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Review of Bluetooth watch Sony Ericsson MBW-150

Sales package (expected):

  • Watch
  • Charger
  • Watch adaptor
  • Wooden or plastic box
  • Certificate with unique number

Not long ago Sony Ericsson announced its new watch model, the MBW-150. The rumors that the company was to release a great number of models in one place didnt prove true, we got only one gadget in different getups, and it seems, adjusted to different SE-branded line-ups. Each modification has its own name, such as Classic Edition (leather band and black-and-white face), Executive Edition (steel band, black-and-white face), Music Edition (rubber band and black-white-orange face). All models have identical casings, compared to the MBW-100 its dimensions and weight have become more comfortable (i.e. they have been diminished a bit). The design has also undergone some changes, the front fascia has acquired rounded lines instead of that old barrel-esque shape, and in principle the MBW-150 is more eye-catching than its predecessor, although so far I have met only the Music edition in person, which is being reviewed today.

For starters, I would like to go back to the companys first watch, model MBW-100. If you have read the review you should remember that Eldar mentioned the chance of seeing similar accessory with a built in GPS-receiver. It is quite possible the company actually had such plans and prototypes might have existed. But its good to know that Sony Ericsson must have decided to shut down the programme, so GPS-receivers will be built right into the handsets, or such functionality will be provided by some quirky accessories, like the HGE-100, which is a headset a review on this one should be coming out over here pretty soon.. By the way, it is quite likely, that running it through our tests will be senseless, until a bunch of handsets with corresponding maps burned into the firmware arrives. Yes, the things actually stand this way, the company officials speak of pre-installed GPS-abilities, and the set of maps varying by region. And some more news almost all devices except low-end solutions will come in armed with such capabilities. You wont have to pair a phone with a handset to get them work together, the receiver is powered via cable, meaning that you just link up that accessory with your mobile phone and it works quite elegant and innovative solution the market has never seen before. The company seems to have failed in sorting out the GPS-mode power consumption issue for watches, so they decided to go some other ways with them.

Incidentally, which ways? I, as an active user of the MBW-100, can tell you how useful this gadget is in my day-to-day routine. So, pay attention.

  • With its display you can check out whos calling you (caller name or number depending on whether you have such contact, no matter what the language is), if you do not want to talk, you can reject it. This thing comes in handy during rush hours while in the underground, where it is next to impossible to get the phone out of pocket. The MBW-150 brings nothing new in the way this feature is implemented.
  • The watch also notifies you about incoming messages, which is also handy in noisy environments. By the way, the watch vibrates to alert you of an incoming call - that is another insurance measure, so you wont miss a call. In the MBW-150 everything is totally identical.
  • With the help of the MBW-100 you can manage some sections of the player built in the handset, keys Play/Stop are at your disposal, long press of the wheel activates fast forward. And here we come close to the key-point as the biggest differences of the MBW-150 are in its music department.

Seemingly, when the companys specialists eventually came to realize the impossibility or lack of use of GPS in the watch they started to look elsewhere for a new highlight, which could turn the accessory into a reasonable choice. What is a Sony-Ericsson-branded watch after all? One of my friends after having a nonchalant glimpse of the MBW-100 said: Oh, you got it along with your phone for free, didnt you? When I told him the retail price he was shocked for quite a long time trying to figure out what people shall out more than 300 USD for. Of course, I, as a seasoned marketing specialist, had to list all the key points mentioned above, but all this didnt produce any effect. Probably, you should be a real gadget addict to take these smarts seriously, and seriously enough to pay for them. So consider it that I speak about its flavors from the POV of a gadget aficionado, I can barely call this watch fashion-savvy the market offers tons of similar things, from Swatch to some surreal stuff like Alain Silberstain.

Video, looks, Bluetooth watch in operation (137 Mb, mpg) >>>

Interestingly, buying this gadget you seal your loyalty to the brand in a way, basically, this widget is targeted at Sony Ericsson and Sony fans in general. In fact it is another star in your digital universe, in your personal Sonystyle. I really dont now if there are a lot of such people in our country, since Russians are known for their inquisitive mind and rarely fill their dwelling, case and pockets with electronics from one and the same brand. Probably you have already stumbled into something like: What if Nokia is better? Could it be that a Sharps TV is a better choice? Rings any bell? By the way, the watch doesnt work with non-Sony Ericsson handsets, pairing with the Nokia N91 runs smoothly but no feature works, thus when using it with the handsets by other brands you get only a watch and nothing more. Perhaps it is the only accessory bound up with some specific trade mark; remember how long it took them to realize that these tricks wouldnt do with headsets. Frankly speaking, I hoped that the company gave it a deeper thought, as the capability to work with the devices by major manufactures (at least as far as player management is concerned) would have made the product so much more attractive. Moreover, buying the watch and using it with the handset by another maker, could push some users towards the dilemma of trading their phones for something SE, so it could look this way: If they can roll out something like this, how good their phones should be? Familiar situation, isnt it? We already have one player that prompts some of our forum fellas to grab a similarly branded computer (now a handset as well)

Lets get back to the subject. The MBW-150 differs from the MBW-100 in terms of what it can do with the player, for that purpose the casings left-hand side houses three buttons: the upper one - volume up and fast forward, the lower one volume down and rewind, that placed in the middle plays and stops tracks. And this is the way it works:

  • Flicking the upper key increases the volume level; should you press and hold this, you start skipping forward within a track, no jumping between songs enabled, though. The same goes for the lower button, with whose help you will diminish sound volume and skip backwards.
  • Pressing the key in the middle you launch playback, one more press and it stops.
  • During the playback the display shows the status bar containing tags my unit lacked this feature, for it was a mere prototype. All commercial units will enjoy this feature, except for, maybe, those at the bottom of the companys low tier.

Is it comfortable? Yes, very. I used MBW-150 along with the Sony Ericsson W880i and the DS-970 (headset). You know, it is really exciting to manage playback by pressing buttons on your watch, you get some sort of that technological superiority feeling. It is also a very handy thing you dont have to rummage in your pockets. But is it worth its money? Honestly, I dont know. Okay, I actually do, but for now will pretend that I dont, so I can save this for the Conclusion part.

The design of the sporty version does appeal to me, it is rather aggressive wide and rather thick band, black-and-orange face with a classy feel to it. This thing is not for wearing with a suit, so it is more likely to go well with a sport jacket or jeans. The band length is just enough to round any wrist, and you wont feel any discomfort after a whole day with the watch on your hand, the only thing is that this band does heat up your skin in summer. They say it is water-proof, and if it goes down 10 meters under water, so be it, the MBW-150 should survive this but I dont really recommend you to do so, however, washing your hands with this watch on will never be a problem. The contact area is located behind, the bracket you put on the casing serves for charging purposes everything is very similar to the MBW-100.

Apart from the dedicated player keys, the right-hand edge plays host to two functional keys: the one on the top stands for action, the lower button helps in scrolling through the menu. With the help of the stem you can only adjust the hands; there are two of them, since the watch lacks a second hand. The hands can not be setup automatically. When the watch is linked up to the handset, the watch and the handset show the same time; if the MBW-150 is not paired, the time isnt shown at all (dashes instead). It is more likely to be a prototype-specific flaw, in commercial units it should work just fine even if no connection has been established. To find out what time it is, you should press the top key on the right side, so you see current date, month, year first, tapping it one more time brings up current time, battery status (three bars) and Bluetooth connection indicator. To enter the menu you should press the bottom key on the right, by clicking it time after time you can skim through the menu. The process of coupling up with a handset is very straightforward - you pick the right indicator, push the top button, switch into the mode you need, it is that simple. Your handset will identify the watch very quickly, for Sony Ericsson-branded phones no code is required, for the rest it is 0000, but as Ive just said you will get nothing out of pairing the MBW-150 with those. In order not to get you bored with all these screenshots, I made a demo video. The menu tree is below:

  • Bluetooth symbol, by pressing the upper key you may turn it off, so the MBW-150 morphs into a no frills watch.
  • Message indicator, SMS notification can be disabled.
  • Connection-lost indicator, you can turn it off (in this case should you go smoking and happen to leave your handset on the table, the watch wont vibrate, screaming that it is out of range).
  • Pairing mode indicator, upon pressing the pairing mode is activated.

Apart from that, pressing the left key row, you launch the process of identification of the devices that were linked up earlier, the watch memorizes up to ten of them.

If someone calls you the watch starts vibrating, the display springs into life with caller ID on it. I encountered some serious lag issues in my prototype all this information popped up only in 4-5 seconds. Pushing the upper right key mutes the call; the second press rejects a call.

You might think that the watch features too many functions and managing it is not an easy job, keeping in mind that each key does more than one thing. But the truth is, everything is pretty straightforward and intuitive, I almost didnt face any problems with the MBW-150, given that I had a very early prototype at my disposal.

It is too early to make any conclusions on the battery life, for Eldars prototype of the MBW-100 lasted a week, and I get at least a month of battery life on a single charge with this one. I can only say that it has been a week since I started squeezing out of the MBW-150 as much as I can, and the battery bar still has two scales on it. Probably, if you feed it with juice for a couple of hours, the MBW-150 will stay online for about four weeks, so it does very well on this front.

Conclusion

The MBW-150 retail price will make around 350-375 Euro (any flavor), the watch starts shipping in October. This price tag is quite hefty, especially since you buy a thing that is absolutely unknown in the world of timepieces. Should you look at the MBW-150 as an accessory for your handset, all pieces click into their places you pay for being able to possess a unique gadget, which can turn out to be handy after all. But it seems to me that the Music Edition will be the most attractive offering for workouts, fitness, also the guys fond of casual style will appreciate its design. I dont like the Executive version very much, and I dont think a company leader will be eager to change his Rolex, which he had to pay a small fortune for, for a fanciful toy, the same goes to the model with a leather band.

Frankly speaking, I think the MBW-150 is the accessory that belongs to the just for the sake of it category and stresses the companys leading position in the field of Bluetooth accessories. So it wont be vastly popular by no means, probably, Sony Ericsson fans eventually will make up their minds and lighten their wallets for this sum of money. And you shouldnt wait for some cheaper variations in this very case the price tag is another amplifier to its status, together with the off-beat functionality and design. I suppose, it is quite possible to roll out a 150- or 200-Euro BT-watch, but I really doubt this is what the company has on its mind. The watch range will be freshened up only in a years time, so you can only guess what the update will bring along. Ill take my shot and make a guess - the music department will become an even bigger focus, probably, they will embed on-screen Album Art support for the music edition, and pedometer will jump into the sporty editions feature pack.

P.S. The review will be updated as soon as we get our hands on a commercial unit.

Sergey Kuzmin (skuzmin@mobile-review.com)
Translated by Oleg Kononosov (oleg.kononosov@mobile-review.com)


Published - 10 September 2007

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