presents me with an internal argument on whether to get the Galaxy Note or wait a couple of months more and get a S3. This is a perfect accessory for the Note along with a BT headset.

      I agree with the reviewer though it's a bit pricey, well that's what I keep telling the gadget hungry part of me anyway.

  4. Richard 116
    Happy

    I rather like that.

    Like others I'm struggling to really see the point but I do rather like like it. Definition of a gadget I guess.

  5. Lunatik

    I was going to go for one of these but the battery life if just too short.

    If it could make a concerted stab at a working week then maybe (like the Pebble I've got on order), but having to make sure it is charged daily as well as the phone - too much faff.

    Looks nice though. Maybe version 4 or 5 will suit.

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      aye

      not only is the battery life too short but plugging the gizmo into USB to charge isnt ideal. Sure USB as backup but it should have induction charging built in really.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Battery life..

      >If it could make a concerted stab at a working week then maybe

      Ah, but you be using it all day, or just for those limited periods of the day when you know it will be hard to reach your pocket (e.g rush hour on a tube train)? If they threw a tamagotchi on to it too, then who knows...

      Just a thought. The R&D and tooling investment on this has got to be fairly small compared to that of a new phone.

  6. Lusty Silver badge
    WTF?

    Dear Sony

    TVs have remote controls because they are the other side of the room. RC cars have remote controls because they are too far away and move too fast.

    Mobile phones don't need remote controls because they are in your pocket. The very definition of "to hand".

    1. stucs201

      Re: Dear Sony

      And yet the wristwatch took over from the pocket watch because on the wrist is more convinient for some tasks than in a pocket.

      1. Jerome 0

        Re: Dear Sony

        And yet the phone took over from the wristwatch as a timekeeping device for many people, because everyone has different needs.

      2. Fibbles

        Re: Dear Sony

        A phone isn't a pocket-watch, it has more functions than telling the time. If you want to look at your wrist and see the time just wear a standard wrist watch.

        The only advantage I can see to this thing is the ability to switch between music tracks without getting your phone out of your pocket. I can't see checking text or facebook messages on a tiny screen catching on, especially since you'll still need to take the phone out of your pocket if you want to reply.

        I'm a bit lost as to why anyone would spend 100 quid on one of these unless it's to just show off in front of their mates. If that's the case then I expect to see the iWatch in stores pretty soon.

  7. DrXym Silver badge

    These sorts of things

    Are just begging for a reasonably open two way, OS agnostic, low power protocol over bluetooth which allows a device such as a watch, remote control, car dash etc. be able to display an interface to an app running remotely somewhere else.

    Watches are just one niche example. Smart remotes are where the action is. Imagine a remote control which shows a mini EPG, or shows you a chapter selection from a DVD, or lets you turn your thermostat down. Car dashboards could benefit too (safety permitting) by allowing users to see their contacts, view maps, or other apps which operate remotely that run on their phones.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: These sorts of things

      Inspired by the first commenter to skim-read-up on it, I see the Pebble Watch will support Windows Phone8, as well as iOS and Android. When it comes out. Sometime.

  8. Jelliphiish
    Meh

    got one of these

    nice toy. used it for about a week when i got it with the xperia. it's in a box somewhere. it should have a speaker/mike combo built in, that would make it useful. yes the bt headset's an option but then you just look ike a tw@. i don't need the 'social connectivity' apps... and the battery life is abysmal, i barely got it off the charger before it would fail.. the connector's a bit odd too, seemed prone to not contacting fully..

    but i can see the applications for iut, the runnig thing as sited above seems like a good use.

    might dig it out again and have a mess around.. but only when i'm bored enough.

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: got one of these

      and speaking into your watch doesnt make you look like a tw@?

      1. Robert Harrison

        Re: got one of these

        It worked for David Hasselhoff... Oh wait

        1. TheRealRoland
          Thumb Up

          Re: got one of these

          Kitt! Wo bist du, Kumpel?!

          Works every time ;-)

  9. dotdavid
    WTF?

    "To charge the SmartWatch you get a USB cable with a proprietary connection"

    Considering people like me will always be forgetting to charge it (I never charge my watch after all) you'd have thought Sony would have tried to go for the industry-standard micro-USB charging connector wouldn't you?

    But what would I know, I'm no industrial designer.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      This is Sony we're talking about.

      A normal person would integrate the cable into the strap, with a slim contacts-only male USB A plug on the end. The strap would be replaceable so that a, it can be replaced because cables do fail, b, Sony can offer different colours and styles.

      Whilst we're talking about connectors... what would it take to make a microUSB female socket waterproof? Can it be done, or would partial shorting of the contacts upset the electronics inside?

  10. ukgnome Silver badge
    Meh

    Isn't that a bit pricey for some minor functionality that you don't actually need. Now if it was £30 then it might be a bit more attractive.

  11. The Axe
    Meh

    Wristband

    So it needs to be regularly charged. I wonder what the lifetime of the wrist strap is if you have to take the watch off many times a year. Normally with a watch you just leave it on and hardly take it off so wrist straps don't tend to wear out that much.

    They should have installed a built-in dynamo so that movement of the hand can trickle charge the battery. Might make the battery last a week between charges then.

    Also, because you hardly take a watch off, many can be worn in the shower. Is this one shower proof too?

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: Wristband

      "Normally with a watch you just leave it on and hardly take it off...."

      There was I thinking that "normally" you took the ruddy thing off at night, before showering, etc. I certainly do.

      Can't quite see why the strap would wear more when it's worn less though.......

      The fact that it has an entirely proprietary strap, which is almost certain to be both expensive and completely unavailable by the time the first one goes, is a real deal-breaker. Having to bin a fairly pricey watch, purely 'cos you can't nip into a shop for a new strap every few years, is just daft.

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Wristband

      Materials exist to make the strap far stronger than is necessary, and last for a very long time. But you usually wouldn't do so, on the grounds that it is better to lose your watch than your hand, in the event of the strap getting caught on anything. The weak spot is usually the pins that attach it to the 'horns' of the watch.

      Materials used for watch straps: Silicone 'rubber' (like this one), Kevlar, Nylon, stainless steel, leather, titanium, and others.

  12. Hnk0

    waterproofing?

    I don't walk-race like Bassey above, but I cycle a fair bit and this thing would be great to keep track of my progress, and to find where I am in the Big Smoke, without having a conspicuous (aka thief magnet) mount on my handlebars. Unfortunately like Bassey mentioned it can piss down severely in this country, and an indication of the presence or absence of weather proofing would be good. I don't want to part with £80+ and then find I have to pack it in every time a shower comes my way.

    Note that the Sony website has a list of compatible phones in the specs: http://www.sonymobile.com/gb/products/accessories/smartwatch/specifications/

  13. Silverburn
    Coat

    "Hands free strap on"

    ..isn't that the whole idea of strap ons...? To be hands free ?

  14. Richard Morris
    Thumb Down

    USB Charging

    Watches should be Swiss and mechanical.

    Now, where is the icon for Luddite?

    1. Cameron Colley

      Re: USB Charging

      Oh, of course, because that £2K Swiss bracelet that you have to be careful not to scratch, get serviced every year and set the time on every couple of months is much better at the job of telling the time than a £40 Japanese digital which will set itself and take a few knocks...

      Don't get me wrong, there are some nice pieces of Swiss jewellery out there but in reality they are just that -- nice, fairly functional jewellery.

      Of course, the product being reviewed isn't particularly good at being a watch either and given the choice I would pick the Swiss bracelet.

      1. The Baron
        IT Angle

        Re: USB Charging

        I have bought a Swiss-made quartz watch for less than £60 new, and a Swiss-made automatic (that is, mechanical) watch with a "proper" Swiss calibre mechanism for less than £200 new. Both are perfectly splendid timepieces which have lasted me several years without being serviced, scratched, or losing track of what time it is, and both still look as good as new with nothing but an occasional wipe.

        As you say, they are just jewellery, of course, and neither tells the time any better than a £10 watch from Argos - just sayin' you don't need two grand to get a Swiss watch unless you choose to buy one of those that are advertised on the back of those hideous glossy lifestyle magazines.

      2. CCCP

        Re: USB Charging

        Sorry, off topic now, but what are you on about Cameron Colley? My swiss made self winder has nary a scratch after 5 years. I never take it off and it's never been serviced. It loses ~1s/month. In fact, good self winders 'adapt' to your wearing pattern and get more accurate over time. Oh, and it withstands EMPs, which the Sony clearly can't.

        1. Cameron Colley

          @CCCP

          "good self winders 'adapt' to your wearing pattern" Citation needed.

          If you are correct about the time keeping then you are very, very lucky. I suspect, however, you are mistaken and really ought to pay attention next time you change the date or correct for daylight saving.

          There isn't a mechanical watch in the world that can compare in accuracy to a cheap quartz -- and cheap quartz tend to need adjusting every month or so when they're a few seconds out.

        2. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: USB Charging

          >Oh, and it withstands EMPs, which the Sony clearly can't.

          Might be a good idea for a poduct competing in the daft price bracket of watches: A gold plated rad-hardened quartz watch http://www.datasheetdir.com/HS-82C85RH+Clock-Timing. Place it in the obscene price bracket and you might sell one to a Russian politician.

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: USB Charging

      We'll be stopping Mr Morris in the street and asking him the time when the EMP hits us... but yeah, I have a fascination for tiny mechanical things and I'm glad that they, and the people who can make them, exist.

      But that £10 Casio is the terrorist's favourite watch for good reasons. Accuracy, durability, affordability, internal contacts to the alarm that can be re-purposed to operate a...

      Oh, the Japanese also make some fine mechanical watches - see Grand Seiko- as does the Isle of Man.

    3. Silverburn

      Re: USB Charging

      Personally, I stopped wearing a watch 20 years ago, when my last one broke, and I realised that time is so all-present in a modern lifestyle (on mobile phones, town squares, TV, buses, trains, shop windows etc) that a watch is *functionally* no longer required.

      So now on special nights out when I wear the watch the rolex just hangs there like jewellry, pulling the hairs out my arms and generally being annoying...

  15. Andrew Garrard

    I'm vaguely tempted

    My latest version of a DataLink has got to the stage where I'm probably never going to program it again, the strap is mangled and the battery is dying. I was on for a Pebble (eInk appeals, although if the previous product was still made I might have been tempted by that too), but they're not out yet, and I'm struggling to find other smart watches that are actually being made - at least, any smarter than a DataLink. I'm less interested in syncing with the phone than running my own apps.

    I'm not quite clear with this whether users can write their own stuff for it (need to do more reading). Knowing the resolution of the screen would be nice, too.

  16. nemo20000
    Stop

    No chance. NO. CHANCE.

    I had the original. To say “it didn’t work” is an understatement.

    They’d have to give me this, refund the original AND compensate me for the stress and wasted time of trying to get it to work before I’d even consider using it.

    And then IF I considered using it I’d choose not to. It’s a watch that you have to press a button to find out the time – that was rubbish in 1975 never mind 37 years later. What century is this?

    1. Andrew Garrard

      Re: No chance. NO. CHANCE.

      Ah, I wondered about the "press a button to tell the time" problem (I've owned an OLED watch before). Of course, in theory, with OLED you could make the screen mostly black and it *ought* to use very little power. I still think the Pebble eInk solution looks better, if only they'd get it shippable.

  17. Francis Vaughan

    Wrong device at the wrong price

    Sony seem to have simply got the thing wrong. It is cheap, looks naf, and isn't waterproof. It clearly has never had anyone who has designed a watch before near it. The software will probably be rubbish too.

    What it should have been is more expensive. And better.

    Sony should have swallowed some of their usual not-invented-here pride and gone to talk to Seiko about the entire project. Sony can supply the internals, and a proper watch maker that understands how to make things that actually work, look good, and stay working on ones wrist should make the case. And make more than one case.

    As above, when talking about nice watches - they are jewellery. People like to have nice things, and depending upon taste, clearly very nice, and very expensive things, on their wrists. Not something that looks like it was designed as a high school project.

    It needs to be something that people will desire. Heck, make it £500 and as lovely as anything from the Swiss. Make it beautiful, and make it work really well. Sell it with a contactless charging pad (just leave it on the pad overnight and it charges). Make it in a range of styles, finishes, bands. Ensure that the buttons are the sort of thing one expects on an expensive watch, not a bit of cheap consumer electronics tat. And so on. Do that and they would sell more, even at £500, than they will sell of this bit of tat at £100 odd.

    This will sell to the odd geek, who will later discard it. Sony need to get back a bit of the mojo of old, and make something that people actually desire to own. Once they sell the £500 one for awhile they can introduce the diffusion brand version for the ordinary folk. Oh, and give it a recognisable name, so that people can ask "oooh is that a Sony XXX?" (Where XXX does not equal "SmartWatch Andoid". XXX could have equalled iWatch - but that one is taken.)

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Wrong device at the wrong price

      Indeed. It's two not-yet-here competitors share with this Sony a meh-looking silicone strap. The Sony looks weird, the other two both look like iPod Nanos... At least Sony know that anodised Aluminium is not used on watches for a reason- it soon dents and scratches - and have what appears to be stainless steel trim around it.

      A nice aesthetic solution would be to copy Rado (known for their black ceramic timepieces) since the black screen of the watch wouldn't stick out like a sore thumb from the black casing and strap. It would look half-way civilised.

      The trouble is that we are comparing phone tech (replace every 18 months) with watches - even a cheapish Casio comes with a ten-year battery.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Hello.

    Yeah, I really want a watch that needs recharging every 3 to 4 days. Just like I want an electric car that will only go as far as the length of the power cord.

  19. iangreen
    Thumb Up

    First Full Week of Use

    This watch is literally a life saver for me. My wife has long standing major health problems and frequently uses her mobile phone to ring me out of work when she has fallen and injured herself. I'm not allowed to keep my phones ringer on in work and I don't always feel it vibrating in my pocket. I've never missed a call this week thanks to this watch. I don't find charging it every day a problem. I charge my phone every day too and I just plug them both in at the same time when I go to bed. I've got the other end of the USB lead plugged in to a mains adapter that come with some Bluetooth headphones I bought a while ago. BTW, I'm a high school teacher in the UK. All my pupils LOVE this watch and I've gained massive credibility with them over this. Probably just that kids love toys; or is this the younger generation being more receptive to new ideas and having the vision to see where this is going? Who cares if it stops them throwing chairs at me.

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