For most people, the Pebble is probably too nerdy and toy-like, while Samsung’s Galaxy Gear is too expensive with limited compatibility – the Sony Smartwatch 2 lies somewhere in the middle.
On the face of it, the SmartWatch 2 is the Pebble without the open-source SDK but with a colour touchscreen. Just like the Pebble, it’s more like a notifier and doesn’t have high-tech, smartphone-like features such as microphone, speaker or camera that you see in the Gear.
Let’s be realistic, the earlier version of the SmartWatch by Sony was a sheer disappointment. The SmartWatch 2 looks a lot more promising, yet it has a long way to go. In short, it’s beautiful, comfortable, lightweight, and water resistant, but from here the things go downhill.
- Operating system : Micrium uC/OS-II
- Display : 1.6-inch Trans-reflective LCD 220 x 176 pixels
- Compatible with : Android 4.0 and later
- Battery life : 48g (123g with metal strap)
Design & Display
The first time I looked at the SmartWatch 2, it looked pretty much like a miniature of Sony’s Xperia Z smartphone, with square corners, slightly glossier finish and a silver button on the side. There are seven 24mm spring-bar wrist bands you can choose from, five in silicon and two in leather – all are pretty cool. Just like most Sony smartphones, you don’t find too many weaknesses in the smartwatch’s hardware, however, it’s a different story when we consider the software.
The multi-layer 1.6-inch, 220 x 176 resolution colour LCD screen display is not very crisp. The trans-reflective screen makes reading easy in the direct sunlight, however, with just 176 pixels per inch, you can clearly see the jagged pixels. The SmartWatch 2 is scratchproof, dustproof and water resistant, rated IP57. Sony takes water resistance more seriously than most smartphone manufacturers, their watch is also waterproof up to 1 meter under water (for 30 minutes) – just make sure the port cover is closed before you dive into a pool.
The user interface might look familiar if you have used any of the Android based mobiles – in fact it’s pretty much the same with a touchscreen, a back soft key, a home soft key and a settings soft key. And then there is the big power button which can also be used to turn the backlight to full power.
To be bluntly honest, the interface is not responsive enough for a watch that’s supposed to save time and effort. Swiping through different screens is rather awkward, and some apps take too long to open. Changing tracks with the music controller is also a chore. In fact, you might get frustrated enough to get your phone out of your pocket to change the tracks – which nearly kills the purpose of a smartwatch.
Setting up all the apps on your SW 2 can be a tough row to hoe since the Smart Connect app is somewhat unintuitive. But once you set up your watch, you can just forget about it. The out of the box NFC compatibility makes pairing the devices a breeze, you can just tap your watch at the back of your smartphone and it’ll prompt you to continue with the installation.
The SW 2 it uses Android like interface, so you might not have any trouble learning the little tips and tricks but the less responsive interface can be a pain in the neck. You’ll get most notifications instantly, but some alerts like Twitter updates, may take a while before appearing on your wrist. Replying to texts is not possible through the watch, since you can’t type or use a voice-to-text command dictation as in the Galaxy Gear. On the plus, there are a few pre-set messages – that can also be customised – you can quickly send if you want to avoid the toil of taking your phone out of your pocket.
The SmartWatch 2 offers major convenience over its rivals since you can charge it with the Micro USB cable – which you probably also use to charge your smartphone. From your laptop, tablet, cell phone and smartwatch, which is the one you’d like to charge the least often? Of course your smartwatch! Luckily, if you rarely use your smartwatch, the battery can stay alive for up to 6 days, however, a more realistic use will drain your battery in about four days.
Compatibility and connectivity
The SmartWatch 2 is compatible with your phone that runs on Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) or higher. The iPhone, however, is a no-go area at this point.
Feature and apps
The good thing about the SmartWatch 2 is that it can also work as a standalone watch and tells more than just the time i.e. you may use it as a compass, timer or stopwatch.
The built-in apps and plugins include call handling (answer, reject, mute, volume handling), missed call notifications, SMS/MMS, email (for Xperia smartphone and tablet email functions only), Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, music remote extension/music handling, calendar and slideshow.
To connect the smartwatch with your phone, you need to download Sony’s Smart Connect app from Google’s Play Store. There is a wide variety of apps available for Sony’s smartwatches, with over half of them particularly optimised for the SW 2. Some notable 3rd-party apps include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth toggles, timers, device authentication, and battery meters.
The biggest hassle we encountered was that the notifications do NOT sync on your smartwatch and phone. For instance, if you view a message on your smartwatch, it will still appear under the “unread messages” on your smartphone. So you’ve to deal with each notification twice.
The SmartWatch 2 vs others – A quick comparison
As a matter of fact, we can only have a reasonable comparison of the SW 2 with the Pebble or the Gear, because it beats other smartwatches like the Martian Passport or the Qualcomm Toq hands down. Though the Passport is compatible with both Android and iOS devices, SW 2 is robust, way cheaper and offers enhanced options such as missed call alerts, low battery alert, GPS, accelerometer, and multi-touch. The only area where the Passport beats the SW2 is battery life, but again that comes at the cost of a simpler, low-power display.
Out of the three big smartwatches we have reviewed so far (the Pebble, the Galaxy Gear, and the SW 2), the SmartWatch 2 is the only one that allows you to browse your entire SMS inbox – obviously a nice touch!
When compared with the big two smartwatches, the Gear is the costliest but also has a better display while the Pebble is the cheapest but has a black and white, e-paper display without touchscreen capabilities. Talking about the battery life, the Pebble can keep going for up to 7 days, the SW 2 can stay alive for 4 days while the Gear needs to be recharged after about every 24 hours.
The Gear is compatible with selected Samsung devices, while the Pebble offers compatibility with the widest range of devices that run on iOS or Android. The SmartWatch 2 is compatible with Android 4 and higher devices only.
If you have a smaller wrist and size is a real concern, then the Gear is the bulkiest, since it is 37mm x 57 mm while the Pebble is 34mm x 46 mm and Sony is 41m x 42 mm. The Sony Smartwatch 2 is the lightest only 48 g, but becomes the heaviest with the metal strap weighing about 123g. The Gear weighs about 74g and the pebble weighs about 99g. All the three smartwatches are sturdy, SW2 is made of aluminium while the other two are made of stainless steel.
Two other areas where the SmartWatch 2 and the Pebble lack are voice control and the ability to make phone calls from the watch which is only possible with the Gear.
Sony SmartWatch 2
Design & Display7/10
Compatibility and Connectivity6/10
Features And Apps5/10
- Durable, dustproof, scratch proof and water resistant
- Always on display
- A standalone, advanced and stylish smartwatch
- Attractive fit and finish
- Micro USB charging
- Low resolution display
- Clumsy interface and setup
- Slow processing and unintuitive interface
- Compatible with Android 4.0 and higher only