Ina Fried

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Sony Thinks It’s Time for Another Android Watch

Sony is giving its Dick Tracy impersonation another try.

On Thursday, the Japanese electronics giant is announcing the SmartWatch, its second souped-up timepiece. Like its predecessor, the new wrist accessory is designed as a companion to a phone rather than a standalone product.

When paired with an Android phone (from Sony or another maker), the phone lets users read their email and texts, check the weather, and decide whether to pick up the phone when they see who is calling. The newest incarnation adds the latest version of Bluetooth, an OLED screen with multitouch capability, and support for mini-application widgets.

The SmartWatch has a number of features, but nearly all depend on a strong connection to a nearby phone. Remove the phone or its Internet connection and you basically have an expensive digital watch. Sony says that relying on the phone allows it to offer a useful device and still sell it for $150.

Even when it is paired with a phone, though, there are some real limits to what the SmartWatch can do. It can do things like display email, control the phone’s music player or act as a remote for the phone’s camera. But any time you want to enter any information, or even view an attachment, you will be forced to pull out that phone.

Sony U.S. marketing manager Stephen Sneeden defends the product, noting that it already works with 30 applications, and there are more to come.

“Because all of the apps are resident on the phone, it remains to be defined all of the things that it can do,” he said. An open kit allows any Android developer to build an extension for the watch. “It can handle much more than is currently available.”

Having a product fully tied to the watch makes sense, he said, noting that most people have their phone with them at all times, and that such devices pack a strong processor, plenty of storage and a connection to the Internet.

“If somebody is thinking of using a device without their phone, this is not the product for them,” he said.

Sony plans to start selling the device in the U.S. online and in its own retail stores, with other countries and outlets to be announced later.

Sony isn’t the first to try to crack the intelligent watch category. There are a number of current competitors, including Motorola’s Motoactv and WIMM’s WIMM One. There’s even this cool-looking Kickstarter project.

Before them, Microsoft had its SPOT (Smart Personal Object Technology) watches, and Fossil had a go at a Palm OS watch, though both were pretty big flops.

Even Apple’s iPod nano has become a timepiece of sorts. Although it doesn’t come with a watchband, such accessories became a popular add-on. Now the device ships with several watch-face options.

(Image courtesy of rook76 / Shutterstock.com)


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