Today in London, Sony revealed the Wena, a smart strap that’s versatile enough to work with pretty much any watch (well, maybe not an Apple Watch, that would just be silly).
See, the problem when you’re making smartwatch is how do you lure the customer who likes the cachet of a Rolex, the handsome look of a Patek Philippe, the real hands, for heaven’s sake, of a Tissot, Breitling, Tag Heuer, Blancpain and so on?
The answer, as discovered by a young designer in the Sony Seed Acceleration Program, a tech forcing house, was to make a smart strap that could attach to a regular watch.
Sony has helpfully made its own watches that fit with a Wena strap, but the point is you can choose what you want on your wrist, what you really want, and still have your notifications, sport monitoring and digital wallet features.
What is Wena, exactly?
Well, it stands for Wear Electronics NAturally, you see, and is pronounced Wenna, not wiener, what were you thinking? The watch that Sony makes is elegant enough and you might appreciate the analog watch and digital strap so much you don’t want to use another watch.
There are five Sony Wena watch faces to choose from so there may well be one for you.
Alternatively, you may feel it’s a way to bring your classy favorite watch up to date without having to give it a digital screen for a face.
So, it’s not a smartwatch?
No, all the tech is in the watch band, including a narrow OLED display which can show your current fitness achievements or whether you have notifications like text messages waiting on your phone.
How many versions are there?
Seriously, I was just about to mention that. There are two, Wena Wrist Pro and Wena Wrist Active. The Pro is the classier of the two, a metal strap (choose from black or silver) with an OLED screen which sits on the underside of your wrist, showing two lines of text (though it’s color, not monochrome). Enough to give you fitness info or to alert you to go to your smartphone for more details.
Then there’s the Active with a silicone band which has extra sensors such as GPS and heart-rate monitor, to keep your activity accurately measured. It works with Apple Health and Google Fit.
You can even use it when the watch face is removed – handy for a run when you don’t want to be weighed down by your fancy watch or to track your slumbers overnight when a lighter strap makes for better sleep.
What about payments?
Glad you asked. Both straps contain the NFC connector you need to tap your wrist on a card reader to make a payment.
As Sony pointed out, you’re tapping the underside of your wrist on the reader, which is arguably a more natural movement than tipping your arm palm upwards as you need to with other smartwatches.
How big does my watch need to be?
The Wena strap is 20mm wide but it comes with three attachments so it can fit watches 18mm, 20mm and 22mm wide. Sony reckons it will fit nine out of 10 watch faces.
Sony says it should last up to a week between charges. Well, you’re not powering a big OLED screen, just a tiddly little one on the back.
Go on, then, how much?
Pre-orders are now open in the U.K. which is its only place of availability – for now. The Wena Wrist Active costs $448 (£349), and the Pro is $512 (£399). That’s for the smart strap. For the watch faces add another $128 – $512 (£100 – £400).
So, what do you think?
If you have a favorite non-smart watch, it’s the perfect way to give it an education and make it instantly smart. If you like the look of an Apple Watch, a Samsung Galaxy Watch or a Fitbit, it may not tempt you, but for those who like analog hands, this is a very clever upgrade.