updated 06:50 pm EST, Sun February 26, 2012
We try Sony extras at MWC 2012
As part of the same Sony event that showed the Xperia P and Xperia U, Sony also showed at once universal and very specific accessories: the Smart Headset and the Xperia SmartDock. We had a look at both on the floor. Read on for impressions, including for a headset that might bear notice even if you're an iPhone user.
The Smart Headset at first looks like a standard three-button, or rather four, in-ear headphone set that you'd get for an iOS device. We liked the large, weather-sealed buttons and the tangle-free ribbon cables. We're checking with Sony to verify how universal the controls are, although it's very probable that the standard play/pause and volume controls will work elsewhere.
One button, however, has a unique trick on Android phones. The SmartKey can be programmed to launch a favorite app, such as Slacker Radio or Evernote for some voice notes. If your listening habits are predictable, you can even set an app to launch when you plug the headphones in, although that may get frustrating if you want to use a different app.
What we didn't get to check was audio quality, which wouldn't have fared well in a loud press gathering. Sony is touting high quality and is generally known for it, so we're hopeful.
The Xperia SmartDock is much more specific: it only works if you have an Xperia P, which to us is a minor red flag. We're hesitant about proprietary accessories even with iOS devices, where there's at least a possibility that a future generation will support it. Even if you stay in the Sony fold, it's doubtful the 2013 line will handle the dock. It's somewhat unfortunate that those with the higher-end Xperia S can't use the new dock, either.
Having said this, it's at least well-executed. The SmartDock is a one-for-one recreation of what's on the device and has a special, fairly easy to use docking interface with an on-screen shortcut for music if it's playing. You're not locked to media apps; you can browse the web or run the Facebook app if you're so inclined.
The interface is thankfully responsive, although that's helped by screen mirroring rather than extending. As such, you're not necessarily getting the best possible picture on the TV. Photos and videos still looked good coming from the 540x960 Xperia P screen.
We didn't have a chance to try the USB mouse and keyboard support, although it was proven that any wired or dongle-based wireless set should work. We can't see it being used often, though, since most who want a mobile workstation either have a tablet or a full-fledged notebook.
Sony wasn't forthcoming on the ship dates and prices of either the headset or the dock, although it's likely they'll both be out near the same time as their intended companion phones.