A View from David Zax
Coming Soon: Sony's Smart Watch
A CES gem with a sleek design and Android connectivity.
I’ve spent time on this blog advocating for the idea of the smart watch as something more than a fad—something that could make a small but significant disruption in the world of connected devices. Though I had previously thought the smart money, so to speak, was on the well-reviewed but oft-delayed Meta Watch, it looks as though the watch to watch might be a Sony offering hidden away amidst the many wonders of CES last week. (CNET called my attention to it.)
It is called, simply, Sony SmartWatch (slightly unfortunate tagline: “Touch your world”), runs $149, and is supposed to come out in March. Here, I’ll let it speak for itself for a moment.
Funnily enough, it lacks the one feature we most consistently associate with a watch—indeed, a feature we might consider indispensable: the continuous display of the time. But in order to preserve battery life, the Sony SmartWatch only tells you the time when you “ask” it, by tapping once on the screen. Tapping again calls up a range of apps on this Android-compatible device. You can check your e-mail, texts, the weather, Facebook, Twitter. When a call comes in on your phone, you can reject or accept it via the watch (quite handy if you’re wearing a headset). And the thing is tiny, 36 millimeters by 36 millimeters, 8 millimeters thick, and weighing just 15.5 grams before you slap on a wristband of your choosing.
A few more details, for the spec-hungry: the watch uses Bluetooth to manage its commands to your Droid, and sports a multitouch color OLED display. Sony’s keeping somewhat mum on battery life, but CNET says about a week with low usage, half a week with moderate usage. The watch is something of an update of Sony’s LiveView watch, which was consistently ranked among the top handful of smart watches out there.
Why do smart watches matter? I’ll restate the obvious: they prevent you from having to fumble around in your pocket, constantly. They stand to transform your wrist into something akin to (if a wee bit short of) a heads-up display. It might seem like a minor point, but smart watch partisans call the experience transformative, and breakthrough technologies often arise through little ergonomic efficiencies like this. (My one complaint is that these things will surely make the often oppressive feeling of constant connectedness even more oppressive and constant.)
Want to see more? YouTube is positively teeming with hands-on demos from enthusiastic geeks who stopped by CES 2012.