The SmartWatch 2 is a fun smartphone companion for the unwearied tech enthusiast. The Sony SmartWatch 2 which costs £150 direct lets you stay on top of email and social network updates without reaching for your phone. It is better than the ill-fated Samsung Galaxy Gear, which is a more ambitious product thanks to its camera and calling capability, but a bulky design and a considerable number of limitations make it a non-starter.
The aluminium, minimalist-style watch face measures 42 x 9 x 41mm (WxDxH). It is attached to the silicone wristband, and the whole package weighs 122 grams. The SmartWatch 2 is more comfortable to wear than the Samsung Galaxy Gear, which is bulky and very stiff. The right edge of the face contains a large, round Power button, while the left side houses a covered microUSB charger port; gratefully, it is no longer proprietary. As far as looks are concerned, though, Sony may have got things right with the first SmartWatch. That model had a smaller 1.3in panel with lower 128 x 128 resolution, but it made for a more compact watch that was less blatant looking. The new model is thinner, which is welcome, but the face itself is pretty huge.
The 1.6in 220 x 176-pixel transflective touchscreen LCD offers 262,000 colours. It works with or without the backlight activated, so you can tell the time or check notifications at a glance without powering up the display. The screen is readable in bright sunlight, a prospect that even the best LED-backlit display can struggle with. Below the screen are three capacitive buttons: Back, Home, and Sort, the latter of which brings up options to arrange apps either alphabetically or by favourites.
The SmartWatch 2 features an industry-standard 24mm-wide pin strap mount and black band. That means you can actually swap it out, not just for one of the four other colour silicone bands Sony is selling for £17 each, but for any other band that fits this size watch. Sony also offers two leather bands in black and light brown for £21, if you want a slightly classier looking and feeling strap.
Thanks to the charger port\\\'s plastic cover, the watch is dust and freshwater-resistant (IP57) at up to three metres of depth (about 10 feet) for up to 30 minutes. That means you can wear it in the shower or while washing dishes without a problem. Sony claims the SmartWatch 2 contains a more power-efficient processor than the first version of its smartwatch, and the lithium polymer battery should be good for 3 to 4 days of typical use, and up to 7 days of low usage.
To get started, you will need to download the free Smart Connect app from Google Play. It is compatible with any phone running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich or higher. That puts it way ahead of the Galaxy Gear, which only works with a handful of Samsung phones running Android 4.3. The SmartWatch 2 integrates Bluetooth 3.0 and NFC, the latter of which is used for one-step pairing.
The home screen consists of up to six icons five are loaded by default, namely the alarm, flashlight, an event list, settings, and a timer. As you add more apps to the SmartWatch 2, it will create additional home screens you can swipe between. The top bar contains a battery life icon, a dot showing the current home screen you\\\'re on, a Bluetooth icon, and a small clock at the top right.
Watch viberates to Notify
With the SmartWatch 2, you can check text messages, calendar events, Gmail messages, and Facebook and Twitter notifications. The watch vibrates to let you know when each notification arrives, and you can tailor notifications on a per-app basis. In fact, you can selectively turn off status updates from individual Twitter and Facebook users, which is great for toning down the number of alerts the watch receives. You can also like Facebook items or retweet in Twitter from the watch, without having to take out your phone. The SmartWatch 2 keeps a call log, and lets you control music or fitness apps remotely.
Conservatory and third-party apps
Sony’s device is also an actual app extension platform, and this is where the company has an advantage. The SmartWatch 2 works with more than 160 apps that are optimised for the its higher resolution display, plus more than 200 apps that carry over from the first SmartWatch but do not display in full-screen mode. Other apps serve minor but useful purposes. A sound level meter, for example, lets you point the phone\\\'s microphone at a source, and then view the result on the watch face; this actually worked fairly well. Additionally, the brightness slider is buggy; it only has a few specific positions near the left edge, and the rest of the travel to the right does nothing.
The SmartWatch 2 is fun to play with, even if it is still far from perfect. If you want a smartwatch, the Samsung Galaxy Gear does the nifty Dick Tracy-style calling trick, and it has a sharper display along with a built-in camera and camcorder. However, it costs a good £100 more than Sony’s effort, and the Gear is too difficult to use and limited otherwise. The small rock, our current favourite smartwatch, puts up a much tougher fight, thanks to its lower price, longer battery life, stronger water resistance, and compatibility with both iOS and Android devices.