Sony Xperia Ear Hands On

Alex Kidman 24 February 2016

SonyXperiaEar_450

Sony plans to reinvent the Bluetooth headset with the Xperia Ear. Here are our early impressions.

At Mobile World Congress yesterday, Sony chose a more mid-range path for its smartphone launch, revealing the Sony Xperia X series handsets. You can read our impressions of that range here.

It wasn’t all smartphones from Sony, however, with a new range of wearables, most only at the concept stage that are designed to both compliment existing smartphone usage patterns but also pull users somewhat away from their smartphone screens by displaying contextually relevant information relative to each device.

Most of what Sony announced was still at the broad concept stage, but it was demonstrating near-final hardware for the Sony Xperia Ear. I had the opportunity to test out the Xperia Ear on the show floor.

Sony Xperia Ear: First impressions

The Xperia Ear is a relatively light Bluetooth headset, weighing in at just 6 grams. The fit was relatively comfortable for the five or so minutes I had to test it out, although I’m not yet certain that Sony’s assertion that you could (and would want to) keep in all day is true.

XperiaEar_1

Bluetooth headsets are nothing new, and what Sony’s really pitching the Xperia Ear as is as a personal assistant, thanks to the use of its own Voice Engine (or, alternatively Google Now if that’s your thing) for giving you contextually relevant information such as simple Wikipedia searches, Twitter feeds or directional navigation so you don’t have to walk around unfamiliar places looking down at your phone all the time.

The Xperia Ear manages this via the Xperia Ear app. It’s interesting to note that while Sony would undoubtedly prefer that you buy one of its smartphones, I was told that the Xperia Ear app will be made available to other Android users as well.

You can also configure the Xperia Ear to give you specific information when you pop it in or out of your ear at specified points in time. So for example, it could tell you the weather in the morning when you first put it in. I didn’t quite have enough time to test that kind of functionality out, however.

Xperia_Ear2

The Xperia Ear charges in its own carrying case, a trick that Sony’s picked up from other Bluetooth manufacturers along the way. It is at least compact, and should provide you with multiple days of charge, especially if you’re not a heavy talker and leave it on standby most of the time.

Sony Xperia Ear: Hit or miss?

The hardware as it stands -- and Sony’s not releasing the Xperia Ear until at least mid-year -- is reasonable enough, although a noisy show floor is about the worst place to try to fully assess such a device.

A lot of whether the Sony Xperia Ear makes sense will rest with whatever Sony ends up charging for it. It’s a neat refinement on concepts that other Bluetooth headset manufacturers have worked at as well, but there’s a lot of competition in this space. Sony will have to price the Xperia Ear competitively for it to truly stand out.

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