Sony SmartWatch: The watch the iPod nano wishes it was (Update: not so much)

Sony SmartWatch: The watch the iPod nano wishes it was (Update: not so much)

Summary: SmartWatch connects to an Android phone via Bluetooth so that you can receive email and SMS notifications, answer calls and keep tabs on Facebook and Twitter.

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TOPICS: Hardware, Apple, Mobility
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Sony SmartWatch: The watch the iPod nano wishes it was - Jason O'Grady

[Update: A year later I can safely say that the Sony SmartWatch is pretty crappy. While the iPod nano certainly isn't the best watch, the Sony SmartWatch is no better. In fact, it's worse. It's buggy as hell and the UI is rubbish. I returned mine.]

If you're a regular reader of these page you already know that I have a fetish for watches, especially for the iPod nano as a watch. The problem is that the nano's never really lived up to expectations on the wrist and it's not very practical as a watch.

I fully realize that Apple only markets the iPod nano as an iPod, but it knows full well that people use it as a watch. An unnamed Board of Directors member told Steve Jobs as much and Apple sells watch kits in its stores -- not to mention that million dollar Kickstarter project!

Truthfully, the nano's terrible as a watch. Case is point is the almost two second latency from the time you press the nano's wake button to the screen actually lighting up. Complete fail. Ideally it would include an accelerometer so that lifting up your arm could wake the nano/watch so that you could see the time, but that's probably asking too much.

The other thing that the iPod nano needs to make it a more viable wristwatch would be a Bluetooth and/or Wi-Fi radio so that you could easily sync music, contacts, calendars, etc. without having to connect it to your computer with an expensive, proprietary USB cable. What is this? 1999?

But forget all that. Sony just ate Apple's lunch.

Alongside Sony new Xperia smartphone it launched a cool accessory called SmartWatch ($150, pre-order). Unlike the iPod nano, which is an iPod being forced into being a watch, SmartWatch is an accessory to an Android phone. It connects via Bluetooth so that you can receive email and SMS notifications, answer calls and keep tabs on social networks like Facebook and Twitter -- in addition to playing music. Plus it clips to any standard watch band.

Something like SmartWatch is perfect for those times when it would be inappropriate to be constantly looking at your phone and might be the ultimate accessory for people addicted to social networks -- "Honest honey! I was checking the time!"

The downside is that I'm not sure how much functionality it has without the host phone, so you're lugging two devices. But still, I'd take the SmartWatch over the nano-as-a-watch any day.

Update: In addition to the Sony Xperia line of phones, SmartWatch works with the following handsets: HTC Desire S, HTCEvo 3D/Shooter, HTC Sensation, HTC Wildfire, HTC Wildfire S, Motorola Defy, Motorola Droid 2/Milestone 2, Motorola RAZR, Orange San Fransisco, Samsung Galaxy 5, Samsung Galaxy Ace, Samsung Galaxy Fit, Samsung Galaxy Gio, Samsung Galaxy Mini, Samsung Galaxy S II, Samsung Galaxy SL.

There's defeintely a trade-off here. The iPod nano has onboard storage (making it a standalone music player) while the SmartWatch is really a surrogate/client to the host Android phone -- it's probably using it's interior space for the BT radio as opposed to NAND Flash.

But nothing's stopping Apple from making a nano that's a client to the iPhone, right? Sadly, since Apple chooses to build and market a very small fraction of its ideas, it's probably a pipe dream to see a little more than an incremental upgrade to the current iPod nano, but I'd love for Apple to take the whole watch thing a little more seriously.

Another watch in this category, to um watch, is the inPulse smartwatch ($150-$200) from Allerta.

Here's a promo video of the SmartWatch:

What's on your wrist?

Tip: Engadget

The watch the iPod nano wishes it was - Jason O'Grady

Topics: Hardware, Apple, Mobility

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30 comments
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  • What?

    If I understand you correctly, "Sony just ate Apple's lunch.", because Sony is selling a $150 wrist watch that requires a smartphone for additional functionality?
    khurtwilliams@...
    • Yes...

      ...you understand me correctly.
      At least as far as the market for high-tech wristwatches goes :)

      - Jason
      Jason D. O'Grady
      • Yes,,,

        Do we also understand you write for a juvenile market? high-tech ??

        What relationship did your infertile mind see in an iPad and a Dick Tracy oversize watch??al
        n781lc
        • Sony is definitely not the first one who made its samrtwatch !!

          Sony is not the first one to who have made its smartwatch, As i know, TD and Imwatch made their smartwatch years ago check out http://bit.ly/smartwatches . maybe thats the prototype of Sony's smartwatch.
          Yuesir Smith
      • You pretty much said it yourself...

        "... I???m not sure how much functionality it has without the host phone," which means that unlike the iPod Nano, we really don't know what capabilities this thing has outside of being a digital watch with bluetooth. I paid less for a Guess four-dial waterproof watch. Yes, I almost did buy a watch band for my Nano, but honestly I like it better as a clip-on in my pocket.
        Vulpinemac
    • Color me skeptical as well

      Watches are disappearing among my peers - I don't use one - because phones have the time, set by the network.

      I think this product may possibly be the Microsoft Watch killer, except Microsoft put that project down last year. Remember? Stock quotations on your watch!

      The iPod nano watch is a music player with a display. Set the display to the time, it's a "clock." Put it on a wristband and it's a "watch." I don't know how much money Apple makes from it as a watch, but I don't think it's much and the real lunch, such as it is, is being enjoyed by the accessory folks who take a license from Apple.

      There is a concept that Horace Dediu of asymco.com introduced me to: what the product is hired to do. Does Sony expect this watch to be hired as a timekeeper or a (some models) cellphone adjunct? Nothing creates more friction for a product than making possible customers ask, "Does this work with the ${widget} I own?"

      I could be wrong, but I don't see a big upside here. And as for what Apple should do, why even care? Does this look like a disruption to the iPhone? It isn't a music player, so it doesn't affect their iPod business, which is in decline because Apple itself disrupted it with the iPhone.
      DannyO_0x98
      • It's more about saving time - not telling time

        DannyO - connected watches aren't about telling time; they are about saving time. Full disclosure: I do have a dog in this fight; I'm the CEO of Meta Watch, a spin out from Fossil specializing in connected watches.

        Consider the following:

        On average, Smart Phone users receive > 100 notifications each day. Some are important; but most aren't. We don't have a simple way to deal with this - we either view every notification or we miss them all - there's no in-between.

        A glance at your watch is effortless and takes less than a second or two. Compare this to the alternative: pulling your phone out of your pocket; activating the display; unlocking the phone; opening the notification bar; then view the notification. You've just burned 15-20 seconds and chewed into your phone battery life. Now, multiple this by 100 - it adds up to 20 to 30 minutes per day. This is what I mean by connected watches saving time.

        Bill
        bgeiser
    • What about Z1 Smart Android 2.2 Watch Phone GPS WiFi Bluetooth ?

      A Watch-Phone has the following advantages over all cell phones because it???s always on your wrist: 1 - Instantly accessible to answer calls. 2 - Improbable that you may forget it. 3 - Difficult to lose it. 4 - Most unlikely to be dropped. 5 - Difficult to be stolen ??????> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watch_phone<?????? Pair that with Android and you have a winner!!
      I get Android Watch Phone from http://www.ibuygou.com/prod/Z1-Smart-Android-2-2-Watch-Phone-GPS-WiFi-Bluetooth.html
      Mineo
  • Really? Seriously?

    it only takes a few seconds to pull your phone out to check out email, social media and music. The youngsters can't get enough ot their phone. You got to pry it out of their hands with a crowbar, they are too engrosed with their phone to care about a watch. Older people want somthing stylish and practical. Apple knows that a watch is just a watch. It does not need be anything else other than a cheeky James Bond gadget. People don't need watches to tell time any more. Their phone does that. Watches are more of a fasion accessory that tells time now days.
    Bakabaka
    • Not everyone would rather use their phone for time

      There are watches that have atomic clocks and don't need to be set either. I use my watch AND my phone to check the time. If my phone is sitting next to me on the desk I may use it, but it takes a simple glance down to see the time on my watch. If I'm at home laying on my couch, but my phone is across the room on the charger why get up and go over to the phone to look at the time when I have it on my wrist? When I'm working out I don't have my phone on me because I don't want to take the chance at it getting broken, but I'm always wearing my watch. Saying that people would rather use their phone for time is a gross overstatement. This device is more so an improvement to the standard watch. Unless it is impact resistant I probably still wouldn't wear it instead of my ironman dataconnect watch most of the time.

      People that are likely to use something like this are those that would usually not have to worry about something hitting their watch and people who often find themselves in situations where they are unable to pull out their devices whenever they want. These would be people like students that aren't supposed to be "playing around" with their phones in class, or those who have workplaces that don't really like you using your personal phone at work. I go to a number of meetings at work and when I get bored my first inclination is to pull out my phone to waste some time. Looking down at this watch instead of a phone would be a little less conspicuous, and people are less likely to be bothered by you looking at your watch during a meeting instead of your phone.
      SpiderTech
  • sertere

    www. top4biz com
    fsdgewrew
  • Amazing! Dream come true for teens!

    I'm 17 years old and literally this watch is massive at our school, loads people are talking about it and can't wait for it to come out!

    Lots of us have really big 4.3" phones which look really cool, but when you want to just check the time, change the track, or read a new text, it is really awkward to get out every time. It's also perfect for school so i can go on my phone and read my texts without the teachers thinking i'm on my phone! It's genius!

    Loads of us have preordered it and we can't wait for it to be released! :D
    timincognito
    • Sounds like a plant -

      and how many of you and your "classmates" are getting free devices or being paid to post here?
      kwaagner@...
      • hahaha

        Oh obviously all of us, of course! :P lol chill out - there actually are people in the world who like the SmartWatch :L Am i not allowed to say what me and guys at my school think about the SmartWatch, without getting accused of being paid to advertise?! :L
        timincognito
      • Of course! Why didn't we see it before?

        It's all a conspiracy to sell those smartwatches and Android phones... and I was so close to falling for it... /sarcasm

        I'd consider getting one if I had a decent Android device - this Samsung Fascinate I have sucks out loud... Anyone using an Android device on VZW have a recommendation for something other than a Samsung device?
        athynz
      • Considering that most of us only just read about this...

        ... in the article above, I really find it hard to believe that your schoolmates are all up in the air about this thing. Your statements come across as total bull****.

        I'm not saying this thing can't be an interesting product, but to claim such abject fandom based on minimal real data is worse than the so-called Apple Cultists we all hear about. If you're going to promote something, at least make it sound realistic.
        Vulpinemac
  • Galaxy Nexus?

    Why isn't the flagship Android phone in the compatibility list?
    blackobilisk
  • Yeah well, the Tablet S is the Same Way!

    If more paid attention then they would realize the Tablet S ate Apple's Lunch as well... Seriously, all of these devices are trying to be the center of our livingroom and our lives! Well, the Sony does a better job of integrating with existing livingrooms and lives without the need for an expensive $100 Device as it will connect directly to your Smart TV or Bluray Player and most already have those.

    With this watch, they could keep people informed while in meetings or movies and the like.
    slickjim
    • Except that the average user has issues with that concept...

      I don't know how many people I've had to configure DLNA devices for, and most of them still don't get the concept. Yet when I show them AirPlay with my ATV2 and my iPhone, they're like "holy crap, that easy?"
      Champ_Kind
  • I won't say I find this device ludicrous...

    ... but about the only people who are really going to enjoy this thing are the anti-Apple zealots who want to look cool. While I agree having a digital watch that can play music is 'neat' I have trouble feeling comfortable with something that big on my wrist. Besides that, as any real technician knows, you dare not have anything metal or large on your hands or wrists when working around moving components or electrical devices--you could easily lose the appendage if it catches on one of those moving parts or electrocute you if you touch the wrong place. (Sorry, Air Force training talking here.) I much prefer my iPod Nano as a pocket watch and wish they'd do a watch fob type of gadget for it instead.
    Vulpinemac