Another sign Sony was smart to exit wearables early

Sony_SmartWathc_3_Runner

Many Sony fans, including yours truly, thought Sony was uniquely positioned to create a smartwatch unlike others. While any device running Android Wear is mostly tied to an identical OS experience, making differentiating one from another in that aspect near impossible, hardware and design is open season.

This meant that Sony could design their hardware, the aesthetics, and the bands however way they saw fit which played into the company’s strength. Even with a stellar product, there still would have been numerous obstacles standing in front of Sony and any form of large market success, but the seeds for it were there. Unfortunately this vision never came to be with Sony quietly ceasing any development of future wearables that fell under SmartWatch and SmartBand as well as SmartTalk products.

In the past 8 months, we’ve seen numerous Android Wear partners announce their withdrawal from the alliance that was poised to give consumers all kinds of options and features but as the data shows, consumers simply haven’t cared. Steven Waltzer from Strategy Analytics:

 Global smartwatch shipments at 6.2 million units in Q1 2017 were up 48% YoY.  Apple’s watchOS maintained the top spot with 57% market share.  Tizen with 19% share took second place from Android Wear this quarter for the first time since Q4 2015.  Android Wear vendors together accounted 18% share and took the #3 rank. Our report tracks global smartwatch shipments and share for leading vendors by quarter from 2013 to Q1 2017. 

For those playing at home, Tizen is an OS created by Samsung which powers their TVs, wearables, and other various gadgets like fridges.

Unlike other Android Wear partners, Sony has never formally announced a withdrawal from creating wearables powered by Google’s OS. Instead, they just haven’t updated their lineup or even had it on display at CES in over two years.

As a daily user of wearables, I can’t imagine not wearing one but it’s clear that no device running Android Wear has been able to gain any mass market traction. What’s unclear is if it’s due a lack of consumer interest towards the OS, which wasn’t all that refined when launched, or if hardware partners were over-relying on Google to be able to push the platform forward. An alternative could be a combination of those with terrible hardware which in my experience has been most watches running Android Wear – bulky.

Whatever the reason, Sony clearly saw the writing on the wall before others did and instead of dumping money in a product category with little to no traction, they simply moved on to other things like their FES Watch U – a sexy product the could use a bit of help from the marketing team with its name.

Why do you think consumers aren’t latching on to Android Wear, and do you think Sony should have stuck it out? Or were they smart to move on from the category?

  • Michaux-O

    I don’t believe Sony has abandoned the wearable market. The evidence: Lifelog. The Lifelog app is easily the nicest piece of software the Sony Mobile team has ever developed. It has received several important updates in 2017, as recently as late last week when they added a weight monitoring feature (and inexplicably removed the useful widget). I don’t know why they’d continue to work on the app so earnestly if they didn’t have some plan moving forward.

    I love my Smartband Talk. It does about everything I want a smartwatch to do: notifications, fitness tracking, voice notation, call handling, music controls, sleep tracking…and I like the look of it, especially with the blue/red band combo. I’ve been sporting it every day for the last two years, but the battery is starting to finally go (4 days between charges when new, to a single day now). I’d love to see a refresh of the Smartband line hardware. Sony was wise to back away from Android Wear, if indeed they have. I also own the Smartwatch 3, but use it infrequently only for the occasional jog or bike ride.

    A watch with the Fes U design married to the Smartband Talk functionality would be sweet. In any event, Lifelog is a super platform. It has a much nicer interface than Google Fit, Garmin, Fitbit, Crapple Health, or any other fitness app I’ve seen.

  • The app looks very different than other Sony apps right? That’s because it’s not developed in house. As far as it goes, the fact that we haven’t seen new hardware from them in 2+ years tells you where their traditional wearable lineup is. Make no mistake, they are done with it. Their focus is now entirely to see if they can get the FES line and Wena to see if they can get any traction but it’s obviously very small and gradual efforts on their part.

  • But in general, I agree – it’s a very nice and colorful app.

  • Talos the Robot
  • Khaled

    I’m getting Huawei watch 2 classic next week. I think having a watch that looks classy on your wrist that also updates you on important notifications is very useful since these new phones and getting bigger and bigger!

    Having me pulling my phone put of my pocket every time I wanna read or answer a phone call is pain in the ass. Specially if your work environment doesn’t allow you do so frequently.

    Is it a necessity? Of course not! but its not a gimmick in my opinion. Its good that Sony didn’t make Smartwatch 4, cause SW3 design looks plain ugly, immediately lost interest