Sony SmartWatch 2

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Clock this. The £130 Sony Smartwatch 2 promises much, but falls down on delivery because of buggy software and sluggish performance from an under-powered processor

Smart watches are reckoned to be the Next Big Thing (a smart watch connects to your smartphone displaying social network updates, text messages and emails etc on your wrist). Samsung and Sony Mobile have both launched their own smart watches. Sony’s latest effort is its second model with a new design. Unsurprisingly it is called SmartWatch 2. It’s now water resistant but not waterproof.

The screen size has also increased from 1.3 inches to 1.6 inches. The resolution has been bumped from 128 x 128 pixels to a much clearer 220 x 176 pixels.

Android 4.0
Unlike Samsung’s Galaxy Gear smartwatch launched two months ago (What Mobile, November) which only connects to selected Samsung devices such as the Galaxy S4 and the Galaxy Note 3, the Sony SmartWatch 2 works with just about any phone running Android 4.0.

Connecting is achieved with just a simple tap, thanks to the inclusion of Near Field Communication (NFC), which allows you to pair devices by tapping them together through the use of radio waves. It then reverts to a Bluetooth connection. You’ll need to download and install a SmartWatch app from the Google Play Store. Once installed all your text message and call notifications will be delivered directly to the SmartWatch 2, which vibrates whenever it receives a notification.

And unlike the Samsung Galaxy Gear, Sony has a huge catalogue of over 300 apps available to choose from. These include big-hitters such as Facebook and Twitter, right down to games. Many simple apps are currently priced way above what you’d expect to pay, such as Solitaire MegaPack, of which free versions are available on smartphones but cost £1.86. It’s not limited to just a few apps. You’ll find most of the apps, even something as simple as a web browser, are premium offerings.

If you’ve installed Facebook and Twitter, then you’ll begin to notice the SmartWatch 2 vibrating a lot more than usual, as it delivers the first 25 items from your Facebook and Twitter streams directly to your wrist every 15 minutes, or however long you set it.

Since release, the SmartWatch 2 has had an update, which is simply done by updating the Play Store app you installed when setting up.

This update does promise significant performance improvements, although we can’t say we’ve noticed a difference, with it feeling just as sluggish as before.

We’ve heard users are having vastly different experiences according to the connected device being used, a situation that is plaguing both retail and review units.

The sides of the watch are relatively bare apart from one micro USB port. As expected, this is where you plug the SmartWatch 2 in to charge, which can be done using the USB cable provided.

When the device is fully set up you’ll see an iOS-style homescreen with rows of app icons that are then swipeable. Unlike iOS and Android though, you won’t be able to swipe down to bring up your notifications, instead there is a dedicated app which you’ll have to go into – an app which failed to load on many occasions, and even when it did, often took around five seconds.

When you’re not using the SmartWatch 2 it’ll look just like any other digital watch out there, although the difference is you can change the clockface between digital and analogue. To bypass the lock screen and get into the home screen you’ll need to double tap the lock button, as just a single tap will make the clock light up.

Full article in Mobile News issue 552 (November 18, 2013).

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