In addition to new Vaios and a smartphone, Sony presented a number of novelties at IFA 2013, including the Sony SmartWatch 2, a second-generation watch that can be managed by any smartphone running Android Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0 or later. With big-name smartwatches from Apple and Google poised to hit the market, to make no mention of the Samsung Galaxy Gear, TechnologyGuide took a closer look at Sony’s offering.
This is a square watch with rounded edges and a 1.6-inch screen and 220 x 176 pixel resolution. This means that, despite its squared design, the display still has a rectangle form (in the landscape position), which oddly seems really natural when the watch is worn. Straight away it’s obvious that this is not an ‘ordinary’ watch, regardless of the fact that it only displays the time on the screen when it is in stand-by mode.
When connected to a smartphone, the Sony SmartWatch 2 only displays notifications in the event of a phone call, so it’s not an entirely independent device. On the other hand, it is possible to initiate events with the watch, like reading basic Facebook news feed information and viewing Gmail messages.
Connecting to a smartphone is fast and easy over Bluetooth, and accomplished with a long press of the power key. Users need to install a suitable and free app, which is then used to install additional SmartWatch-specific apps. So far, several dozen are available.
SmartWatch 2 is very light and when placed on the hand, it will not feel unnaturally large or heavy, even though it really is thick. The band is available in either metal or silicone.
What will likely be a problem however, is the rather poor display imaging sharpness, a result of the SmartWatch’s low resolution, even for a small device. Because of its grainy nature, the Sony SmartWatch 2 does not seem like a premium device, even if it does also feel like one of the most functional smartwatches available on the market.
Good news is that the display does not consume too much power, due to its small diagonal and resolution. According to Sony reps at IFA 2013, the SmartWatch 2 needs to be recharged “only” every four days. The charging takes place via a microUSB hub, located on the left side of the watch, situated opposite of the power key. SmartWatch 2 has no other physical controls or jacks, only three capacitive keys at the bottom of the screen, characteristic for Android OS, back, menu and home.
The software and OS provide a relatively high level of fluidity, making it fast and responsive for a smartwatch (and that’s faint praise, given the poor performance of past devices), though TG did encounter some lag while scrolling and running apps. Perhaps it should be kept in mind that the primary function of this device is to tell the time, and then serve as a smartphone accessory secondarily.
Viewed in this light, it’s easy to appreciate the Sony SmartWatch 2. This is definitely not a smartphone alternative, nor is it a replacement. The Sony SmartWatch 2 is an accessory with otherwise limited options.
The bottom line from IFA, the Sony SmartWatch 2 is one of the better smartwatches TG has had the opportunity to test. However, despite the fact that this is the second generation of the Sony gadget, it is still clear that this type of device is a work in progress. Take a look at the Samsung Galaxy Gear for further evidence, as it suffers from the same limited appeal outside of being a smartphone accessory.
The Sony SmartWatch 2 will be available for sale in Europe at the end of September for €179 ($235 US) for the silicone band, and €199 ($261 US) for the metal strap version. No word on any potential US release.