Sony FES Watch U makes the most of its e-ink canvas

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The FES Watch U in its various designs 

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When it was first shown off in 2014, the FES Watch caught our eye with its fully customizable e-ink band and face. Although it was eye-catching, you could argue that the designs on offer never really made the most of its unique potential. The FES Watch U is designed to change that, with a wider range of eye-catching designs for its novel e-ink band and screen.

Rather than being limited to a range of designs mimicking stainless steel, leather and rubber straps like the old band, the functionality of the new version of the flexible e-ink band has been given a significant refresh. Like the face, it can be customized through the companion app, and there will be 12 designs available at launch with enough built-in storage to hold 24.

E-ink is also easy on the battery. Users should be able to go around three weeks without a charge, and filling up takes 2.5 hours using the included cradle.

There will be two models of Watch U on offer, a regular white or silver version, and the more expensive Premium Black. Both models weigh the same 70 g (2.46 oz), and the 43 mm (1.7 in) case is 11.8 mm (0.46 in) thick on both, but the high-end model is tougher thanks to ion-plating on the case and a sapphire glass face.

At the moment, Sony is raising funds for the FES Watch U on its own First Flight crowdfunding platform. It's raised more than ¥5,323,900 (US$52,139) of its ¥20 million ($195,871) goal with 38 days remaining, and delivery is planned for April 2017.

So why is a company as big as Sony crowdfunding projects? Apparently the idea is to help develop innovative products without breaking the budget, and given that everything on the First Flight site has been funded and put into production so far, the system is clearly working.

You'll have to assist – Sony speak for pledge/promise – at least ¥49,680 ($486) to get a white or silver model, while the Premium Black is more expensive at ¥59,940 ($586).

Should the crowdfunding campaign get off the ground, American buyers should keep an eye out at MoMA. The current model is still exclusively available through the online store, but there's no word on whether the followup will be joining it.

Sony's promotional trailer for the watch is below.

View gallery - 8 images

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