Sony won't use Android Wear, will stick with Smartwatch (for now)

Updated: In a later statement, Sony cracked open the door to working with Google, saying it would "evaluate opportunities across a number of areas."

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Roger Cheng
3 min read

Sony SmartWatch 2
Sony's SmartWatch 2. Sarah Tew/CNET

ATLANTA--Sony will continue to strike its own path when it comes to its wearable products.

The company won't be using Google's recently unveiled Android Wear, a modified version of Android specifically designed for wearable products, as the basis for its own smartwatch, according to Ravi Nookala, head of Sony Mobile's US arm. Instead, he said they would stick with their own Android-based SmartWatch platform.

"We've already invested time and resources on this platform, and we will continue in that direction," Nookala told CNET in an interview in the unit's office here.

The comment seemingly dashed the hopes of people who had hoped that Sony would integrate its SmartWatch product with Android Wear. But Sony got back to CNET with a statement opening the door to working with Google.

"We're excited about the potential of Android Wear to extend the mobile OS experience into wearable devices," the company said in an e-mailed follow-up statement. "While we are currently focused on our in-market wearable offering, including SmartWatch 2, we continue to work closely with Google as a key partner and continue to evaluate opportunities across a number of areas as we extend our SmartWear Experience."

Sony was actually one of the first smartwatches out of the gate, long before Samsung made its own splashy debut with the Galaxy Gear. But the product remains a niche item, particularly with its smartphones still looking for mainstream awareness.

Sony is taking a different approach than many of the other companies, which have signed on to build watches running on the Android Wear software. LG will be the first to debut an Android Wear device with its G Watch, while Motorola Mobility has made some noise by releasing details of its upcoming Moto 360. Even Samsung Electronics pulled back on using Android in its Gear 2, instead utilizing its own Tizen operating system. Samsung was listed as an Android Wear partner.

But Sony has opted to make an even bigger bet on its own platform, which runs on Android but has its own library of applications. In addition to its SmartWatch and sequel SmartWatch 2, it unveiled its SmartBand activity tracker, meant to pair with the SmartWatch and a LifeLog app. Nookala said that LifeLog would be a common theme among future products in this category.

While Sony isn't using Android Wear, Nookala said that Sony continues to work closely with Google on its products.

Xperia Z1s beats expectations

Nookala also weighed in on the performance of the Xperia Z1s, which launched on Jan. 22. He said that sales of its flagship phone were up 20 percent to 25 percent above the original Xperia Z at the same period.

"The momentum is there," he said. "We're doing better than our forecast."

He was less willing to talk about whether its Xperia line of smartphones would make their way to another carrier. He would only say that he was in discussions with all of the major carriers.

Aside from T-Mobile, Sony has no other carrier partners, with AT&T having dropped its products more than a year a go.

Nookala said he welcomes the comparisons the Samsung Galaxy S5 will invite with its water-resistant body. Sony is clear to note that its phone is waterproof, meaning it can go underwater and stay under longer. He noted that there are 1,000 stores with dunk tanks set up with Xperia phones.

"It will help us," he said.

Updated at 12:11 p.m. PT: To include a follow-up statement from Sony opening the door to working with Android Wear.