BERLIN — Sony is the latest company vying for a spot on your wrist, and it’s banking on voice control to win that coveted real estate.
The Japanese manufacturer launched at the IFA 2014 tech conference in Berlin on Wednesday two new wearables: its third-generation smartwatch, appropriately called SmartWatch 3, and its wristband fitness tracker SmartBand Talk that takes phone calls.
Although it was rumored that the SmartWatch 3 might not run on Android Wear, it is indeed powered by Google’s relatively new smartwatch platform, the company announced. Not only does the device let you take calls, check email and track your fitness activity, it can be controlled with your voice.
This means anything you’d ask Google’s intelligent personal assistant Google Now is fair game for the SmartWatch 3, from details about the weather, directions or making hotel reservations.
Its arrival doesn’t come as a complete surprise. An image of the device popped up on Sony’s Facebook page in a promotion for its original Sony SmartBand, in what’s believed to be an accidental leak.
The SmartWatch 3 — which will cost 229.99 euros but hasn’t received a price in the U.S. yet — comes with a 1.68-inch 320 x 320 display and is available in black. Users will be able to upgrade to a pink or white band for 24.99 EUR more. The design is somewhat different than the two previous iterations of Sony’s smartwatch and more closely resembles the first version of the Samsung Galaxy Gear and Samsung Gear 2 Neo. Features include an accelerometer, compass, GPS, NFC, Bluetooth, Micro USB, 512 MB of RAM, an ambient light sensor and the ability to run for two days on one charge (four days if it’s used sparingly).
The company also unveiled the SmartBand Talk, the follow-up to its existing SmartBand fitness tracker, which launched earlier this year. The new one comes with a display — a curved E Ink display that’s always on — and it lets you field phone calls. It’s optimized for short talks (longer ones will drain the battery), a feature that’s still relatively rare among wristband fitness trackers.
While some trackers sync with smartphones and push notifications to the wristband, it’s unusual for one to actually allow you to pick up calls, but this one can — thanks to its built-in microphone and loudspeaker. It still, of course, tracks your steps, calories and sleep cycle, too.
The new SmartBand runs on Android 4.4 “KitKat.” The price is 159 euros for the SmartBand Talk and an additional 24.99 euros for a two-pair wristband pack.
Both products are a part of a larger effort by both Sony and other manufacturers to capitalize on wearable tech. According to research firm Canalys, annual smartwatch shipments alone are estimated to reach 8 million in 2014; that number is estimated to grow to more 23 million units by 2015 and more than 45 million by 2017.