By Barry Levine / CIO Today. Updated April 12, 2012.
Why can't your phone live on your wrist, like comic book detective Dick Tracy? A new Android-based wristwatch from Sony features e-mail, texting, Facebook and Twitter updates, and even a vibrating alert with notification when there's an incoming call.
Called, appropriately, the SmartWatch, the device connects to Android smartphones via Bluetooth, and is essentially a wearable remote control and display for your phone -- or, as Sony calls it, "a remote information center."
There's an App
The SmartWatch's touchscreen is a 1.3-inch OLED display, and the device works with most Android 2.1 and above smartphones.
Like an Android smartphone, a user can interact with the watch through a tap, touch, or finger swipe on the display. You can check your vibrating wrist to see who's calling, instead of having to take the phone out of a pocket or bag to check. A user can also access and control the music on a smartphone from the wrist device.
Apps for the watch are available through the Google Play online store, offering such functionalities as social updates, workouts and music.
There are apps for displaying scheduled events in chronological order, and for messaging, Gmail, Calendar notifications, finding your smartphone, and battery strength. For Sony and Sony Ericsson Android phones, there's an app to connect into corporate e-mail, and, of course, one with a variety of call handling functions.
Sony has plans to extend the reach of the smartphones beyond the SmartWatch. Paul Hamnett, head of the customer unit for Sony Mobile Communications in North America, said in a statement that SmartWatch is only the first of many Smart Extras from Sony that will "seamlessly connect and expand the smartphone's reach and user experience."
At the moment, though, other Smart Extras from Sony currently include only such modest add-ons as functional buttons on smartphone headsets or a "smart dock" for your phone.
'Break Free' from Single Screens
SmartWatch, which is intended to allow users to "break free from the single screen experience," retails for $149.99, and it's dust proof, splash proof, and comes with a black rubber wristband. The band is also offered in four other colors. There's also a clip that mounts on the back of the watch, so a user can remove the watch from the wristband, attach the clip, and wear the watch on clothing or a belt.
Battery life is estimated at three to four days for typical usage before recharging.
SmartWatch is not the only wrist-based smartphone extension. The makers of the Pebble watch, which connects to iPhone and Android smartphones over Bluetooth, recently raised more than a $1 million in 28 hours on crowdsourced funding site KickStarter.com.
Pebble emphasizes its status as a new kind of platform for apps. An app for cyclists allows Pebble to access GPS on the phone and show speed, distance, and pace data on a bike, and there's a similar app for runners.
For golfers, a Pebble app allows a player to view current distance to the green on the wrist. Other apps include alerts for when your bus is showing up, and there's an SDK for developers to create their own applications.
Pebble's prices run from $99 to $125. Some observers have suggested that, since a smartphone is also required, smart wrist watches may not take off as extensions to another electronic device until their price drops considerably.