(Photo : Sony)
On Tuesday, June 25, the same day that Sony announced its new 6.4-inch phablet version of the Xperia Z, called the Xperia Z Ultra, Sony also announced new or upgraded NFC accessories, which might make actually using a behemoth phablet more practical: the SmartWatch 2 and the SBH52, a Bluetooth mini handset for music and phone calls.
The SBH52, which is catchy name by the way, actually looks like a good minimum accessory to have if you're going to own and use such a large device as the Xperia Z Ultra. It's basically a wireless phone for your phablet - a tiny handset that enables hands-free calling and listening to music. Or you could hold it up to your ear like a tiny cellphone (though it seems too small to do that comfortably).
The SBH52 has an OLED display that you can view text messages and caller ID alerts on, as well as browse your call log and make calls with. It comes with a headset so you can listen to your tunes, or use the built-in standalone FM radio, and is water resistant, though not as much as the Xperia Z and its variant. It pairs with any NFC-enabled device, but looks to be a great accessory for a phablet. As Sony's video shows, taking a call with this tiny handset in your shirt pocket is much easier than wrangling your Xperia Z Ultra out of a briefcase or purse.
This device is small though, and using it might be awkward to use for any calling that isn't hands-free. Basically, with a phablet and this accessory you have a choice: Do you want to chat on the phone like this:
Or look like this:
If both options don't seem very fashionable, there's always Sony's SmartWatch 2, which the company also unveiled officially today. The "Smart Watch 2 SW2" is both a digital watch and remote NFC accessory for a smartphone. It can also enable hands-free calling with a headset, and it looks great.
The SmartWatch 2 also has a lot more functionality and flexibility, because there are some 200 apps available to customize it with: just a few include camera functionality, a presentation remote, mapping functions, email, fitness tracker, and, of course, music. It's also rated to be as water resistant as the Xperia Z (IP57), meaning it's capable of taking a 1-meter dunk for up to half an hour. It can function as a stand-alone digital watch.
The SmartWatch 2 improves on Sony's previous wearable accessory, offering a bigger 1.6-inch screen with higher resolution up to 220 x 176 pixels. Sony says it has changed the user interface to be more like a touchscreen Android, and therefore will be more instantly familiar to users. Sony extended its compatibility with Android, so it should work with most smartphones. According to SlashGear, Bluetooth connections on previous SmartWatches by Sony were a problem, but Sony says the new incarnation has NFC connectivity for one-touch pairing. Another problem with smartwatches to date has been their short battery life, but Sony, while not being specific, says SmartWatch 2 SW2 has the "longest battery life for a smartwatch."
So the jury is still out until we can get our hands on one and test it out, but be sure to check back with us when we do. One obvious improvement over other previous smartwatches, including Sony's own, is the look. While the SmartWatch 2 has a pretty large screen that may be clunky on some wrists, its aluminum and stainless steel design and swappable wristbands really make it look more like a watch ought to: gorgeous.
No prices have been announced yet, but the SmartWatch 2 is coming in September, and it's a good bet that the SBH52 will be hitting the shelves at the same time as the Xperia Z Ultra sometime in Q3 2013.