(Pocket-lint) - Sony Mobile revealed four new smartphones at Mobile World Congress 2017 including the super flagship - XZ Premium - but that's not all it had up its sleeve. The company also announced the Xperia Ear Open-style concept.
So the name isn't overly catchy just yet but this will no doubt change. The Xperia Ear Open-style concept builds on the current Xperia Ear to provide users with the ability to listen to music and notifications at the same as being able to hear what is happening around them.
The idea is that people like those cycling to work are able to hear their favourite tracks and smartphone notifications, whilst still being able to hear whether a bus is coming up behind them for example.
It is based on "open-ear" audio technology, developed in Sony's Future Lab Program, and it features two spatial acoustic conductors and driver units that work together to transmit sound directly to the ear canal.
Although it is still in development, we got the chance to play with the prototype model of the Xperia Ear Open-style concept at Mobile World Congress 2017 to see how it will work and what it is like and we were pleasantly surprised.
It was remarkably easy to hear what was happening in the room around us and the conversations going on, while also listening to the music coming through the small in-ear speaker.
The audio quality was also pretty good and we had no issues having a normal conversation whilst listening to what was going on through the device. You can feel that you have a device in your ear but the audio itself sounds as though it is coming from behind you, rather than directly in your ear.
The design hasn't been finalised so we won't go into too much detail on that just yet, but if the final product is similar to what was presented at the show, we can see them drawing some interest, especially given they are relatively discreet for what they will be capable of. They are certainly more appealing than the current Xperia Ear, even if they look a little like a hearing aid.
The current Ear model is powered by Sony Agent Technology, which is a personal assistant that uses conversational voice interaction, listening and reacting to what you ask. It features gesture sensitivity, utilising its integrated proximity sensor, gyroscope and accelerometer to learn when it is or isn't in your ear, as well as allow users to nod their head to confirm a command, for example.
When it is, it will automatically turn on to deliver various updates, all of which can be customised. We were told at MWC 2017 that the Xperia Ear Open-style concept will incorporate many of the same functions as the current Ear, but with the added advantage of being able to hear what it going on around you at the same time.
Sony has not detailed when the Xperia Ear Open-style might be ready or when it might be available but we wouldn't be surprised to see a more finalised version at IFA 2017.