Somewhere between a true wireless earbud and the latest tech sensation to sweep the world, a smart hearable, Sony’s Xperia Ear Duo brings together personal AI, music, situational awareness and, to put it mildly, an unusual form factor.
Actually the look isn’t all that odd, but what is curious about the Ear Duo is that what looks like a hook to go over your ear, actually sits under your ear.
This both looks and by all accounts feels counter-intuitive but Sony is adamant that a ‘ring supporter made with soft materials’ makes it comfortable enough for wear, ‘all day, every day’, even if it does sound more like a solution for piles. Each unit only weighs 10.6g, which helps.
As usual with true wireless earbuds, the battery life is a relatively feeble 4 hours, but the carrying case doubles as a charger, giving 3 full recharges before it, too, needs to be plugged in. 7 minutes in the case gives you an hour of further use.
Unlike Sony’s excellent WF-1000X, although the Ear Duo can play music, it is primarily designed as an in-ear assistant that does not block out the world around you. Audio is conducted directly into your ear from the under-ear lozenges, while the ‘ring supporter’, as you can see from the pics, actually has a hole in it, so the world around you remains audible. So music sounds more like it’s in the room or floating around you, while you are still able to hear conversations and ambient noise.
The other thing you’ll be able to hear, when the Ear Duo launches in May, is updates from an AI. Daily Assist, as Sony is dubbing it, will offer news headlines, diary updates, and messages, which you can then reply to via speech-to-text.
There’s also a tap-to-use connection to Google Assistant and Siri, should you prefer the old stagers. This allows the usual music controls and another source of updates and messages.