The week in gadgets: Smartwatch galore, Vaio Phone and Micro Bit computer

16 Mar 2015

Image of Micro Bit via BBC

This week’s gadget happenings see a barrage of smartwatch news, Vaio launches its first phone, and the Nexus 5 ceases to be.

The Vaio Phone

Having been kept in the shadow of Sony for a number of years, Vaio are now stepping out on their own terms with their first independent smartphone simply called the Vaio Phone, with eyes on taking on its former employer’s Xperia range.

Aimed at the Japanese lower end of the market for the moment, the phone will be sold under the relatively small Japanese b-mobile network offering the definition of a mid-to-low range phone.

According to a translated version of the company’s website, the phone’s spec is quite average in terms of processing power with its 1.2GHz quad-core processor, 32bit Android Lollipop, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of hard drive space, expandable to 64GB with a micro SD card, all very familiar stuff.

Its camera isn’t even that impressive with a resolution of just 720p, hardly something to set the pulse racing of keep photographers.

But it can be yours (in Japan) for a pricey sum of 51,000 yen (€391).


Swatch getting in on smartwatch game … sort of

Despite smartwatches having existed for a number of years now and in terrible guises most of the time, it’s only now with the launch of the Apple Watch do people suddenly feel the day of the smartwatch is here.

Well now, iconic Swiss watch maker Swatch feels its market is being threatened after it announced that it has plans to launch a watch that can make contactless payments and a small screen in the watch face.

The watches which will become available for May are not going to be the tech-packed watches similar to what will be seen with the Apple Watch, according to the company’s chief executive Nick Hayek.

Representing nearly 20pc of all watch sales in the world, the company are certainly not looking to stray too far from its roots, but these watches will be the first to introduce contactless technologies including NFC and Bluetooth and have already got the ball rolling having partnered with China UnionPay to be the first country to be able to use contactless payments.

Shake your Moto Maker with customisable watches

Also getting in on the act is Motorola who are now allowing those wanting to buy their Moto 360 watches to customise their watches, at least to a reasonable degree, with the help of Moto Maker.

In this case, you can choose one of three colours for the base of the watch, while there up to nine different bands to choose from ranging from metal, to leather or your own custom band.

Perhaps of most interest to Moto 360 owners is the ability to choose from 11 different watch faces, none of which are particularly flashy, it has to be said.

Of course, all of these cost a little bit extra than the stock model with the most expensive option being a metal band (US$50) and ‘champagne gold’ case (US$30).


Micro Bit computer

Much like the Raspberry Pi, BBC are looking to get in on the game of bringing coding and computing to the masses with their own piece of hardware, the Micro Bit.

Formed as a partnership with 25 different organisations, including CoderDojo, the Micro Bit will be given to every child for free entering secondary school for the first time in the UK this autumn.

The blue device will be wearable and will have an LED display that children can play with and immediately start coding to their heart’s desire.

Given that it is being distributed for free, similar products must be fearing for their long-term business plans but, according to the BBC, “the Micro Bit can even connect and communicate with these other devices, including Arduino, Galileo, Kano and Raspberry Pi, as well as other Micro Bits”.

Nexus 5 is no more

To make way for the Nexus 6, Google is ending the sale of its Nexus 5 phone online and now that manufacturing of the phone has stopped.

Anyone who had purchased one in the final months of 2014 were some of the last few made for production, despite the fact Google had said they were looking to discontinue the phone sometime in the latter end of Q1 this year. But this is no longer the case.

In their efforts to become more competitive from a hardware perspective, Google have also decided to spate their hardware and software into different sections whereas before they would have all existed on the same Google Play Store.


Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic