The smartwatch market is beginning to warm up. It's not yet hot. But it's certainly lukewarm, with a growing range of offerings from the likes of Samsung, Pebble and Sony.
For the most part, the technology hasn't yet matured. But with each release of a new product, progress is being made. And in that regard, Sony's Smartwatch 2 is no different.
The first thing you notice about the device when you remove it from its box, is that it looks different to its predecessor Smartwatch 1. It has a square body with rounded edges, and a single protruding power button on the side where you would normally find a crown on a regular watch. The larger 1.6" Transflective LCD touch screen is set into a black face with silver edging. The device I tried came with a black silicon wristband, which frankly looks and feels cheap, but there is a stainless steel alternative, which has a more premium appearance. Other standard size straps can also be used on the device.
The watch is big and while I found it comfortable and light to wear, those with smaller wrists may find it more cumbersome. All that said, it is a reasonably attractive alternative to some of the other offerings on the market. It does have an IP57 rating, meaning it is water resistant as long as the side charging point cover is closed. Charging is carried out by way of a (very short) USB to micro-USB cable. The battery life is respectable. Sony promises up to 4 days, although even with light use I found it to be less than that. The display has a modest 220x176 pixels, and it is evident in the rough edged look of some of the on-screen icons.
Once powered up, the display is always on, with a lower lit time and date display running when the full interface is not active. However, there is no motion sensor, so the only way to wake-up the full interface is to press the power button. The watch comes with a few apps pre-installed. But many of the most basic and most useful ones need to be downloaded. Plus the bulk of the apps only work when the device is tethered via Bluetooth to a compatible smartphone. So on first boot, the device prompts you to pair with a compatible Android 4.0 (won't work with iOS at all) phone - something I actually found quite tricky to complete - and install Sony's Smart Connect app from the Play Store. Once this is done, you are ready to download and install apps onto the watch, which is also a bit of a cumbersome rigmarole.
The range of official apps is limited to things like call handling, missed call notification, SMS/MMS, email, Facebook, Twitter and music control. But there is a wide enough range of other apps available, some of which are optimised for the Smartwatch 2. They all work as they should do, within the limits of a scaled down interface. But I didn't come across anything that was particularly new, innovative or game changing. The functionality and practicality of the notification apps was variable, though they tended to work better than some of the Smartwatch 2's competitors.
The touch interface is just ok, and can be sluggish at times. It has a familiar look as the icons look like their Android equivalent, even though the Smartwatch's runs on its own operating system.
In summary, the Sony Smartwatch 2 has made progress in looks, and usability. But its screen, interface and range of functions still need work, particularly for a device with a RRP of €179.