It might not be the smartwatch that everyone at IFA is talking about, but Sony's wearable wonder has plenty going for it
Sony’s initial smartwatch attempt had a somewhat lukewarm reception, but the company is ready for round two with a better equipped successor, just in time to take on Samsung’s Galaxy Gear.
Design-wise, the Smartwatch 2 looks very similar to the original with a thick, boxy body and rubber wrist strap, available in a range of colours. The raised power button on the side looks like machined aluminium (there wasn’t a Sony rep on hand to confirm either way) and matches the Xperia Z and Xperia Z1.
The standard Android Home, Menu and Back buttons are present on the watch face directly below the display. They are touch-sensitive, but you’ll need to press the physical standby button to wake the watch from sleep. It prevents it from happening accidentally and conserves the battery by dimming the LED backlight. A microUSB port is hidden behind a removable flap, but you should only need to break out the charger every three or four days to keep juiced up.
the NFC logo on the underside of the watch indicated smartphone pairing is just a tap away
The screen itself uses a 1.6in, 220×176 panel, which feels somewhat restrictive when tapping on app icons – we would have liked to see fewer but larger icons on each screen to make it easier to hit them consistently. It was easily bright enough on the show floor, but we’re not sure how it will hold up in bright sunshine.
Beyond the usual time, weather, alarm and notification features you’ll find on smartatches like the Galaxy Gear, Sony’s Smartwatch 2 also lets you open and reply to emails, Facebook posts and Twitter updates. You can also install extra apps through the dedicated smartwatch app, which can be installed on any Android device. This is a major win over Samsung’s watch, which is only compatible with a few select smartphones and tablets.
There’s no way to answer calls, as there’s no speaker or microphone built into the watch, but we don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. You’re still very much reliant on your smartphone for most tasks, but Smartwatch lets you keep track of the important things.
From our short time with both Sony and Samsung’s smartwatches, we quickly noticed how much difference a metal strap made after using the generic rubber/plastic ones bundled with each watch. Even though the Smartwatch 2 isn’t as sleek as Galaxy Gear, with the optional black metal strap it begins to feel like a more expensive device. Sony’s device should be compatible with any watch strap too, so you can find one you like and connect it up without any issues – unlike Galaxy Gear, which has an integrated camera in its strap.
The Smartwatch 2 goes on sale later this month for £160. That will almost certainly make it less expensive than the Galaxy Gear, but we’ll have to wait until after release to see whether 2013 is the year that wearable computing in general takes off with the public.