David Papp Blog

Sony unveils e-paper watch

Technology plays a role in so many things in our everyday lives that it doesn’t come as a surprise that visionaries and developers are continuously coming up with concepts that make fashion play a larger role in the tech industry. Enter wearable technology. Alright, it’s not a new concept, but experimentation on the use of different materials for gadgets is pretty awesome. Japanese electronics giant Sony’s e-paper watch is definitely worth looking at.

Under an ultra-low-key, spin-off division called Fashion Entertainments, Sony has been developing a new smartwatch made completely out of e-paper. It was originally launched through a crowdfunding campaign, which was used to measure the public’s interest in the venture. As a person involved in the development told the Wall Street Journal, “We hid Sony’s name because we wanted to test the real value of the product, whether there will be demand for our concept.” It was a smart move and the crowdfunding campaign was able to raise money and interest.

Called the FES Watch, Sony’s e-paper watch features a sleek, minimalist design. Because it’s made out of e-paper, users are able to alternate between different styles of strap and watch face design. Definitely cool, but the FES Watch falls short on the functional features offered by other smartwatches. It does have one big advantage, however – unlike most smartwatches its charge is said to last longer than 60 days.

Through Fashion Entertainments, Sony has also been experimenting with other fashion accessories such as shoes, glasses, and even bow ties. It’s a timely move, as gadget guru Pocket-lint believes that fashion is going to play a crucial role in 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.” No doubt about that. The FES Watch is still under development and no release date has yet been provided by Sony though those who participated in the crowdfunding campaign will get their watches in mid-2015.

28 thoughts on “Sony unveils e-paper watch”

  1. This watch looks really cool although I think I prefer my sturdy metal hilfiger watch.
    I guess this “minimalistic” style is kind of just trendy right now and even though I think it looks really good it kind of feels cheap or low-quality somehow. I mean it’s Sony, they make great products but e-paper?

    Anywho, looks like a cool product. I’m sure we’re going to see them on wrists everywhere soon enough. 🙂

    • They do look rather interesting but I don’t know how well they’d accompany some more business/formal attire. They’re subdued enough that you might be able to pull it off, but I think the majority of the wearers are going to be younger people… likely under-30s.

      • I think you’re right, and that’s probably their target demographic.
        I still can’t bring myself to strap on a watch, just don’t need one unless it becomes more functional. This one isn’t it.

  2. Cool. While I most likely won’t pick one up, as I don’t wear watches, this is still a nice concept. Epaper is really taking off in consumer applications. I can’t wait to see what the next use of it is.

    • I wonder what the added benefit is of using e-paper over a conventional LCD screen would be. I assume battery life is something they’re looking for, otherwise they wouldn’t tout the additional battery time, though 60 days is not great if there’s a battery in there.

      60 days would be utterly amazing for a mechanical watch though, as they’ll typically drain within a few days if not worn.

      • My guess (because yes, it is only a guess, so I could be totally wrong) is that they can offer a battery life of 60 full days because this ”smart watch” doesn’t offer as many functions as a conventional smart watch.

        I mean, something always needs to be sacrificed in order to get a bigger benefit, specially when it comes to this kind of products. It’s always like that, like for example that super thin tablet everyone was talking about on here; it is so thin but the camera is crappy.

  3. What on earth is “e-paper”? I would want to know more about this material before deciding to purchase one of these watches. They do look rather cool though. I am not sure whether these smartwatches will go the distance though, they seem to be a bit of a fad.

    • e-paper stands for “electronic paper”. It is a technology that mimics the look of ink on traditional paper.

      Key difference being e-paper reflects light as opposed to backlit displays which emit light.

  4. That looks like a fun product. However, I don’t like the fact that they made a crowdfunding and hid their name to “test the interest of the product”… Which to me just seems like a way to get money from people instead of investing their own funds, and we all know that Sony has a lot of funds. It feels dishonest. I had not seen the crowdfunding project, but if I had invested in it, I would have felt betrayed to realize they did not need my money and were not who I thought they were.

    • That’s actually a very good point – why on earth would Sony need to ask for crowdfunding in relation to this development – let’s face it, they are hardly struggling now are they!

  5. I can’t help but to feel like they’re using this watch as a method to get the e-paper product out on the market for testing to determine how robust it is. By releasing it in a relatively small crowd-funded batch, they can test with a reasonably large sample size in real world conditions to see how well it withstands daily use.

    It’ll establish a good baseline for future product development so they know what works and what doesn’t while minimizing the amount of R&D capital they need to invest since it’s crowd-funded.

  6. I always thought Sony’s offerings in the smartwatch arena had the best design of all. I really can’t tell why, since we’re talking about similar devices – most smartwatches were (and still are) just little plastic rectangular slabs with a screen taking up most of their “space”. And yet, Sony’s looked better from my point of view. And now, this.

    I don’t like “circular” designs in smartwatches (yeah, I may be the only one who WANTS his watches rectangular), so I hated the Moto 360. And yet, this one, following a more minimal style, once again looks better compared to Morotola’s offering.

  7. E-paper sounds like a suitable technology for wearable devices. I imagine that as more players like Sony enter this market, the technology used will progressively get better.

    I appreciate the minimalistic design used here, considering that some of the recent smartwatch releases have been bulky with their conventional screens. Overall, it will be interesting to see what comes out of this project and other experiments they have planned.

  8. Now this caught my interest. E-paper, first time I’ve heard of that concept and this is coming from a guy who’s a early electronics adapter. It seems to me that this is going to be popular mostly amongst younger teenagers because of its feature allowing it to be designed in any way you want it to be. Japan is also known for marketing most of its products towards younger audiences, however I can’t say that I do not want to try this product out myself.

  9. Well, I’m guessing these won’t be diving watches then… I think it’s very interesting, however impractical it may be (at least in my limited-perspective head).

    It just goes to show that people are thinking a bit outside the box and testing different concepts. Who knows whether it will be commercial. But at least it’s something different.

  10. This is an interesting ‘gateway’ sort of idea. I’m not sure what I think of them hiding their identity – not so much from the point of view of it being sneaky, but in the “why bother?” sense; I kind of wonder if they were worried about someone with a similar patent coming forward if it looked like the project developer had deep pockets or something? Crowdfunding to ‘gauge interest’ seems like an odd explanation to me, but I guess they did find out what they were looking for, so what do I know? 😉
    In any case, I think they’re smart to start investigating the link between fashion and tech. It seems obvious that market will be a big driver of demand for things like e-paper and smart textiles.

  11. I forgot when was the last time I saw a digital watch on a real person. This watch is very thin in comparison with the Apple watch. But it does look more trendy and funky with its minimalist designs. The fact that it lasts longer after being charged, up to 60 days, is probably its greatest advantage.

  12. Can someone please explain the reason we need smart watches?

    I get that they’d be good for keeping track of your heart rate and blood pressure, but I just can’t see any other good reasons for them.

    • You can look at smart watches as an innovation to an existing technology. Of course they can do a lot more than just keeping track of heart rate and blood pressure. They can be synchronized to smartphones for added functionality. Some of them let you listen to music, take down notes, browse the internet, make calls, send text messages, etc. They even have anti theft/loss features. It’s wearable technology my friend, some people like em, some don’t.

    • Well, if you like using smartphones, then you will like smart watches 😀 Or at least that’s what they want us to believe. I honestly love my smartphone, but I would never consider getting a smart watch. Reason? They seem so unnecessary and redundant! Because a smartphone can do almost everything a smart watch can…

      I guess the answer to your question would be: because there are things a smart watch can do that the smartphone just can’t. Like fr example know when someone is at the door or when your baby is crying… that is if you have a Samsung one…

  13. I wouldn’t call it a smart watch. Aside from using new material, and a longer battery life compared to other smart watches, what features does it offer? It looks more like an experiment for future smart watches to me. I wonder how much tech you can fit into an “e-paper” watch.

    I’m not a huge fan of minimalist design, but they don’t look terrible.

  14. This is a nice alternative to expensive smart watches. With the smart watch, you get lots of functionality and connectivity to your main device, but value is sacrificed. I imagine that users not willing to turn their watches into media devices will love these e-paper watches; the only thing that I would worry about is Sony overpricing these due to the fact that e-paper is a rather new technology, thus expensive.

  15. I like the look. I also like it’s simplicity, since most watches nowadays have too many high-tech features, such as being able to tell you the weather, write notes on the watch, and I believe I’ve seen a watch that had wifi capabilities. What happened to a watch being used as a simple, quick, and easy way to tell time?
    I hope the watch is cheap, though. It is nice, but definitely not worth anything outrageous like $200.

  16. I was just talking to my husband about what other uses e-paper had apart from my kindle. Watches was one of the things. The only real concern I have over an e-ink (e-paper) watch is the refresh rate. It takes about 2 seconds for a screen to refresh. Sony is going to need to cut that time down to about .3 seconds if they intend to include a second hand on their watch

  17. Huh. Weird idea, but OK. Definitely never going out to get one of them, since I prefer the stiff, heavy-ish sort of watches. Although, this could be a very good alternative for people who aren’t very good at keeping a watch intact for more than a few months if the price is low enough.

  18. This seems like an interesting gadget. Especially when it’s made out of e paper, i never thought about stuff like this. Must commend sony for it’s creativity. I’m sure that mass release of this product will leave the general public in awe.

  19. Heh, to be honest those watches look cool, but I don’t think they’re worth the price. I mean, yeah, they are fancy and all, but you can find similar looking watches for much less! Plus this watch doesn’t seem to have that many functions… so people might be buying it only for the big fuss made about it? The sleek design? Yes, the watch looks pretty, but not that pretty to make me want to burn my money. I love minimalistic designs, by the way.

  20. Very cool concept. I like the idea of being able to change the band and face of the watch. It was a good move on their part to hide the Sony name as well during the crowdfunding process.

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