Sony SmartWatch 2 - Apps and Verdict

Andrew Williams

By Andrew Williams

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

6

User Score:

Sony SmartWatch 2 – Feature and Apps

To get any other apps installed on the Sony SmartWatch 2 you have to download extra modules from Google Play on your phone. These include things like Gmail, Twitter, Calendar, a runner’s pedometer and music controller app.

Sony’s Smart Connect app shows you the array of ‘recommended’ Sony ones, but there are other third-party ones available in Google Play too. Sony’s SmartWatch has quietly become its own platform. Once installed these mini apps become icons on the SmartWatch 2’s home screen, which is a series of flick-able pages – each has six icons a piece.

However, it’s important to manage your expectations on what these apps can do. The Sony SmartWatch 2 is a fairly ‘dumb’ middle man between you and your phone. Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC are its only connections, and its processor is slow. It uses a 200MHz Qualcomm M3 chip, far less powerful than the 800MHz Exynos chip used in the Samsung Galaxy Gear.

The amount of processing the watch does by itself is tiny. It can’t grab its own info over Wi-Fi either, and getting some of the apps to actually work is a little painful. Each app has to be manually signed off by you (on your phone) as being ‘allowed’ to be accessed by the watch. So things like Gmail only work once you’ve jumped through a half-dozen hoops. There are a few too many stages to make the SmartWatch 2 feel convenient or slick. And for a device that’s meant to make things easier and quicker, that’s not really on.

We also found that some of the apps were pretty badly judged. The Facebook app gives you far too many notifications, for example. You get a buzz every time someone posts an update, not just when one relating to you pops-up and the Gmail client can’t cope with any HTML formatting, and so refuses to display half your emails.

But what is the Sony SmartWatch 2 actually like to use?

Aside from the power button on the watch’s side, there are two main interface bits to the SmartWatch 2. There’s the little 1.6-inch touchscreen and three tiny soft keys that mimic the back, Home and menu keys you get with most Android phones.

After some early reports that the SmartWatch 2 is slow and buggy, we found its performance to be reasonably good. The screen is quite responsive, and there’s little of the lag we feared when we heard about quite how low-powered its CPU is.

However, if you have a high-quality recent phone (which we image most buyers of the SmartWatch 2 will have), using the watch does feel like slumming it in comparison with your mobile. The screen looks much blockier than a decent phone thanks to its low 220 x 176 pixel resolution, and not enough apps behave intelligently enough. Where most popular phone apps have undergone dozens of sequential updates that have tweaked what they are like to use (often over years of development) the SmartWatch 2 shows that smart watch apps have a long, long way to go.

At present, the Sony SmartWatch 2 does little more than the drop-down notifications bar on your Android phone and it operates with even less control. However, if you carefully limit what it tries to pull in, it is a pretty handy way to check out your latest emails and text messages (as long as the emails are not too complicated), and find out who's calling you without taking out your phone.

The question – is that enough? We don't want to take calls with a watch (this watch has no mic or speaker), or play games on one, but the limited battery life and the awkward way it works stop this from being the step up from a lone smartphone it should be.

Should I buy the Sony Smartwatch 2?

When compared to its most obvious competitor, the Samsung Galaxy Gear, the Sony SmartWatch 2 does appear to adhere to the 'less is more' maxim. It's cheaper, has fewer features and longer battery life.

However, it's not the perfect accompaniment to a smartphone you're probably after. It's a pain to setup, and in trying to emulate a smartphone interface to an extent, it highlights the ways it falls behind modern phones in terms of the experience on offer.

The claim that a smartwatch is a solution to a problem that doesn't exist is an old argument that we don't entirely agree with, but the Sony SmartWatch 2 is not a great solution - assuming you find having to take your phone out of your pocket a pain in the first place.

At present the Pebble smartwatch is a much better example than this with much better battery life, though it still feels as if the best is yet to come in the smartwatch arena.

Verdict

The Sony SmartWatch 2 is smartwatch that will give you most of your notification on your wrist. It works. However, it's awkward to use at times, fairly short battery life is an inconvenience and it's just not as slick as most of the phones it can connect to.

Next, read our best smartphones round-up

Overall Score

6

House

September 4, 2013, 10:06 am

With such a small screen I'm very surprised Sony has bothered to put the battery life, page denotation and time all on the home screen. Looks to me they've just shrunk a phone, I can't imagine Apple doing this. Watches are meant to be cool, slick and look good, this isn't the smartwatch we've been waiting for.

chaosdefinesorder

September 4, 2013, 4:30 pm

they missed the chance to match the lovely smooth edge/side design of Z1 and Z Ultra on the watch! Would have looked much better than the painted(!!!) flat sides

Simon Butcher

September 4, 2013, 11:48 pm

This could do with wireless charging - put a pad on the nightstand and then take the watch off and leave it on it overnight. Four day battery doesn't become an issue then as it's regularly topped up and if you miss a day or two no worries.

fried_egg

September 5, 2013, 4:39 pm

As I have pre-ordered a Z1 with EE I am going to get one of these. Bit too geeky to wear I expect but if it isn't then the "vibrate" on phonecall/message will be useful if the Z1 is as miss-able as the S is in a pocket.

paulcoates

September 5, 2013, 9:28 pm

It's 24mm width straps that are compatible, I'm trying to find out the strap length as the one that came with the previous (current) model was a fraction too short for my wrist.

Gas_Huffer

September 7, 2013, 6:27 am

Of course they've just shrunk a phone. It's a remote control for your phone--what did you honestly expect?

Mark

September 14, 2013, 10:33 pm

The always-on display and standalone functionality are very welcome improvements over the SmartWatch 1, but if it still needs a Sony-branded phone for the email app to work that's going to kill it for me sadly.

Size-wise it's 1.7 x 1.6 x 0.35 inches, which makes it slightly bigger than the SW1, but half as thick. A decent size, unlike a Motoactiv which must be like having a brick tied to your wrist.

lily

October 8, 2013, 8:05 am

why no slot for earphone with speaker so that no need to up your hand to your mouth to answers phone calls or listening to musicl

David

October 11, 2013, 2:35 pm

I've had this watch for about two weeks now and I must say that it is FAR SUPERIOR to the previous Sony models. The screen is bright and clear and very sensitive to the touch and the watch software is arranged so that the layout is immediately familiar to Android users. It's also made of much better quality materials than previous models + the battery lasts ages! There are also some really cool apps starting to appear on Google Play too...for example the 'Watcher' app allows you to remotely view your phones camera video feed from up to 30 meters away and includes a motion detection facility which vibrates the watch when someone walks in front of the camera (real James Bond stuff!).

flo irimescu

January 5, 2014, 8:30 am

What's name for 2nd.app.who tell you? About motion detection I speak.

Serah Bryant

January 8, 2014, 7:15 pm

is it possible to make the clockface illuminated all of the time? i would only consider getting one if it was lit all of the time... otherwise there's not much point.

Lee White

March 13, 2014, 12:43 am

It definitely didn't need the face lite on 24,7 I've had it a month now& the screen really helped me out in the sun,,were I couldn't Se the phone I can always make calls and texts from it,,good job Sony

D A P Sharma

March 27, 2014, 4:18 pm

I came to know that smartwatch 2 has no calling-receiving facilities.
Is Sony working to improve this device with these facilities? Would like to buy it only with these facilities.

your help

March 29, 2014, 2:24 pm

you actually can answer calls from the sw2 but you must have your headphones plugged in to your phone the only smart watch that does it without headphones is the galaxy gear

Instigator

April 23, 2014, 3:09 pm

Is there GPS on this thing?

TundraDoubleMove

April 26, 2014, 9:31 pm

"Gmail client can’t cope with any HTML formatting, and so refuses to display half your emails." You should try eNotify it does a good job of displaying emails on the sw2 and lets you reply with canned messages.

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