The Sony E-Paper FES Watch Is The Coolest Piece Of Wearable Tech Yet, Sorry Apple
Alright Apple, move over. Your time in the wearable tech spotlight has expired now that Sony has revealed its new e-paper FES watch. According to a Sony spokesperson, the Japanese tech giant has been experimenting with electronic paper — think what your Kindle is made of — and fashion accessories. The intersection of the two has produced the new FES Watch, which features a wristband made out of e-paper that changes designs depending on its wearer's movements. The watch comes with 24 design patterns, allowing for considerable versatility and wearability, and already seems to be a big hit on crowdfunding site Makuake.
In order to determine the organic popularity of the product, Sony actually kept its involvement with the project secret for months, allowing users to judge for themselves whether or not they liked the watch without Sony's name swaying their judgment in one direction or another. And consumers loved it. Sony's initial benchmark was to raise 2 million yen, or $17,000 in three weeks, but already, eager techies have surpassed this goal, with 150 supporters pledging 3.5 million yen, nearly $30,000.
The watch, though technologically inventive, is not like other smart watches that have already hit the market that boast a bevy of electronic bells and whistles. Instead, the Sony FES watch is more about design and minimalist beauty.
Paper thin and relatively nondescript, the watch attempts to explore new uses of technological hardware as fabric, using things like e-paper and e-ink to make watches. This is a space that seems relatively unexplored, and Sony has already announced its intentions to expand further into the fashion industry. Bow ties, hats, shoe accessories and paper holders are next on their list of what to do with e-paper, and if the FES watch is any indication, they have a very willing marketplace.
The watch itself likely attracts consumers with its chameleon-like qualities, as it changes appearances each time the wearer flicks his or her wrist. While it can't link up to your smartphone or tell you how many calories you've burned or answer your texts for you, the FES watch's back-to-basics approach is not an unstrategic one. As Todd Wasserman of Mashable points out, there are significant drawbacks to to "smart watches" like the Apple Watch or other comparable models that try to do too much in a device that is really just meant to tell time.
The Apple Watch, which will have a starting price of $350, is a hugely expensive piece of wearable tech that doesn't really do much more than pre-existing devices. Wasserman notes, "It's hard to see how my life will be improved by having a stripped-down smartphone on my wrist," and adds that having your phone quite literally strapped to your wrist could only further our unhealthy obsession with being connected. And if you're getting a smart watch to track your workouts, there are cheaper alternatives. So all in all, shouldn't our watches be, I don't know, more like watches? You know, the things that tell us the time?
That, at least, seems to be Sony's approach in their wearable tech mentality. Rather than looking at what else a watch can do, they instead focused on what else a watch can be made of, and have designed a truly differentiable fashion accessory that is as practical as it is pretty. The watch's interface and band changes color and even pattern, sometimes switching things up to look like alligator skin, sometimes to look like metal. And with a battery life of up to 60 days, users won't have to worry about not being able to tell the time because they've forgotten to charge their watch.
Stuart Miles of Pocket-lint calls the device "retro and cool," and also noted,
One of my predictions for next year is that fashion is going to play a huge part in shaping the tech industry. Having a phone that's big and square is one thing, but if we're actually wearing things, it has to look good.
Sony has yet to announce a release date, but backers on the Japanese crowdfunding site have the option to preorder the watches for $167, and expect delivery sometime in May of 2015. Five Sony engineers are behind the entire e-paper project, and are led by Hiroki Totoki, who heads Sony's smartphone business. According to Totoki, "The secret to turn a venture into success is good leadership and hard work," and it seems that both those components are aligning nicely for the FES watch.
Images: Fashion Entertainments; Getty Images