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Xperia Ear review (hands on) – Stop looking at your phone all the time!

Xperia Ear in an ear

Phone manufacturer Sony thinks we spend way too much time looking at our phones ... and so it's reinvented the Blutooth headset

There wasn’t a hint of irony yesterday when Sony spent 10 minutes talking about how we all use our phones too much and miss out on life’s great moments, and then immediately launched three new phones. It did however also launch its new Xperia Ear, a Bluetooth earpiece designed to combat our screen-looking culture.

Physically, it’s an absolutely tiny and incredibly light piece of kit, and it fitted in my ear comfortably without any fiddling required. I jumped around and shook my head wildly and the Ear didn’t budge, which was impressive to say the least. Sony will ship the device with various earbud sizes and a couple of wingtips, too. It comes in four colours with classy-looking white, black, gold and pink editions on display at MWC.
Xperia Ear in hand

When you put the Xperia Ear in your ear for the first time each day, it should provide a summary of the day with weather info and any calendar event info. My demo unit didn’t do this, although I suspect this is because it’s been inserted to a fair few ears today already. There’s a single button on the device that sits on the side facing out of your ear. It doesn’t take much pressure to activate, and a single press activates voice control.

Once active, you hear a beep, which is your cue to ask for something. The demo phone it was attached to didn’t have much on it so I couldn’t command it to make calls or play music. I did however pose a couple of fairly standard questions without any prompts from the Sony representative on the stand. Keep in mind that I was standing on a noisy show floor, which is about as tough a challenge an earpiece can get.

Xperia Ear colours

First I asked whether I had any events today. No calendar events today, it responded first time of asking. Next I kicked things up a notch with a query about the weather. I asked ‘What’s the weather like in Barcelona’. This seemed to stump it as it instead responded with the weather in New York. I gave it a second chance as I tend to mumble, especially with an earpiece in. This time it gave me the weather for Barcelona, detailing highs, lows and cloud cover.

Finally, I asked the Ear what time it was in New York. It responded with, and I quote verbatim, with: “hash hash hash hash hash hash”. I assume this is down to this being an early version, but it amused me greatly all the same.

The voice used here is very natural and sounded about as close to a real human as Google Now’s female voice.

The Ear hooks into both Sony’s bespoke Ear software on an Android phone, and also works with Google Now. The Ear software lets you customise which info you get when you first switch on the Ear each day, and you can also set which apps on your phone can fire notifications into the Ear.
Xperia Ear cases

With constant use, the Xperia Ear should last 3.5 hours on a single charge. However, the pocket-sized wireless charging case will charge it for a full day if you’re willing to take it off every now and again for a quick splash of juice. You’ll want to charge the case once a day if you’re using the Ear regularly.
Xperia Ear case open

No pricing has been announced for the Ear, and this will determine its success. Considering that any set of headphones with a microphone can hook into Google Now, the main offering here is its handling of notifications, start-of-the-day info and form factor. For exceptionally busy people, it will be a boon, and its tiny size means it’s a very subtle addition to your wardrobe.

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