It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what Sony plans to announce at next week’s Mobile Asia Expo in Shanghai. All you have to do is look at the company’s Sony Xperia Twitter feed. Based on these two tweets, an updated or — more likely — a new smartwatch will be introduced, marking the company’s third attempt in this wearable market.
Here’s the evidence for you to piece the “puzzle” together:
Perhaps the third time’s a charm?
Clearly, Sony’s got a plan for a new smartwatch. And it should. In 2010 and again in 2012, Sony brought this very product-type to market and although it might have been ahead of its time, it wasn’t a device for the masses. I say that after buying my own Sony Live View watch and testing it in 2011. Even at the 50 percent discounted price for a used model — the device sold new for $150 — it ended up in my desk drawer within days.
I’m hoping Sony has addressed the biggest problem I had back then: Connectivity. That’s a key aspect of any wearable gadget that acts as a second screen to a smartphone. If the watch can’t hold its wireless connection to the phone — and the Live View I used was terrible with this — you won’t get notifications, caller ID information, weather or other data from the smartphone. My guess is that Sony will be using a newer Bluetooth standard, such as Bluetooth 4.0, for its new smartwatch.
Does a smartwatch require a phone? Nope.
Of course, that assumes the new product actually requires a phone. It’s possible for a smartwatch to work just fine without one, for certain functions at least. The Motorola MotoACTV smartwatch that I bought in 2012 and still use today is a perfect example.
Inside is not only a Bluetooth radio, but also Wi-Fi and GPS radios as well. This allows the watch to sync data to and from the web without any smartphone interaction. And I can use it without a phone as a GPS on the golf course (complete with club recommendations!) or as an exercise tracker when running or biking. For phone-centric data — incoming calls or texts, for example — a phone connection is still required.
What to expect
So what do I expect next week? I’m sure Sony will have finally nailed down the connectivity challenges that a watch that acts as a second screen for a phone has faced. And the device will very likely work with Android phones, just like its predecessors. That opens the door for developers to create lighter versions of their Android phone apps; after all, you won’t be able to do much with a small screen.
What I’d really like to see, however, is the standalone type of wearable like my current watch. There are times when wearing a watch shouldn’t require carrying a phone, such as while exercising. It’s fine for a smartwatch to use a phone’s persistent web connection but with today’s technology, it shouldn’t be a stretch for a smartwatch to work on its own as well.