Sony has been one of the long-standing smart watch advocates on the scene, with the concept evolving from the company’s Bluetooth watches; such as the Sony Ericsson MBW-150 BT in 2009, to the first true touchscreen-laden smart watch, the Sony Ericsson LiveView, which launched in 2011.
Sony has continued to evolve the concept and now brings us its 2013 offering, the Sony SmartWatch 2. But is it an essential or an unnecessary extra for modern mobile users?
Beautiful balancing act
Much like Sony’s latest smartphones, the SmartWatch 2 is a precise balance of form and function, not to mention the fact that it’s DNA is unmistakably Sony.
The body of the watch itself consists of a metal frame, a characteristic metal sleep/wake key on its right side and a concealed microUSB port on the left, used for charging. The watch face features a polished, chamfered edge, surrounding a 1.6-inch LCD touch panel, which also accommodates capacitive back, home and menu keys underneath.
With subtle rounding on the corners, its precise lines and a classic finish of black with silver accents, the SmartWatch 2 will look at home on the wrist of any businessman when paired with any of the available straps, be that the included black silicon one or the optional leather or anodised metal offerings Sony has also created. There are more colourful offerings too should the conservative out-the-box aesthetic not be to taste.
Sony has packed a lot into a body that is just 9mm thick and weighs a mere 122.5 grams (silicon strap included). Aside from the visible controls, the flat plastic back that rests against the wrist features basic product information and an NFC logo, highlighting the watches NFC and Sony One-touch compatibility.
Wax Backlight on, wax backlight off
Just like the design, the display needed to be able to strike a balance and Sony has chosen a competent panel for the SmartWatch 2. When lit, the LCD is extremely bright and offers vibrant colours with good sunlight legibility, albeit having to cope with the reflective glass face sometimes causing issue.
Switch the display off and the SmartWatch 2’s high contrast watch face is easily readable in bright sunlight. Tapping the power button will also ignite the backlight momentarily, which is handy in darker environments too.
It’s all about the apps
The smart watch race clearly mimics the smartphone race that came before it in that to stay at the head of the pack, you need good app support. Sony is already working with developers to ensure a growing number of apps are SmartWatch 2 compatible, but as it’s still so fresh to the market, pickings are relatively slim at this stage in the game, an issue that just as apparent with rival smart watches too.
Thankfully Sony has already created key applications for things like call logs, weather, calendar entries, emails, Facebook notifications, Twitter notifications and even an app which turns it into a remote viewfinder and shutter for your smartphone’s camera. Runtastic Pro also comes bundled with the SW2 which paired to the IP57 certification, means that fitness fanatics can keep track of their runs in real-time without having to pull out their phones.
The watch’s main interface is clean and simple with the ability to swipe between homescreens, drag down from the top for recent notifications and organise apps alphabetically of by frequency of use with a quick tap on the menu key. From within apps such as Facebook and Gmail, the menu key also brings up the option to open the relevant app on your device, a helpful feature which means you can jump straight to the content previewed on the watch the moment you unlock your phone.
Can it be an everyday watch?
So how is wearing the SmartWatch 2 in day-to-day life? Well, it’s far from perfect, with truncated, text-only notifications, its limited app library and hit a miss reliability, but it’s most definitely a step in the right direction.
Sony quotes battery life at around 3-4 days of general use and if you switch it off at night like we did, you can even push it to around a week, so considering the amount of extra functionality it offers we’re impressed (the likes of the Galaxy Gear lasts around 2 days).
Glancing at incoming emails and tweets after a gentle vibrate on your wrist is effortless, although longer interactions can become uncomfortable as a result of the small screen and awkward angle your arm needs to be held at for extended periods. The IP57 water resistance means that you needn’t worry about rain or sweat and the screen is good enough for night and day use.
The price tag is also a bonus at around £150, which for a smart watch that works with all manner of Android devices, not just Sony’s own, seems more than reasonable. The concept is great, the execution is OK, but what’s most significant is the potential. The SmartWatch 2 isn’t the perfect smart accessory but it spells good things on the road ahead, which in our eyes can’t come soon enough. Bring on the SmartWatch 3.