Talking tech since 2003

Making good on its Twitter hints from a few days ago, at the Mobile Asia Expo today Sony unveiled the latest installment in its line of smartwatches—the aptly (and obviously) named SmartWatch 2. This, of course, is a sequel to its first SmartWatch from last year, and keeps with Sony’s habit of sticking a number on the end of its successive versions of devices. As unimaginative as SmartWatch 2 (and PlayStations 2, 3, and 4) may be, it beats the heck out of Microsoft’s numbering system (Xbox to Xbox 360, to Xbox One…and let’s not even start with Windows).

Anyway, despite the Twitter-based fanfare leading up to the announcement, it seems that the SmartWatch 2 isn’t much more than a marginal improvement over the functions of its first SmartWatch. A less-than-enthusiastic post on Gigaom explains the new device’s abilities pretty well, but in essence, it’s a wrist-based second-screen device that syncs with your Android phone. With it, you can access many of the functions of your phone without having to reach into your pocket, letting you manage your music player, send texts and emails, and, well, probably just about everything else you can fit on the smaller screen. It also tells time and lights up.

As cool as the smartwatch category can be for folks attached to having timepieces on their wrists, Sony’s new device doesn’t seem like the killer piece of hardware I’d like to see. That said, that doesn’t mean the company won’t come up with something truly amazing somewhere down the road. In the meantime, there seem to be other, more nimble competitors out there who might start to innovate and jumpstart the category in ways Sony hasn’t even yet imagined.

xperia-z-ultraMeanwhile, the SmartWatch 2 wasn’t the only device Sony unveiled at the MAE. According to a post on Techcrunch, we’ve got a new phablet to look forward to: the 6.4-inch-screened Xperia Z Ultra. Once we get past the awful category name (which is a portmanteau of “phone” and “tablet”), we’re left with a gigantic device that, in my opinion, will probably not manage to catch on in the long run.

Why? Because we’ve already got a category of 7-inch tablets that has only a slightly good reason to exist alongside their larger 10-inch brethren. A 7-inch tablet is more affordable and more portable than a full-sized tablet, but in the end, they generally accomplish the same goals.

The nearly 7-inch phablet (ugh) will give users the added bonus of a built-in phone and 4G data network access. But Sony’s simultaneous reveal of the SmartWatch 2 would seem to suggest that the company feels like reaching into your pocket to use your phone is already a burden. Was the Xperia Z Ultra given a gigantic screen in order to justify releasing a companion (and ultimately redundant) device with a teeny tiny screen?

In fact, this is how I imagine the pitch meeting for these two devices going down:

Sony Executive One: Our new phablet is HUGE! It’s basically a tablet that is just small enough to squeeze into your pocket.

Sony Executive Two: But won’t consumers balk at carrying something they can barely fit into their pants? Won’t their difficulty at taking it out and putting it away make them not want to use it?

Sony Executive One: Don’t worry—we’ve got that covered. That’s why we’re releasing SmartWatch 2! It’s small and fits on your wrist, so you’ll never have to take the phablet out!

Sony Executive Two: Amazing—you’ve created two new products that do the job of one product we’ve already been selling for years! Brilliant!

The Sony Xperia Z Ultra is set to launch later this year, while the SmartWatch 2 is slated for September. Three guesses as to whether I’m planning on buying them.

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