Sony SmartWatch 2 review

Is the cheaper Sony Android SmartWatch 2 better than the Samsung Galaxy Gear?

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Works with multiple devices

  • +

    Fair price tag

  • +

    Good battery life

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Limited notifications

  • -

    Dependency on your phone

  • -

    Flimsy wrist strap and clasp

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The Sony Smartwatch 2 is the brand's second-gen Android watch, but is it a better buy than the Pebble or Samsung Galaxy Gear?

Wearable tech is big news in 2013. With Google Glass on the horizon, a Google smart watch in the making and a mooted Apple iWatch, every tech company and their dog are rolling out a slice of wearable tech.

We were mildly impressed by the Pebble, disappointed by the Samsung Galaxy Gear and now we have the Sony SmartWatch 2, the second iteration of Sony's clever Android wrist watch. Is this the smart watch we've been waiting for?

Sony SmartWatch 2: Size and build

The Samsung Galaxy Gear felt like a premium device, the Pebble was the opposite and the Sony SmartWatch 2 sits in the middle. With it's choice of silicon or stainless steel strap, it's not the most eye-catching or exciting design and the unit we had broke after a couple of weeks' use, with the clasp snapping as we took it off.

It's not cheap, but it's not hugely sturdy either. As with the Samsung Galaxy Gear, it's available in various wrist-strap options (seven colours available) but unlike Samsung's offering, the strap can be changed and the watch will fit any 24mm strap.

Sony SmartWatch 2 vs Samsung Galaxy Gear

It's smaller than the Gear measuring 9mm thick, 41mm wide and 42mm long. It's still big for a watch but we don't mind that. Another win it has over its rival is that the SmartWatch is fully waterproof, a dunk in the pool will do it no harm.

Exterior buttons are taken care of by the slightly protruding on/off button, and there's also a micro USB port for charging, something that the Galaxy Gear lacked. What you won't find is a camera. No pervy wrist shots here.

Sony SmartWatch 2: Features

One of our main bugbears with the Gear was it's lack of compatibility: the SmartWatch doesn't have the same problem. It's compatible with any Android phone or tablet running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich - we tested it primarily with the Sony Xperia Z1.

If your phone lacks NFC then it's back to good old Bluetooth. Once connected the watch relies on Bluetooth to work with your phone meaning you have to have always-on Bluetooth, ditch that and your connection is gone. The set-up was simple, download the app and with one touch on the back of your phone, you're done.

There isn't much on the watch from the off and you'll have to download dedicated apps from the Play Store to get the watch to do anything but Sony has made it easy recommending apps that are created

for the watch and those that are compatible for the watch. We'll come back to apps later in the review.

Unlike the Gear, you won't be able to take calls on the SmartWatch, you'll be able to see someone is calling you and you can decline but you'll need a handsfree-kit or headset to answer a call. If you don't have one of them then you'll be scrambling around to find your phone. It's slightly annoying but then again we never did like the Dick Tracy-esque look of answering calls with your wrist.

Messaging is another no-no. You can receive messages and read them on the watch but you'll only be able to reply with pre-set templates on the watch.

There's no keyboard or voice action here. Also, once you've read the message it'll disappear from the watch, if you want to look back, you'll have to get your phone out. Like the Gear, the SmartWatch 2 is heavily dependent on your handset.

Sony SmartWatch 2: Screen

The screen is the exact same size as on the Gear at 1.6 inches with a resolution of 220 x 176 pixels. It's not as detailed as the Galaxy Gear and icons appear slightly pixelated especially as Sony hasn't skinned the watch in the same way that Samsung has.

This also means that icons are tiny on the screen, with five home screens and six icons on each, it's not great for larger-fingered folk.

What the screen does do well, is tell the time. With the Gear we had to flick our wrist to get it to tell the time, the SmartWatch screen is always on. It's also easy to see in direct sunlight.

Sony SmartWatch 2: Apps

At launch there's a bigger catalogue of apps available for the SmartWatch 2. They're also easy to find through the Smart Connect app. Ordered into apps created for the SmartWatch and those that work with it, you can choose to search all or drill down into categories such as fitness, photography and games.

If you opt for the silicon strap SmartWatch, there's the bonus of a RunTastic Pro account and as we mentioned in the Samsung Galaxy Gear review, fitness and health is one of the areas that smart watches will come into their own. It's a good app and works better than those found on the Gear.

There's also the handy and free camera smart extension that allows you to control your phone's camera and also your classics such as a Facebook extension, Twitter, calendar and the completely pointless torchlight.

Sony SmartWatch 2: Performance

Compared to the Galaxy Gear the processor in the SmartWatch is paltry but then again, why do you need 512MB of RAM and 4GB of storage on a watch? The 200MHz processor works well enough and we didn't find any lag scrolling through the watch and it dealt with various apps with ease.

Futureproofing could be an issue, but in all honesty smart watches are still in their infancy and we'd expect a more powerful offering from Sony soon to deal with more power-intensive apps.

Sony SmartWatch 2: Battery

Sony quotes three days use for the SmartWatch and it's not far wrong. It managed to stay alive on our wrist comfortably for a couple of days use with various apps on the go, including RunTastic, and by day three we were still going although we did start to see the low-battery icon appear on the watch.

It's a far better result than the Gear that only manages a day and on a par with the Pebble that lasts around three days too.

Sony SmartWatch 2: Verdict

Unfortunately, the Sony SmartWatch 2 isn't the smart watch we've been waiting for. It's not awful, it's just not necessary, as with smart watches in general.

If you like the idea of receiving messages and updates on your phone then it does that, if you like the idea of controlling your camera app with your wrist, it's got it covered but that's about it.

If you want a fitness companion, you'd do better with a dedicated sport-watch like the Nike+ Fuelband, and if you want something to tell the time? Get a watch.

It's a better option than the Samsung Galaxy Gear but only because of its lower price - it's around £100 cheaper - and the fact that it's compatible with more than two devices. However, as with the Gear, this is still a case of testing the water and not the product to take smart watches into the mainstream. Your move, Apple.

Sony SmartWatch 2 release date: Out now

Sony SmartWatch 2 price: £159.99