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Sony SmartWatch 2: A teeny, tiny step in the right smartwatch direction

Jon Phillips | Nov. 11, 2013
Don't slag its limited feature set. By focusing on just a few key features, Sony's wearable avoids complete failure.

Is this the kind of thing you'd put on your wrist? Would you give up your Swatch or Timex to wear this watch instead? Only you know the answer. But I think we can all agree that the watch's size and shape make a shouty statement (the body measures about 1.6 by 1.6 inches), and many potential customers will outright dismiss the gadget because it doesn't suit their style.

Personally, I like the physical power button on the side that turns on the display's backlight. It evokes the crown of an analog watch, and helps to de-nerdify the overall design. But I'm much less impressed with the plastic tab that covers the USB charging port and prevents the SmartWatch 2 from bricking if you drop it into a bucket of water. Prying open the cover is nearly impossible without using a razor blade or an X-Acto knife. That's a pain point, considering you'll need to access the port every time you charge.

Familiar interface, annoying vibrations
When you're not directly engaging with one of the watch's apps, the LCD functions as a basic timepiece, displaying an always-on watch face without any backlighting. You get five built-in watch faces (I think the analog replicas look cheesy compared with the simple digital display), and you can download more faces via Sony's Smart Connect app on your phone. A number of apps come preinstalled on the watch, but if you want to install more or to manage behaviors for existing apps, you'll need to extricate your phone from your pocket and do all of that in Smart Connect. The process is a pain in the butt, but is standard smartwatch fare, sadly.

Click the power button, and the SmartWatch 2 comes to life. A single click turns on the backlight. A double click shoots you to the home screen. There you'll find three sliding panes, each supporting up to six app icons. Also on the home screen are icons for the battery level, the Bluetooth status, and the current time. On the bottom bezel sit Android's familiar Back and Home buttons, along with an Actions button that lets you choose how to sort your home-screen icons and define options in various apps.

Navigating the UI is a relatively straightforward affair. The touchscreen is serviceably (but not perfectly) responsive to finger taps, and apps launch quickly enough, without any undue lag or drama. Obviously, the display is way too small to support an on-screen keyboard, so the watch's app functions are all tied directly into simple notifications and brief—very brief—snippets of content.

When the handset in your pocket receives a phone call, a text message, or email—or even a new Twitter or Facebook update, because, yes, the SmartWatch 2 directly supports those services—the watch will come alive with a visual notification of the incoming signal. The notifications remain on screen for just 10 seconds, so you'd better glance at your watch as soon as you see the display light up. Otherwise you'll miss the notification entirely.

 

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