Messing around with the Sony Ericsson LiveView

liveview - for some reason we don't have an alt tag here

The Sony Ericsson LiveView is an old device at this point. It’s the predecessor to the current Sony SmartWatch, and it didn’t really catch on. That’s why a local electronics store still had one left over, and decided to sell it for 1/4 the price. I just had to grab it.

I’ve been looking into smartwatches quite a bit lately, trying to find one that will do what I need it to do. At the same time, I’ve been a bit unsure if I actually need one. Yesterday, a commenter let me know about the Motorola Motoactv’s ability to be rooted and function as a full Android device, which again got me excited, but battery life and price is what’s currently holding me back from that one.

Getting the LiveView for next to nothing gives me the opportunity to test the concept, even if it’s a bit out of date on features. It’s a small Bluetooth connected display that is a complete slave to the connected device (it can’t tell time without it), designed to provide easy access to notifications and whatnot.

I’ve spent the last few hours tinkering with it, and it’s been educational. Most of the software for the device hasn’t been updated in quite a while, and there frankly isn’t that much software for it out there – or, more specifically, not the kind of software I need. It comes with things like SMS alerts and caller ID built in, but I want to be able to control it myself – and control things with it – using Tasker.

It isn’t easy to make this thing work with Tasker. There’s no direct plugin, so you have to be creative. Very creative. Using OpenWatch API For LiveView and Locale OpenWatch MSG plug-in, I got Tasker to send messages to the watch, albeit short ones. When a message is received on the watch, it vibrates, and the message is available either under plugins or under “All Events.” With the ability to send messages from Tasker, I made my own Gmail notification task that simply sends a message that says “New email” when I get a new email. There are Gmail plugins for the LiveView out there, but I prefer to simply do it myself. I also added a LiveView message to my shopping list, so that when I leave my house I get both an audible notification, the list in a widget on my lock screen, and a message on the watch.

Getting the watch to control Tasker was significantly harder. I was able to get the watch to send rudimentary commands to the phone, but nothing that was really useful. The solution came in form of Launcher plug-in. It allows you to see a list of all your apps (in icon form) on the LiveView, and start them remotely. It unfortunately doesn’t allow you to customize it by hiding apps, add action shortcuts, or anything like that, it just lists all apps alphabetically. I realized that I could use Tasker’s new app export ability to create my own app bridges between the LiveView and Tasker, essentially creating custom apps in order to run Tasker tasks. The first app I made starts a 6 minute timer, returns an audio notification on the phone, and at the end of the timer, sends a message back to the watch. The app is named “6 Timer,” and the icon shows the number 6, making it appear first in the list of apps on the LiveView as well as being easy to spot in the list of tiny icons. In the end it gives me the ability to start one of my most used timers remotely, and I can apply the same custom app system to trigger other things via Tasker as I get more time to mess around with the LiveView.

The LiveView definitely has some issues, but at the price I paid I can’t complain. In the coming days/weeks I’ll see if it’s actually useful or just a pointless way to shave 5 seconds off a task – and based on my experiences, I might buy a more up to date smartwatch. I have to say though that it concerns me how little software was available, and I wouldn’t pay full price for any of the current/upcoming watches if I have to go through the same hell to get it to do what I want. Then again, these things aren’t made for what I want to use them for.

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.

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