Anyone who knows me in person knows that I am a huge fan of wearable technology. I have owned 5 different SmartWatches over the past 10 years and I am always excited to see newer watches enter the market. I have integrated SmartWatches into my life as they allow me to discreetly check things while in meetings or in locations that it is not possible to pull out your phone.
A little over 15 months ago, I purchased the original Sony SmartWatch after my Ericsson LiveView stopped functioning. I was pleased with the watch and wore it religiously for over a year. I was beyond excited to see that Sony was working on the SmartWatch successor and planned to release it in October of 2013. I even got some hands on time with an early prototype.
After purchasing the watch, I was fairly pleased with my new toy. Sony has done away with the proprietary 4-pin charging port that existed in the first generation SmartWatch and replaced it with a standard MicroUSB port. As Sony has done with some of their newer phones, they have waterproofed the SmartWatch 2 and replaced the scratch prone glass front with Gorilla Glass 3.
As a consequence of owning several SmartWatches over the years, I rarely have any complaints with the bluetooth pairing that is normally required with all of the products. The SmartWatch 2 somehow simplifies this even more. The setup process simply involves downloading an application from the Google Play Store and taping the back of the watch to the back of your phone. New users will up and running within minutes.
Unlike the other major player on the market, the Samsung Galaxy Gear, you are not required to own a Samsung Phone, the SmartWatch will work perfectly with any Android Phone running Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0) or Higher. The Samsung Gear does pack a camera but many users report lackluster photos that require them to hold their hands in unnatural positions.
Sony makes several claims on the battery life of the Watch by advising users that they should be getting 2-4 days of use between charges. From my real world testing, I found that Sony's statements are indeed true. I often charge my watch every 3 days. Unfortunately as part of Sony's attempt to waterproof the watch, they sealed the MicroUSB port with a plastic cover that can sometimes be difficult to open. Users will also be happy to know that it does not cause a significant impact to the battery life of your SmartPhone.
The construction of the watch is far superior to any previous version of the Sony SmartWatch and even feels like it would beat out just about every other watch on the market when it comes to standing up to wear and tear. Unlike the LiveView and SmartWatch 1, Sony does not allow you to quickly detect the watch face from the band to make it easier to allow for aftermarket watch bands.
As mentioned previously, Sony has worked their waterproofing magic on the SmartWatch which is a welcomed change. The watch is not designed to be submerged for long periods of time, so swimmers may want to leave the watch in their locker. The watch will however stand up to sweat, downpours and even the occasional dunk in water.
Perhaps my favorite feature about the watch is the ability to tell the time without turning on the screen as it is always on. The screen has a special low powered mode to allow the face to sip power to change the time while leaving the backlight completely off. The viewing angles are impressive and I have never had any issues viewing it, even in direct sunlight.
The software powering the Sony SmartWatch however leaves a lot to be desired and in some ways is a step back from the firmware of the SmartWatch 1. I enjoyed the widgets that could be activated on the previous version of the SmartWatch however they have vanished in the SmartWatch 2. The firmware can often become laggy and cause random reboots when flipping through screens. The number of available watch faces have also been cut in half from the previous generation. It is important to note that these problems are software related and Sony can fix them via an Over The Air Software Upgrade.
Unlike the other major SmartWatch player, The Samsung Galaxy Gear, applications for the Sony SmartWatch 2 are downloaded from the Google Play Store. Sony has even allowed legacy SmartWatch 1 applications to run on the SmartWatch 2. This is great for anyone who has purchased applications for the previous generation of SmartWatch. As it stands, there are over 100 applications for the SmartWatch and more are added all the time.
One of the best features of the SmartWatch 2 is the notification center. Notifications from GMail, Twitter,SMS ,Facebook and more are accessed via a simple pull down menu that can be accessed via a downwards swipe, similar to what is done with Android. The first few lines of the email can be read from the watch via the GMail viewer.
The watch will also notify you of incoming phone calls and allow you to dismiss them if you are ever in a position that you cannot answer your phone. The watch contains a gentle vibrating motor that can be used to get your attention when needed.
Unlike the previous SmartWatch, the SmartWatch 2 has a functional "Offline Mode" that allows the watch to have some basic functionality when your phone is out of range. You can view past notifications and even launch applications assuming they do not require an internet connection.
In conclusion, Sony has indeed built a very capable watch that has a lot of potential to make people want to wear a watch again. After a month of testing the watch, I never leave home without it. The hardware is very well built and the watch lives up to its promise of 2-4 days of usage before you need a recharge. Sony does have a lot of work to do in order to fix some of the inadequacies with the software but the watch can be upgraded via the SmartConnect Application on your Android Phone. The watch does have the potential to live up to its $199 asking price.