It’s 1983 and Seiko unleash upon the world a marvel of timepiece technology – the TV-Watch. Innovative at the time – and still freaking awesome now – the TV watch was a great device held back by the limitations of late 20th-century technology: to tune the tv you needed a proprietary aerial cable attached to a reasonable sized box to process the tv signal. Definitely portable but not really practical. The screen itself was LCD with terrible colouring and a horrific contrast ratio, but it was TV on your wrist – how cool is that?!
30 years later and Sony are trying to make similar leaps in technology with their Smart series, notably the Smart Watch. Sadly TV on the go from a puny screen on your wrist is something sadly consigned to the annals of time, for now, but that’s not to say something else isn’t attempting to take its place.
Those of you who follow my blog will know I’m a user of and proud proponent for the Sony Ericsson LiveView. Released late 2010 it’s a nifty little gadet, utilising Bluetooth to deliver SMS, emails, RSS feeds and status updates to the wrist-mounted gadget. I really love mine though for some users it’s an unremitting turd of a device. One review I read back along summed up the device thus:
” The Sony Ericsson LiveView is a watch that doubles as a buggy, near-useless wireless controller for your Android phone.”
Whilst that is one users experience, it’s not a fair representation of the device as a whole. I’ve never had any major problems with mine though I suspect this is largely to a software update delivered later in 2010 and another in early 2011, to counter the turd-like qualites of said device!
Anyhoo, Sony obviously thought the LV had something more to offer and they’ve gone back to the drawing board for a redesign. Ditching the all-black plastic and dodgy velcro strap from the original they’ve opted for something you can wear and properly strap on (ahem).
As a device, it certainly performs better than the LiveView, connecting to the phone is much quicker as is delivery to the device. Sony have dumped the menu bar from the LV and have opted instead for pages of micro-apps and widgets. Also gone are the touchpoints and dual buttons from the LV, with access now being controlled by one button to turn the screen on and a touchscreen with pinces and swipes utilised for moving about. It’s takes a little getting used to as the screen isn’t overly responsive at times, but once you get into it it’s a doddle and usually attracts some curious glances from colleagues and friends. It helps that the watch is quite stylish as well; a little bulky maybe, it’s certainly bigger than the LV, but stylish nonetheless.
The SmartWatch might look good, but looking at it – or more accurately, trying to look at it and read the screen in bright sunlight is nigh-on impossible. For all the navigational improvements, the OLED screen is as dim as it was on the LV and could do with being turned up. A lot.
Another caveat of the SmartWatch is its lack of intelligence. For something with the moniker ‘Smart’ it’s pretty dumb when not connected to a phone. Other devices at least have a reasonable amount of memory and the ability to tell the time independently. The SmartWatch lacks both of these relatively simple features and is useless with a phone to tell it what to do. Until very recently it even lacked the ability to display the time permanently, you know, like a real watch would.
There are some fumbles with this device for sure. Perhaps this years’ redesign will address some of these, correct the balance and bring the device more in line with some of the smarter wrist gadgets out there. It’s not all bad, but for £75 RRP, it could and should be better. Fingers crossed.