Sony and former partner Ericsson caught my eye on the first day of the Mobile World Congress 2012.
I arrived early afternoon and immediately bumped into an old colleague from Informa, who mentioned new Xperia handsets from the Japanese vendor, and he hit the nail on the head. Not only did the firm announce a raft of new Xperia smartphones, but it also promised the first truly wearable devices in roughly a decade.
In short, Sony plans to launch Bluetooth-enabled wrist watches that interact with its new smartphones. The touch-screen products offer access to schedules, popular social networking apps, and even your music catalogue – albeit via the handset’s earphones – and look set to finally deliver on the promise of wearable technology, many, many years after it was first spoken of.
The new phones are also impressive, offering a unique twist on the smartphone format with an innovation so simple it is brilliant. A double-edged handset. You can access the basic functions with the handset face-down, and the menu-strip also displays different colors depending on who’s calling.
Ok, so the basic form factor is identical to the crowd in terms of what we expect from a modern smartphone – a rectangle with a touch screen - but I’ll give credit where it’s due with regard to pushing the design boundaries and trying something different.
Nokia Siemens also tried something different – prohibiting access to its stand. At a time when equipment vendors face a slowdown in their market, and following a necessary cash injection by the parent companies in the final few months of 2011, this seems like madness on the part of the firm. I was told access was by invitation only, and frankly trying to argue to gain such an invite wasn’t worth the effort.
Instead I occupied myself by browsing Ericsson’s stand. I say stand, but their set-up is closer to an entire hall dedicated to the firm’s vision of the future, which includes one of the first fully electric Volvo motor car – a C30 – and a host of machine-to-machine technologies. The difference to NSN is night and day in terms of the welcome to the stand, and information available – all without an invitation.
What else caught my eye about the 2012 event? The lack of empty stands. A whirlwind tour of the halls showed the place is bustling with people, and pretty much all of the stands are busy.
All I’m waiting for now is a time machine to fast-forward me to the point where Sony’s new watches allow me to summon a black Trans-Am with a red strip across the front. It might seem far-fetched, but all the predictions are that such machine-to-machine communication is definitely on the horizon – even if it is just turning your car on before you leave the house.