Is the Sony SmartWatch Dead Along With Android Wear?

Android_Wear_Sony_SmartWatch_3

For better or worse, Samsung has become the bellwether for Android and its insularly offshoots like Android Wear, due to the sheer size of the company and the breadth of products they’re able to release in any given year. As for the other manufacturers, be it Sony, LG, or HTC, even if they stopped producing smartphones tomorrow, it’s highly unlikely that there would be a big impact on Android.

Mark Sullivan writing for Fast Company:

 It was at Google I/O two years ago that Samsung announced its Gear Live smartwatch (now discontinued) running the Android Wear OS. Two years later the collaboration is over. Samsung executives told Fast Company today that no more Samsung Android Wear devices are in development or being planned. 

So where does this leave the other companies producing Android Wear devices like Sony? In short, not in a good place.

In many ways, Google is a lot like Samsung – a company that lacks focus at times and throws everything it can against the wall in hopes of something sticking. Sure there plenty of brilliant services but who remembersGoogle_Nexus_Q

  • Buzz
  • Wave
  • Google+
  • Glasses
  • Nexus Q

And soon to this list, we might be adding Android Wear as it seems that not even Google’s long time partner, Samsung, is able to get any traction. Ask yourself this – when was the last time outside of a tech environment that you saw somebody with an Android Wear device? Perhaps while you were out shopping or dining at a nice restaurant? Better yet, when was the last time any of the big Android makers, including Sony announced a new iteration of their wearables?

In Sony’s case, the SmartWatch hasn’t been updated in two years and there are no signs of a new one on the horizon. Perhaps we might get one come CES 2017 but I’m skeptical at best. So why is it that Android Wear is struggling while Apple is seemingly chugging a long with the Apple Watch?

But you might say Sohrab, you’re crazy. Apple is equally struggling with their watch endeavor. To that, I say: Context. While this article isn’t about Apple vs. Google or Android Wear vs. Apple Watch, one thing that I’m keen on doing with my writing is putting things into context which gets missed a lot when it comes to reporting. For example, the likelihood is that when Apple Watch comes to mind, for many, the easy narrative is that it hasn’t been the success Apple had wanted but that when Tesla comes into the fold, it’s all about the success Elon Musk has had with his electric cars. Context, my friends.

Yes, a device that requires an iPhone to even work is doing more business than cars that sell for around $100k. Though Apple hasn’t released any official numbers for the Watch, most estimates place it somewhere north of 12 million units so far. For 2016, Sony is expected to ship a total of 20 million phones.

But as I said, this isn’t a story about one platform versus another per se. It’s about why Android Wear may be dead or perhaps slowing down considerably where Apple Watch continues to chug. You see there is a big difference between something like a computer or even a phone than a watch. As somebody who has always loved watches, I can tell you that I’m quite particular about what I wear where the other two products have matured to a point that we all know what they are and how they feel/function. Because of that, many of us wouldn’t hesitate to order a laptop or a phone online. A watch? Not so much.

Every year, during our annual pilgrimage to CES in Las Vegas, one thing that I do is humor myself and go to a Rolex store to see if there is anything I like and the answer continues to be no. In fact one thing I’ve always told my family is to never buy me a wallet or a watch. That’s because I can’t tell you what it is that I like or dislike about either product but I can tell you that in order for it to win me over, I need to see it, feel it, and play with it.

A watch, be it smart or ‘dumb’ is exactly the same way. It’s as functional as it is fashionable. Sure it can unlock my house door, help pay at Whole Foods, and track my fitness, but it also needs to look good on me when I go out on a date. A big part about the watch buying experience is that emotional connection to the unit at hand and that’s where Apple has a huge advantage over its rivals. Thanks to their now nearly 500 retail stores world wide, Apple is able to get people to come in and try on their different watches before ever purchasing them. Alongside the initial hands on experience, another brilliance of Apple Watch are the bands.

Apple_Watch_HermesAs I stated, Apple Watch is as functional as it fashionable. My Apple Watch has been there with me during every workout I’ve had this past year as well as every important milestone, including my wedding but you’d be hard pressed to say it’s the same watch, thanks to the countless watchbands I have. Each band, which can be swapped out in seconds, has the ability to completely transform what I’m wearing. From a blue Sport Band for that sweaty workout to my Space Black Stainless Steel Link Bracelet during the big day to give me the classic chic look.

For a company like Sony who struggles to get products into people’s hands, selling a watch is a nearly impossible endeavor. Sure the Sony fans like you and I are enticed to buy or the technophiles who did their grid research, comparing 3 different Android Wear devices to see which specs best meets their needs, might opt for the SmartWatch 3, but everybody else will likely not even know they exist. And the story is no better for LG or Motorola with Samsung only having a slight advantage compared.

With Samsung signaling that they’re done with Android Wear and no new devices or even leaks coming from Sony and the other initial partners, it’s hard not to be grim about Android Wear’s future. But platform aside, even if Android Wear was thriving for say Samsung, I still think it best that perhaps there shouldn’t be a SmartWatch 4 from Sony. It’s not that I wouldn’t want one or don’t think they can bring meaningful innovations, but that unless Sony is able to commit to having them properly displayed and experienced in retail across the world with a magnitude of different bands (Apple for example has refreshed their band line up nearly every season with an array of new offerings), I’m not sure there is much of a future for the SmartWatch.

There is a reason most people don’t buy jewelry or even cars online – a big part of it is the exhilaration of the ring on one’s fingers or the feel of a leather sport steering wheel in one’s hands that needs to be experienced. If Sony and the other Android Wear partners can’t replicate that on a scale that reaches outside of the tech crowd and targets the average consumer who makeup a much bigger bulk of purchases than techies like you and I, can there be a future for Android Wear to have broad success?

Discuss:

Do you think we’ll see a Sony SmartWatch 4? Are you optimistic about Android Wear’s future?

  • RbbrDcky

    But seriously, where can I get a stainless steel band for my smartwatch 3??

  • Well and so that’s part of the same story right? For even people who are aware of the SmartWatch 3 and want announced accessories for it, Sony is unable to come through, so there seems little chance they have what it takes to satisfy a greater market.

  • RbbrDcky

    There’s has to be a box of them just sitting in someone’s office somewhere! I just need ONE!!

  • Talos the Robot

    Hopefully we will see a Sony SmartWatch 4 with HR sensor in September. But i still remember last year when Kaz Hirai presented the WENA watch and we still haven’t seen it in stores yet. And also not any new tablet after 1,5 year. I see that the smartwatch and tablet market has declined last years for android but not for apple or microsoft.

  • Sony’s tablet ambitions are most certainly dead. At last check, I think tablet sales accounted for around 2% of their mobile efforts. In general, tablet has done poorly for Android because Google has never really focused on it. A majority of Android tablet apps are just phone apps stretched.

    The other problem that arose is that prior to iPad launching and around the same time, a lot of tablets were priced way above what Apple launched at. Then Android tablets swung the other and with a race towards the bottom, we’re left with $150 units. With that price tag, there is little room for innovation so we get devices like the Amazon Fire Tablet which is really just designed to shop at Amazon and consume media.

  • Khaled

    I am currently using the Moto 360 2nd gen, I prefer it over SW3. IMO the SW3 is the ugliest SmartWatch on the market! I mostly use the watch for reading text messages and answering phone calls.

    I used to miss a lot of phone calls before I started using an android wear or SmartWatch in general but having the watch vibrate on my wrist makes a different. Other than that I think they are nice looking accessories with OK functionality

  • steve99 jobs99
  • steve99 jobs99

    May I ask where do you get your information from? Your way off the mark on this one.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/01aeaa8574f99435120ff2bab176e926d177f15b99b874ffbcc14b5491717ef1.png

  • For Sony specifically and keep in mind, this data is a year old and mobile sales have only dipped – http://www.sonyrumors.net/2015/06/03/sony-mobile-smartphones-make-up-bulk-sales-tablets-wearables-small-portion/

    As for Android, the big reason that you can see rises in sales, even if it’s Android Wear is that new vendors come into play and might flood the market with a cheap product for a while before their sales also plateau. For example, a majority of the ‘sales increase’ in a given article like that tend to be from $50-200 tablets which frankly are barely functioning devices and an area that Apple doesn’t compete in.

    To put it in another way, it’s like comparing the over all market share of iOS vs Android or comparing the market share of the two platforms when you only consider the premium segment. You’ll get wildly different results.

  • Ana Helušić

    I’m happy with my Sony sw2 stainless steel, it looks way better than sw3

  • Samsung wants tizen to replace android on everything samsung makes. I see them releasing a premium phone flagship alternative in a year or two. They can afford going tizen with wearables, appliances, TVs and IoF NOW, and they don’t hesitate. At this stage google needs samsung more than samsung needs google. For sony – there is no other option but google, and it does not matter if we’re talking about TVs or anything else. Do I see sony wearable going the way of sony tablets, sony retail stores, and sony TVs (in a few years) – I do and it’s a good thing for the company.

  • mixedfish

    “One is a flop the other an unstoppable success.”

    That is a dumb comparison. I’m not sure how you can compare a product released at a price obtainable by most middle-class consumers and by a trusted company no-less; to another product released at not quite mainstream prices, with major hurdles to daily usability and by a company that hasn’t quite proven itself yet.

    “Expectation”. Expectation is the word you should be using instead of context, and it’s the insatiable demand of the tech market that expects Apple, the market leader, to produce miracle products with matching sales figures. Unlike Tesla where many do not have expectations for it to be selling at mainstream volumes.

  • Michaux-O

    The SW3 is long in the tooth, and you might be right that Sony has abandoned the SW4, at least as an Android Wear product, but they are still supporting the SW3 with updates, and the Lifelog software continues to be updated and improved. I don’t see them abandoning the wearable market entirely, especially with their renewed focus on IoT products. The Xperia Ear is due to be released at the end of summer last time I checked.

    I avoided the SW3 because it is, frankly, kind of ugly. The SW2 was the best looking smartwatch Sony has made. It was innovative and cutting edge (at the time), and you could find the SW2 in big box retailers like Best Buy. It also ran on custom software, which still works well. The same can be said for Sony’s Smartband line. It’s been a year since they introduced the refreshed Smartband 2 with heart rate sensor, and even longer since they released the Smartband Talk. I wear the Smartband Talk: SWR30 every day, and have for over a year. I have five different swappable bands of various colors for it, and have downloaded a number of useful software applications that work well with my Xperia devices. It is a decent fitness tracking device. I love the e-paper display, instant notifications, and use it to take voice memos. I don’t often handle calls with it, but it can do that too. In my experience, it is the perfect type of smartwatch for me.

    I’ve been waiting for a Smartband Talk 2. I figure it will look something like Samsung’s recently released Gearfit 2. Hoping to see it at IFA in September. We’ll see. I would also entertain a SW4 if the design was more to my taste. Sony could continue to hone its own custom software for products like SW4 or SWR30.2 and not need to rely on Android Wear.

    If Sony does abandon this market, I’d be tempted to go with Garmin or possibly Withings. You couldn’t pay me to sport an Apple Watch, but, as you say, watches are very personal objects.

  • Andys42

    Sony had a GREAT thing with the Smartwatch 2, which had their own interface. I really liked the smartwatch 2, it did what it said on the tin, it worked.
    This all went to hell when they brought out the (not so)smartwatch 3 with android wear. I had the smartwatch 3 for 2 weeks before returning it for a refund. It was completely crap. The software was useless and buggy, even simple things like reading texts took multiple selections to find. Most of the software I used with the Xperia, including hangouts (a google app) did not work!
    Androidwear basically killed the smartwatch for non-Apple lovers.
    If Sony did a smartwatch 4 with THEIR OWN OS that resembled the one from the smartwatch 2 then I may consider it again, but until then I will stick with my trusty Brietling like most techies.
    Andy

  • deasys

    It just goes to show how irrational the treatment of both companies is, “expectations” be damned…

  • It’s really all about mind share. Two very different in a way but at the end of the day, both are from tech companies that are enjoying success in their own ways yet the public sentiment about one product (Tesla) is wildly different than the other (Apple Watch).

  • The problem now for Sony and all other smartwatch makers who wish to run Android Wear is that they cannot touch the UI. That’s all up to Google. At the same time, IF Sony were to introduce their own small OS, purely for watches, they’re completely locked out of all the notifications from the system and must instead work with each app maker to get info from them. Much in the way Pebble must on iOS since they don’t have access to the system level API’s. For Sony who has struggled with these types of partnerships and software side solutions, this would be a terrible road to go down.

  • I can’t help but think the Xperia Ear is going to be a terrible product. Bluetooth headsets were the rage 10 years ago and I’m not sure the world is willing to swing back to that. But beyond that, the problem Sony faces, even if the Xperia Ear is killer or they introduce a fantastic SW4 is their inability to get products out.

    They are terrible with retail support, global rollouts, marketing, etc. Sony Electronics has had no shortage of wonderful products that have had little impact on their bottom line or the over all consumer landscape, purely due to them being unable to release them in a meaningful way.

  • Andys42

    I am not suggesting Sony introduce an OS, they already had a brilliant one. Unless Sony go back to their custom OS and really intuitive UI, they would just as well give in.
    I dont think we will see a SW4, I cannot see how it would be viable with so few sales. Android wear effectively destroyed the whole idea of smart watches for most of the people I know that had them. It went from a simple one touch interface to a screwball hide what you were looking for on some sub menu interface. If anything Google should licence the Sony SW2 interface and use this to replace android (no longer) wear.
    If you want to see how a smart watch should be done properly, look at the Breitling B55.
    Andy

  • Agreed. I’m familiar-ish with the B55 but will look more into it. I almost wonder if Sony has the right idea with their WENA models. It’s ‘semi-smart’ and perhaps for a lot of people, that’s the future. Some simple notifications, payment system, and health stuff – that’s it.

  • Yep

  • apsley

    It’s all about fragmentation. Android is open source and as a result has become very fragmented, so Google made Android Wear closed source to stop the fragmentation, but they have by doing that also alienated the OEMs because they can’t customize the AW OS. Result: the death of AW. The other problem is that the whole thing was half assed: the Snapdragon 400, the CPU used in most AW watches today, is the CPU used in phones, and the first iteration of the AW OS is just a dumbed down version of the Android OS. Qualcomm has come out with the Snapdragon 2100 which is specifically designed for AW and Google is coming out with a new version of the AW OS which is more suited to watches, but it all may be too late.

  • Anthony Dunk

    I disagree. I have a Sony Smartwatch 3 and think it is very close to smart watch perfection. So close in fact that it is probably why Sony has not seen the need to release a smartwatch 4.

    The early versions of Android Wear were not great, but Google has made some impressive changes and it is now really good. Maybe you need to take another look at this OS ?

    For me personally, I would never consider buying a smart watch with an OS written just for it, like the Samsung Gear. I want to experience the full range of apps available, and only a more widely used smart watch OS like Android Wear or the Apple Watch OS could offer that.

  • Anthony Dunk

    You can get them on eBay, but they cost almost the same as a full Sony Smartwatch 3 ! If you want a different sort of band, you can also buy a smartwatch holder for about $30 to $40 and put any 24mm band you want on it, so that’s a cheaper option. I did that recently.