LAS VEGAS — Intelligent watches were a theme at this year’s CES, with startups like WIMM and I’m Watch touting their products while established players like Motorola carved out their pieces of the action. Sony was a big part of this mobile movement, showing off its upcoming SmartWatch, a wrist companion that tethers to any Android phone to provide caller ID info, social media updates, media playback, email and even weather. Available with soft rubber wrist bands in your choice of six colors, the watch will even be able to run custom apps, but only shows the time functionality when not connected to a handset.
Expected to retail for around $149, the SmartWatch will be significantly cheaper than competitors like the I’m Watch ($300 and up) and the WIMM One ($299 in developer build). However, for that price, these other watches can perform a number of functions while not connected to a phone, with the I’m Watch able to play music and view photos untethered and the WIMM One able to perform nearly all its functions over Wi-Fi.
At its booth, Sony showed us how the SmartWatch provides many of the key features of your Android phone, even while that handset remains in your pocket. A rep showed us the device’s Facebook app, which allows you to scroll through your feeds and updates with a swipe. You can return from any app to the home screen simply by tapping two keys on the display.
We also saw the watch play a song that was actually located on its tethered smartphone. The device lacks a speaker or 3.5mm jack so you’ll need a Bluetooth headset to hear the tunes. The rep showed us how the watch can make the phone ring so you can find a lost handset.
She also explained that the device can show the entire text of your email messages, which is a huge improvement over the I’m Watch, which only shows the sender and subject line of messages, and the WIMM One, which doesn’t have any email apps yet. Though you can’t reply to emails from the watch itself, seeing your messages can help you decide whether or not to whip out your phone. The rep showed us how, when the device displays SMS messages, you can reply from the watch with a canned message (ex: “I’m busy now.”).
Like the I’m Watch, the SmartWatch’s color screen turns off when not in use, forcing you to hit the side button to even see the time. We like the Sony SmartWatch’s relatively low-price and powerful mix of apps, but we wish it could do more when disconnected from a phone. We look forward to putting this device though its paces when it comes out in late Q1 or early Q2 of this year.