No company has done more with NFC (Near Field Communication) than Sony, which last year released a series of RFID tags and speakers that pair to your phone and start streaming music with just one tap. At CES 2013, the company kicked it up a notch, showcasing more than half a dozen new NFC-enabled gadgets including a TV and a network media hard drive. At Sony's booth, we had a chance to go hands-on with four upcoming devices that support what Sony calls its "One-touch" technology for tapping to pair.
One-Touch Wireless Streaming to Your TV
Taking content from your phone and outputting it to your TV can be a hassle, particularly if you have to whip out the wires or buy an expensive wireless dock. Sony's upcoming KDL-40W900a television makes streaming from your NFC-enabled Xperia phone a snap.
At Sony's booth, we turned over the KDL-40W900a's remote control to reveal a tiny "N" logo, which shows where its NFC chip is located. We then placed the back of an Xperia Z on top of that logo, and when the phone and remote's chips recognized each other, we felt a little haptic feedback from the phone. We then saw a message on the TV screen telling us we could move the two devices apart. A few seconds later, the phone's display appeared as mirrored on the TV.
With the phone sending its images to the TV over a Wi-Fi Direct connection, anything we did on the handset appeared on the large screen. When we used the phone in portrait mode, the TV put black bars (aka pillarboxed) on either side of the image. However, in landscape mode, the phone's output took over the entire 1080p screen.
Using the Wi-Fi direct connection between the TV and phone, we viewed photos from the gallery and played sample videos. While still images seemed crisp, we noticed some significant distortion on the streaming video, but perhaps that's due to wireless interference or preproduction issues. When we tapped the Xperia Z against the remote again, the TV returned to showing its normal content as the phone disconnected.
There's no word yet on when the KDL-40W900A will launch or how much it will cost. We also don't know what other phones, if any, will stream video to it.
Sony LLS-201 Personal Content Station
A white plastic box with HDMI and USB ports along with an SD Card reader, the Content Station stores up to 1TB of your media files and streams them using DLNA-enabled Wi-Fi to your tablet, laptop, phone or any other device in your home. The world has seen network-attached storage drives and media centers before, but the Content Station also has NFC for one-touch transfer from a phone.
After we shot a series of photos with an Xperia Z, we tapped the phone to the Content Station and watched as it gave a connection message and then showed a fast moving transfer status bar as the file traveled over Wi-Fi direct from one device to another.
After the transfer was complete, we were able to view the photos we'd transferred on an Android tablet that was wirelessly connected to the Content Station. We were able to transfer a video in the same way, but a problem with the demo setup prevented us from finding that video on the tablet after the transfer was complete.
The Content Station LLS-201 will cost $299 when it launches in June.
Boombox-Esque Speaker Dock Starts Playing in One Tap
We were also able to go hands-on with an audio dock that was labeled the RDHgt7Kip (try saying that 3 times fast) and featured two very large speakers with pink and blue lights that pulsate to the music. Though the dock can't be slung over your shoulder and taken to the beach, it reminded us of a classic 1980s boombox because of its large, black mesh speakers.
Using an Xperia Z, we were able to stream music to the RDHgt7Kip over Bluetooth after tapping the NFC chip on the phone against the "N" logo on the dock. As with all of Sony's One-touch enabled audio devices, music stops playing on the phone as soon as it starts streaming to the stereos, and all of that occurs without pausing the audio. When we tapped the dock and phone together a second time, the audio moved back to the phone, which felt a lot like being tagged as "it" in a game of tag.
The RDHgt7Kip also has a Lightning connector for attaching an iPhone, and a USB connector for attaching external media. No word yet on pricing or availability.
Sony BDV-N7100W Home Stereo
A high-end stereo that comes equipped with four speakers and a subwoofer, the BDV-N7100W also connects with your phone over NFC. After we started playing a song on an Xperia Z, we tapped the phone against the "N" logo on the stereo's receiver and, after a few seconds, the sound moved from the phone to the stereo.
There's no word on pricing or availability for the BDV-N7100W.