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Sony sells its waterproof mp3 player inside a bottle of water (thenextweb.com)
326 points by mafuyu on Feb 11, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 137 comments

"Though the device itself was launched a while ago, Sony turned to Auckland-based ad agency DraftFCB to help market the product in New Zealand. And so they came up with the Bottled Walkman, which is sold from vending machines in public places such as gyms. Check out the demo video for yourself."

That's what's most interesting to me. Have we heard from anybody who's actually bought the player from a vending machine? This seems to me to be one of those cases where you don't actually need to do it to get the marketing value from it- all you need is to make a video of the idea. It's a more sophisticated form of "This Ad Was Banned!!"

I could be totally wrong, of course.

EDIT: To clarify, I'm saying I don't think Sony's actually selling their walkmans in bottles of water, they just made a video of the idea of it. Can anbody disconfirm this?

> To clarify, I'm saying I don't think Sony's actually selling their walkmans in bottles of water, they just made a video of the idea of it. Can anbody disconfirm this?

I imagine they probably have at least 1 real vending machine, but you're probably right in that the publicity of the story is worth 1000x the sales from the vending machine

It certainly was in my case, because now I am going to investigate buying one!

Hail Corporate!

I doubt it would be the best distribution method :) But it would still be a good idea to put it in some high profile vending machines even if nobody buys it from them. If you saw an MP3 player while you were off to buy some Mike n' Ike, you'd definitely remember that for later if you wanted to buy an MP3 player, and also, very importantly, you'd tell all your friends.

The video probably has a higher return on investment than actually stocking some machines with it, but I can still see it being worth it to stock some vending machines in highly visible places with it.

So you expect me to believe that a vending machine where I can buy a Coke for six quarters that I can also buy an MP3 player for 750 quarters? I am not buying it.

Some vending machines take credit cards now. Also, what year are you in? These cost $78 on amazon (312 quarters), not $187.50! :)

USPS has postal vending machines both in the office and a couple major supermarkets that eat bills up to $20. Same hardware the self-checkout machines use. Spits out $1 coins as change. So its merely four $20s, or so.

I've seen the same hardware spitting our arduinos and the like at hackerspaces. If you're worried about mechanical damage we have food vending machines at work that operate via locking sliding doors.

It won't take any quarters. NZ has 20c pieces, not 25c pieces.


I remember seeing an iPhone vending machine at a tech event in SF. This was at the Moscone Center not long after the launch of the second generation though.

SFO had vending machines with various electronics last time I was there.

There are vending machines specifically for selling electronics. You can pay by card.

If you watched the video it was a regular soft drink machine and I didn't see a credit card slot option.

in some places, vending machines accept contactless smart cards, which makes it much easier to pay - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_smart_cards

More easy for countries where it is supported everywhere, rather than regionally. But also possible to target vending machines in transit areas, since a lot of public transport has moved over to smart cards.

Don't contactless payments usually have a (low-ish) limit on transaction size?

I didn't mean in this specific video, I just meant that there are vending machines designed specifically for selling electronics.

I watched the video and think I saw the guy putting a single coin in the vending machine to buy this.

Only 188 Susan B. Anthonys/Sacagaweas/Presidential coins. ;)

(the US really needs to get rid of their dollar bill if they expect all these incarnations of the dollar coin to finally catch on)

Vending machines often take credit cards over WiFi nowadays. Don't even get me started about the poor security practice of it all.

Plenty of airports have BestBuy vending machines.

Even if you could actually buy it in your gym, what would you do with it, until you get back home and connect it with computer? Should it be pre-loaded with some MTV top-charts crap? Should someone periodically refresh the content with current music?

Should someone periodically refresh the content with current music?

That would presumably give Sony the ability to remotely wipe content from the device, which I can't help but imagine them abusing with maniacal glee.

Even if you buy it at Best Buy, what would you do with it until you get back home and connect it with your computer?

Its a bit less of an impulse purchase buying it at an electronics store than a place you'd be motivated to want to use it.

I think the "point" there is not that they can use it immediately, but that the placement in the vending machines aligns perfectly with their target market.

Gah can't believe I missed this!

They were in a vending machine at my gym last month! Apparently the promo was only for 30 days, but in that time they did sell a few (according to the guy that works there). I saw some guys wearing them (since the gym is above the swimming pool so you can look down) and it works without a smartphone. I'm pretty sure the water is drinkable as well.

Pretty bizarre that people had to put cash in to buy it though. I don't remember there being a Eftpos terminal at all.

Strange this just popped up today though, since I haven't seen any of these vending machines around in the last few weeks.

Cool, I think you're the first person I've heard from who's actually seen one! Are you in NZ?

Correct from Auckland. The advertising company DraftFCB is actually on the other end of the street where I work as well. I told the staff at the gym last night about how this had blown up in the news and they were very happy that they were 'beta testers' for this marketing experiment.

Nah, I don't think drinking the water is a good idea...

I'll hand it to Sony, they can come up with some sweet marketing campaigns.

On a side note, do a lot of people really listen to music while swimming? In college I used to do 30 minutes of laps in the pool a couple times a week. I liked doing it precisely because you couldn't listen to music and you'd have to focus on keeping good form. It was just you and the water.

My sister swims for exercise, and asked for a waterproof ipod shuffle for Christmas. I thought she was joking, but they do actually exist. Apparently they are quite popular at her pool:


I can confirm the 'waterfi' ones work as they claim. Got one for my mom since she does hours of swimming a day and said it was boring without music. The buttons apparently are very mushy (no click to let you know you pressed them) but it functions fine.

I'm surprised this isn't more popular. I have not just music but audiobooks, podcasts, videos (mostly for listening and occasional glancing) and classes, on my several water-sealed devices. It's a pain to keep up internet connectivity in the pool (wi-fi times out underwater) but with a range extender and keeping the device floating or attached to the snorkel, you can even do Netflix or other streaming.

"I'm not weird, I'm an early adopter."

With respect to your side note: As someone who swam competitively throughout high school and college, having the ability to listen to music while practicing is really nice. When you're practicing 2-3 hours a day, six days a week, it can make a big difference.

Along that line the pool at USC had an underwater speaker system. It was nominally to allow coaches to give input to swimmers as they were swimming but we managed to put music on it a couple of times. Fun but annoying to the other swimmers if they didn't like your music choices.

Waterproof listening devices have always been wishful thinking, but never actually implemented correctly nor have had the demand properly assessed (lots of people think they want them, but I'm not sure if they truly do)

Challenges I see:

- Cords get tangled really easily due to the nature of the sport (Solution - make them completely in ear)

- Bulkiness slows you down or at least presents issues when they fall out (see solution 1)

- There is no easy way to control volume or change the song (solution - perhaps use something in your mouth to "chew" on to change these parameters maybe?)

Swimming (especially the 3-4k I do almost daily) can be painfully dull, so the demand is sort of there, but it seems the amount of tech involved far outweighs the presumed benefit (and therefore demand).

I just keep a pair of waterproof headphones permanently attached to my swim goggles and keep it in my gym stuff. It's not nearly as big a hassle as you think - just wrap it up tightly once and you have no cords dangling or anything while you swim.

Have you seen jcampbell1's post above?

I don't know if it's a lot, but waterproof music players have been a thing for at least a decade if not more.

I'm with you: I prefer being present and in the pool when swimming. One of the things I dislike about gyms is the (almost always crap) music played.

> On a side note, do a lot of people really listen to music while swimming?

Well, as far as I know this wasn't really possible without getting some expensive equipment (both player and earbuds). Not that I really searched for it, but just nobody does it (and so nobody even thinks of doing this or searches for it).

Seeing how many people listen to music in the gym or while jogging, I wouldn't be surprised if there was an uptick in listening to music while swimming now. Although, I haven't actually clicked the link yet, they may need to ship earbuds/headphones with it, and I don't know how well they work when they need to be watertight.

I got a waterproof ipod shuffle here: http://www.underwateraudio.com/waterproof-ipod-shuffle/

I would clip it to my goggle strap and swim about an hour a day 3 days a week back when I lived by a pool. The ipod shuffle really was an amazing form factor for the player as it had the clip built in which could clip to the straps.

The headphones were always a different story. You need specially made earbuds which a) use a waterproof membrane instead of a mesh for the speaker and b)fit tight enough in your ear so water wouldn't get in and fill the air chamber in front of the speaker. It took me 3 tries to find headphones that would stay in and be airtight.

Do you mind linking those headphones?

I ended up with these: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0037Z1FRM/ref=as_li_ss_tl?...

It came with 3 sizes of earbuds, I had to use different sizes in each ear. They are terrible headphones, but they stayed put in the water.

Never knew/seen people actually did this! Interesting

You used to be able to buy vinyl sacks to put your sony walkman and over ear orange foam earphones in.

Probably pretty terrible.

If I'm in the pool for 30 minutes, then sure it is interesting enough, but after that it gets boring.

Swimming a mile or more is a chore simply because it gets boring. I would absolutely love a cheap(ish) and reliable mp3player to swim with.

I would love to be able to listen to music while swimming. I try to go a few times a few week for 20-25 min each, and it'd be great to have something to listen to.

Check out the Neptune from FINIS. It's designed similarly to jawbone and does require earbuds while you're swimming. Actually works quite well. http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00ACP3OOM (disclosure: Used to work for finis a couple of years back)

> On a side note, do a lot of people really listen to music while swimming?

In all fairness, the moment the video dove under water, I was like "oooh, sweet silence".

On the other hand, I always have fast upbeat pounding techno music on while running, and it really helps me.

I'd love that to be able to shower while listening to music or podcasts, and without disturbing other people in the house.

Dramatically different price point, but I've been using my Sony Xperia Tablet for exactly that. Completely submersible = NPR & email in the shower every morning. Admittedly, I take longer showers in the miserable winter of norther Vermont, so I like any excuse to stay under the hot water longer.

I could understand laying in a warm bathtub, but now long do your showers last? I'm normally in-and-out in less time than a typical radio song plays.

I would imagine one of my showers takes at least 10 minutes. I think if I'm really tired or cold it could take 15-20 minutes.

I am not a morning person.

I sometimes stay up to 15 minutes. I like the warm water. But then I usually take my waterproof notepad with me to jot down ideas or brainstorm stuff (relaxing shower works wonders for creativity).

I got trapped in Seattle a couple years ago after some flight cancellations some former students of a colleague put me up for a few days. They had a waterproof notepad suctioned to the wall of their guest shower and each morning I would draw out detailed diagrams of locks & methods of attack. I found it was a bit frustrating to get a good transfer onto the pages, but really liked the novelty of being able to take "shower notes".

Impactful packaging, but seems gimmicky. Also, think about it from a supply chain perspective: water is heavy. Conservatively, assume the mp3 player in normal packaging is about a pound. 16oz of water is going to double that. And distribution channels for consumables is completely different from electronics. I can't imagine this is going to be widespread.

I can't imagine it needs to be; they just need people to watch the video and share the headlines on major news sites, Reddit, HN, etc. Suddenly the idea of Sony's waterproof walkman is in everybody's minds, almost free of charge. Most people will probably buy it online or from their favourite retail store.

After a bunch of "sports players" which are not as waterproof as I'd like, the marketing is working on me. Disappointment is the norm in this niche.

Maybe they could ship it through the water pipes direct to your house, thus saving packaging and transportation costs, and the pesky plastic for the bottle.

Yet however heavy water is, they manage to sell you bottled water for pennies and still make billions off of you.

Very different supply lines. Bevereages companies have many bottling facilities distributed throughout their markets, electronics companies tend to have relatively centralized manufacturing.

With low value:weight beverages, transport costs dominate manufacturing, so it is most economical to have many bottling facilities relatively close to consumers, at the cost of reduced manufacturing economy of scale. With electronics, manufacturing costs dominate transport costs, so it is most economical to centralize manufacturing, taking advantage of economy of scale.

Of course, sony could work with some drinks manufacturer to hybridize those supply chains, but I don't think there's value in doing this large scale. This is a (great!) marketing gimmick, and they can get most of the value by doing it one-off. There's not a lot of marginal value in scaling it out.

Bottled water, though, is often absurdly centralized. Dasani bottles might get filled at a relatively nearby Coca-Cola bottling plant, but Fiji's water really does come from Fiji. Despite the outsize logistics costs associated with doing so, the company still manages to make money selling it for only a couple bucks a bottle.

16oz of water go for $1.50 or less everywhere. I don't think widespread distribution will be a problem.

Bigger problem is that once you buy it, you still need to take it home, dry it off, and load music on it.

Everywhere? you should come to Australia :)

I wouldn't worry. There's only about 700 people who live in New Zealand.

What if the sheep want their own?

Then we're in trouble.

I wouldn't lose any sheep over it.

You'd be baaa-my to do so.

The delivery guy could just fill it up from the tap at the selling location.

The increase in sales alone will offset the increase in packaging and shipping.

One litre of water is pretty close to one kg. It is roughly a cube 10 cm * 10 cm * 10 cm.

(I carefully put qualifiers in because this is just a rough rule of thumb and different altitudes etc make a difference).

Actually, one liter is _exactly_ a cube 10cm x 10cm x 10cm.

I get nervous about precicsion with this because there's the stuff about raising one cubic cm of water by one celcius uses one joule. But there are a bunch of caveats to that and I can't remember them.

But thanks for the information!

The caveats don't apply here, because you're talking about comparing units of volume to units of volume.

So even though the volume of a given mass of water might be temperature dependent because water expands if you heat it, the the volume of a given volume of water will always be exactly equal to that volume of water. Sort of like how a foot is always exactly 12 inches no matter what the weather report says.

In fact, raising a gram of water by 1 °C uses one calory, not one Joule. Also, a cubic cm of water weights one gram, and both of those statements are full of caveats and rounding errors.

But a liter is only another name for a cubic decimeter. The liter is older, and used to vary from place to place (and even measure area at some places), but now it on the IS.

I don't think it needs to be widespread. I bet if you put this in a central vending machine in the food court of a college campus, everyone would know about it in no time.

Is this what they call "immersive marketing"?

Whoever came up with this is still wet behind the ears.

The marketing campaign, or my pun?

[edit @snowman41: Yes I know "wet behind the ears" is another pun. I was asking whether "whoever came up with this" refers to the campaign or my comment.]

The pun, "WET behind the ears" is another pun.

It's all wet.

Fair enough. I just couldn't help myself.

Gotta like a good pun!

Really cool idea, although a friend pointed out that a very similar idea has already been done for watches: http://www.thedieline.com/blog/2013/6/13/festina-watches-div...

Why doesn't this have the same legal issues as Kinder Eggs? Maybe the watch in bottled water also can't be sold in the US?


I can see several reasons:

1. This isn't US, so those rules don't apply ("a confectionery product with a non-nutritive object, partially or totally imbedded within it, cannot be sold within the United States")

2. This may be more a viral thing than an actual packaging.

3. The water may not really be meant to be drunk, it's just a gimmick.

Thats interesting, I never heard of that. It sounds like it would technically apply to fortune cookies too.

Paper is edible; compared to small plastic toys it's practically delectable. As long as the ink is safe for consumption then there seems little to object about.

I guess EU would require Sony to certify the player for food contact and that would be expensive enough to be not worth the trouble. Or require to wipe any suggestions that the water is drinkable.

You can see the product inside so no one will drink it by mistake.

(satire)... "Warning: plastic in Walkman contains lead in California"

... I wouldn't drink the water.

The water is so the rootkits grow better.

(In other words, I don't buy Sony products any more, since they insisted upon rootkitting their customers' computers some years ago.)

Looks like it's become a recurring theme at Sony. They had kept Xperia Z demo phones and tablets under running tap water, at their outlets in Bangalore.

In Berlin last year, you could win a Sony phone by diving into a tank of water and fetch one from the ground. If it was a real one, you could keep it :)

What an excellent concept. Reminded me of the '80s(?) when the waterproof Timex (or was it Casio?) was displayed in fishtanks - you immediately knew what the product was capable of, as well as it becoming one of those "guess what I saw earlier" things.

There were (are?) watches sold in water-filled containers as well.

I'm a Sony hardware fan and I would have bought this device in a heartbeat if it didn't have such awful battery life. It would be perfect on my bike rides but I ride all day, not less than an hour.

Happily I have a Sony mp3 player with 30 hours from a single charge.

It has 7 to 8 hours of battery life, not 1 hour.

edit: According to the tech specs it will get a 1 hour charge after the first 3 minutes of charging.

I have the previous water-resistant model and this seems about right.

I think I might have been fooled by the "3 minute charge, 1 hour of playback" claim. it does indeed also claim 7 hours.

That has made me happy, one more bit of Sony kit on the way :)

I looked at getting one of these for the holidays, but it seems they're not held firmly into your ears during swimming sessions, according to reviews. Nice marketing though.

A few weeks ago my mate grabbed his Sony smartphone (I cannot recall the actual model since I'm clueless about smartphones), started recording a video, then threw it in the dog's water bowl. Great ten second video, including distorted sound.

Water ? lame. What about vodka? At times like this I will side with General Ripper from Dr Strangelove. He never drank water, because the commies were poisoning it to pacify the West.

I used to drop my Motorola Defy into friends alcoholic drinks while out as a party trick and ice breaker (literally?). Worked fine :)

Whereas about a dozen years ago I accidentally dropped my girlfriend's phone in a glass of coke... it was fucked.

It's great technology has advanced so much we can do underwater selfies.

Gimmicky - yes.

But the larger question is whether the water is actually potable, it being in vending machines after all!

Reminds of the famous story about a Sony exec throwing a device in a fish tank and seeing bubbles.

Wasn't that steve jobs? At least the version I heard was steve jobs with an iPod prototype (the bubbles proved there was empty space so the ipod could be smaller)

It's an urban legend.

I heard it attributed to Steve Jobs. Another urban legend forming?

Unless that's a different mp3 player from the one I'm thinking about, it got pretty bad reviews. It might be waterproof, but most reviewers said that once water gets in your ear you can't really hear anything.

What about the charger, warranty card, manual, etc? There is space at the top of the bottle masked by a silver band which might contain something, but surprised if you could get the charger in there.

If you bought this at a gym, would you drink the water that it came in?

Sure. Why not?

Oh for fuck's sake, it's not even a product, it's an ad for an ad agency. What a waste of time.

But apparently HN commenters are not immune to being fooled...

You do realize that a lot of the HN crowd is actually much more interested in purchasing ads from ad agencies than they are in purchasing products, right? An ad for an ad agency that is fresh and innovative is very much relevant.

In that case we may as well post every article on http://springwise.com/ to HN. I thought people here were a bit more hard-nosed.

Or we might just use our collective discretion, selecting interesting examples every now and again as we please?

I guess it worked. Waterproof MP3 players have been around for a decade, but the average consumer probably doesn't know that.

Definitely going to grab a lot of attention, but a bad idea other than that. Too costly and impractical.

How do they keep bacteria from growing on it inside the water?

If they pasteurize or pressure cook the water with the player in it, I would be very impressed. That would work pretty well. Could also acidify the water aka lemonade. Doesn't take much citric acid to make water bath canning viable.

How do I know so much about canning food? I can stuff you simply cannot buy in retail stores, like brandied fruits and the like. Very tasty!

Add some chlorine to the water.

Maybe. I'm not sure they would need to, the player isn't going to have much in the way of nutrients on it.

You'd be surprised by just how little bacteria needs to grow.

Most bacteria are little.

Is that important?

Interesting marketing tactic. Is that water drinkable?

Actually, I suspect the waterproofing makes it safe.

The fear with electronics immersed in water would be some toxic substance or another leeching into the water. But the point of the waterproofing is to protect the electronics from the water, which should also protect the water from the electronics. If they do it right, it should just be aluminum, glass, plastic and rubber contacting the water. If they used a food safe rubber or plastic it's good to go.

If it weren't they would be risking severe lawsuits for selling it from vending machines alongside Coke etc.

Actually, it's a really interesting question.

The walkman needs to be safe for use in contact with the skin.

The water needs to be drinkable. Packaging directives look at things like phthalates in the bottle... but don't consider contents within the bottle which aren't part of the beverage or beverage serving mechanism.

So... they can, legally, pretty much do whatever the hell they want, as the Mp3 player does not need to be consumable, the water and bottle will be quantified as safe by themselves, and the thing as a whole (bottle + water) is just treated as packaging, so doesn't need to be consumable.

All in all it's the kind of thing that isn't quite covered by product safety standards, as it's so irregular.

Wouldn't this be the same regulations that cover the "secret toy surprise" inside CrackerJacks? Or cereal boxes?

Most of the world doesn't have those regulations. Or, in other words, cue the surprise of all the Europeans when they realize that Kinder eggs are illegal in the US.

The 'which of these is illegal in the US?' meme juxtaposing a gun and a Kinder Surprise was rather popular a while back. We picture Americans trying to swallow the eggs whole and choking, but playing with guns safely and responsibly.

Your loss USA, your loss.

There's not really much of a choking hazard here though, is there?

I want one!

Perfect idea for me!

Fuck sony, from that blog I just found out about fan-made Robocop remake: http://ourrobocopremake.com/

How could I miss that?

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