Sony's Xperia Ear smart earbud is now up for pre-order for £179 on the Xperia Store. That's about £20 cheaper than we expected the hearable to cost. It's still set to ship in mid November.
The mainstream-ish, assistant-focused earbud works with Android and was announced in February, getting another outing at Sony's IFA 2016 press conference.
Since then, Sony has introduced a set of new features include audio alerts for email as well as messages and new head motion gestures so you can nod your head to reply 'yes' to a message or shake it to say 'no'. Clever.
It joins Sony's existing fitness hearable, the Smart B-Trainer, but this new hearable is a much smaller device.
Sony Xperia Ear: Design
We now know that it measures in at 15.2 x 29.3 x 24.3 mm and weighs in at just 6.8g. The graphite black Ear also offers IPX2 certified water protection, so unfortunately you can't take it for a dip.
It features a very similar-looking design to the Moto Hint, one of the first smart earbuds we've reviewed. We've tried it out for a brief demo and it is very lightweight and comfortable as it's a soft silicone device, "built for continuous wear".
It connects to your Android phone via NFC or Bluetooth and we're hoping the connection is a little more reliable than the Motorola earbud.
Sony Xperia Ear: Features
In terms of features, the Xperia Ear uses Sony's voice technology (probably based on Google Voice) to take voice commands such as asking for navigation directions, taking calls, dictating messages and searching the internet. At launch, it'll support seven languages in total and that includes English (UK), English (US), German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian and Japanese.
The companion app lets you set up the single bud to, for instance, give you your day's schedule, the weather and news in the morning. It also houses accelerometer, gyroscope and proximity sensors to activate the new motion gestures features.
You can also customise app notifications and touch commands, which suggests you'll be able to tap your er, additional Ear to perhaps take calls or initiate voice commands. It's not really designed for playing music but it could be a neat accessory for podcast addicts too.
The battery life is expected to be up to four hours of continuous use (voice input, calls and messages) and a further 16 hours of use via the neat 300mAh charging case. It's standard micro USB charging as well.
Sony Xperia Ear: Price and release date
The Sony Xperia Ear as we've already mentioned will cost £179 in the UK and all pre-orders will receive a £45 voucher that can be used against buying a Sony smartphone. There's no US pricing yet, but we'll keep you posted when we know more.
The fact that Sony is launching a hearable by the end of the year, even if it was delayed, is part of an exciting trend, as we see earbuds going totally wireless.
CCS Insight predicts that 9 million hearables will be sold in 2020, a modest figure compared to wrist-based wearables, but not a category to be ignored. If the Xperia Ear delivers on a reliable experience, it could bring us to a Her-style universe quicker than we expected.
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