If you’re still wearing a regular old watch, then congratulations – you’re one of a small dying breed that still wears a watch to tell the time (myself included). So many people now just whip out their smartphones when they want to know what time it is that the humble watch is often forgotten and left to die out in a bedside drawer. But thanks to the wonder of technology, watches suddenly became ‘smart’, doing much more than just telling the time. Smartwatches are a fast-moving trend, and almost every manufacturer is trying to put out a smartwatch that will out-tick the competition. In order to see just how useful a smartwatch is, I swapped out my trusty analog Lacoste watch for a Sony SmartWatch 2 for a week, just to see what all the fuss was about.
Build quality & design
The Sony SmartWatch 2 is certainly a slim little thing, measuring just 42 x 9 x 41 mm. It’s got a very sleek and square design, making it look just like a regular digital watch at first glance. From a style point of view I would say that you could wear the SmartWatch 2 with a casual outfit, but the rubber strap makes it look a bit cheap if you’re wearing it with a slightly more formal look, such as to a dinner party.
The watch itself only has one physical button on the right, which you use to turn on the watch or wake it up. On the front there are three capacitive buttons for Back, Home, and Menu. The 1.6″ screen offers a resolution of 220×176 and being fully touch-enabled allows you to swipe through notifications and apps. The watch also vibrates when you receive a notification, which you can turn off in the setting app.
UI and Apps
Out of the box the Smartwatch 2 has no apps installed on it apart from Flashlight, Alarm, Stopwatch, and Timer. In order to get the device up and running, you need to obviously pair it with your Smartphone via Bluetooth (you can also turn on NFC for easier pairing). If you’re using a non-Xperia handset, you’ll need to download Sony’s Smart Connect software first onto your phone. Only after this is installed can you actually connect to your SmartWatch 2 and activate the apps you need.
There are a number of apps you can download to your SmartWatch 2, including email, Facebook, Twitter, call handling, calendar reminders, and much more. Just select the app to download, and then tap it to configure it on your phone. The app will immediately show up on your SmwartWatch 2 and you’ll start to receive notifications for it. Speaking of notifications, there’s a universal notification app on the screen which lets you see alerts from all apps, which you can subsequently dismiss with a few taps.
Wearing the SmartWatch 2 was an interesting experiment. For one thing, I didn’t have to keep whipping out my phone everytime it pinged – just glanced at my SmartWatch 2 to see what the notification was, and if it was important I would then reach for my phone. This made it easier to attend to important emails as they came in, rather than firing up my phone to find several messages waiting for a reply. One slight annoyance specific to email is that you can’t delete an email using the SmartWatch 2. It would be nice if with a single tap I could delete emails as they hit my inbox, but sadly it wasn’t meant to be. The SmartWatch 2 also can’t handle HTML emails, so if a newsletter or email with HTML formatting hits your inbox, you’re going to have to view it on your phone. The same story goes for other apps like Facebook or Twitter – alerts hit your SmartWatch 2 as they come in, and you can tend to them on your phone. Plus, the SmartWatch 2 doesn’t really ‘sync’ with your phone at times – you could have read all your emails in your inbox, but they will show up as unread on your watch until you mark them as read on the watch as well. You can recharge your SmartWatch 2 using the handy micro-USB connector hidden on the side. On a full charge the device lasted me four days before the battery hit the red zone.
The one thing that was interesting about wearing the SmartWatch 2 was it made me realize just how irritating it would be to wear a smart watch. When I was at a dinner with friends, I had put my phone on silent to avoid being disturbed, but of course my SmartWatch 2 kept vibrating with every email and tweet that came in. When I turned off the vibrate feature, content would still show up briefly on the screen, and one of my friends even asked if I needed to check my phone judging by the number of times my SmartWatch 2 was flashing. I just ended up turning off the device completely until I had finished my meal.
As a notification center on your wrist, the Sony SmartWatch 2 is a perfect companion. However, I have to comment that it doesn’t always behave nicely with non-Sony smartphones. There are a number of times where the SmartWatch 2 didn’t play nicely with my HTC One, including disconnecting randomly, not display proper updates, or waiting up to 45 seconds to notify me of a new email. These issues seem to disappear when paired with an Xperia Z1, funnily enough. The Sony SmartWatch 2 is a somewhat handy companion to your smartphone, but it can be a distraction for those moments when you’re trying to disconnect from technology for a few minutes.
Easier alternative to checking notifications
Occasional connectivity issues with other smartphone brands