Here we have the newest smartwatch from Samsung running the new Android Wear OS – the Gear Live – up against the Sony SmartWatch 2. How does Sony's rather tentative approach to the smartwatch field stand up to the new Android Wear platform…one has to wonder if Sony will come out with a new 'SmartWatch Live' running Android Wear. That would be an interesting combo and while this is Sony's second smartwatch venture, they did not really jump in with both feet – kind of like testing the smartwatch waters to see if they are really going to take off – I believe they are cleared for take-off!
Like most devices up against the Sony SmartWatch 2 (SW2), there will not be too much in common with the comparison devices – Sony went the same route as Pebble in their approach to a smartwatch – more minimalistic. Other than the size of the displays – 1.63-inches for the Gear Live and 1.60-inch on the SW2 and we can even say the batteries at 300mAh on the Gear Live versus 225mAh on the SW2 – there is nothing the same on these two smartwatches. They both have the obligatory gyros, accelerometer and compass, but that is where it stops – they both have water and dust resistance, but even there the Gear Live has an IP67 certification and the SW2 only has an IP57 rating…in other words, maybe a few raindrops or a very quick shower, but that is it.
Please take a look at the specifications listed below and then we will take a look at each device and look at some of their pros and cons…hoping that will help us pick out a winner in this comparison.
Samsung Gear Live
The new Samsung Gear Live was a real surprise announcement at the Google I/O – all we heard from Samsung was Tizen and their new Gear 2 and Gear Fit bracelet…maybe Samsung was trying to appease Google by agreeing to produce a smartwatch running Android Wear. Whatever the reason, it is probably the best rendition out there – until the mighty Moto 360 comes out. The Gear Live uses Samsung's AMOLED technology to produce a stunning display with 278 Pixels-Per-Inch (PPI) when compared to the SW2's LCD display with only 141 PPI. The Snapdragon 400 quad-core processor clocked at 1.2GHz blows the measly M4 single-core processor with 180MHz found on the SW2 out of the water. Then there is the Gear Live's 512MB of RAM and 4GB of memory versus the 64MB of RAM and 256MB of storage on the SW2. We certainly understand that, like the Pebble, the amount of processing power, RAM and memory, is relative to the device and its OS – but under most circumstances it is also a good indicator of the power and abilities of what the device is capable of performing.
The Gear Live has the more up-to-date Bluetooth 4.0 LE to take advantage of the new low powered Bluetooth devices on the market. It uses a standard 22mm wristband, so it can easily be changed out and comes in both Black and Wine Red. The Gear Live also sports a Heart Rate Monitor for those that are interested in keeping fit. It will work with any smartphone running Android 4.3 Jelly Bean or higher. Priced at $199.99, it is the same list price as the SW2, although the SW2 is being sold at a discount some places.
Sony SmartWatch 2
The Sony SmartWatch 2 (SW2) is Sony's second attempt into the smartwatch field and we are wondering if their next effort might yield a little more functionality – they have a good beginning, but seem afraid to put in a lot of effort, just in case the smartwatch is just a phase…but it really appears to be staying around. Sony has done a couple updates to add more watch faces and boost up the speed a bit. We are hoping that Sony will do an Android Wear rendition – quality build and real functionally tied into Android. Looks is very subjective – some thinks it is too retro looking and some have called it cartoonish – personally, I like the looks, but then I am a little retro myself.
In our specification and hardware comparison, there is just not much that the SW2 has going for it. Its LCD screen is adequate, but quite dismal when directly compared against the AMOLED display of the Gear Live. The processor, the amount of RAM and internal storage is just too little in today's techno world – and while Sony may be able to do a few things with those specs, it is still very limited, even with the software that runs on the SW2. It will work with any smartphone running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich or above. The IP57 rating is really only good for a heavy rainstorm or a quick personal shower. We hope that Sony will take that extra step next time with improvements all around. At $199.99, it was a little expensive – but then it had no competition other than Pebble – but it is now being offered at a discount and is more reasonable.
…And the Winner is…
I had to go with the newer Samsung Gear Live and its Android Wear OS to win this comparison – the watch is modern looking with a metal bezel and curved back to sit neatly on your wrist. With a nicer display, more power, more memory, the Heart Rate Monitor and more capabilities, it was a no-brainer. That is not to say that the SW2 is an awful device, because it is not and if you just want simple notifications then it may be the smartwatch for you. It does have its moments of lag and gets a little glitchy here and there. Setup is a little awkward and you need to add a 'smart extension' for each app – one for Gmail, one for Messaging, one for Twitter, etc.
With the Gear Live and Android Wear, you get to take advantage of Google Now and all of its 'OK Google' commands, as well as its 'cards' of information. Even Android Wear is less than it can really be at this point – but it has great potential and with a few quick upgrades and the as the apps keep flowing, it could become THE software for wearables and it fits nicely into the ecosystem that Google is trying to establish…and finally, a Samsung smartwatch that does not need a Samsung smartphone in order to work!
Please hook up with us on our Google+ Page and let us know which of these smartwatches you like and WHY…as always, we would love to hear from you.