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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.

If you find yourself missing the watch's visual alerts, you can set it to vibrate during notifications as well, but this is an all-or-nothing, blunt-force approach that quickly becomes annoying. After about two hours of use, I grew tired of constant buzz alerts for email and Twitter updates, and toggled the setting off—thus killing vibrations for everything. I would have preferred a way to limit vibrations to just phone calls and text messages, but the interface doesn't offer that level of control.

Hello? Did I do something wrong?
There's also little transparency in how the watch decides which incoming signals will appear as notifications. For example, my 360-odd Twitter follows must generate at least 100 tweets an hour, yet only a very small percentage of their updates ever made it to the smartwatch in the form of notifications. Is that by algorithmic design? Is the watch cherry-picking what it believes to be the most important tweets? Sony offers no explanation in any documentation, but after extensive experimentation I was able to determine that the watch doesn't update its Twitter app in real time. The most aggressive update setting will grab new tweets every 15 minutes, and the watch simply elevates the most recent tweet in its latest update batch to notification status.

Or at least that's my theory, as I have no way of knowing how the watch really handles notifications. And because the entire system is so opaque, I didn't know what to think when Gmail updates stopped coming in altogether. Was the app behaving correctly, according to its own convoluted rules, or was something broken? The answer wasn't clear. But after going through the laborious process of uninstalling and reinstalling the Gmail smart-extension app—something that has to be done in Google Play, as an uninstall option isn't available in Sony's Smart Connect app—I was able to get Gmail updates working again.

At least phone-call and text-message notifications always consistently hit my watch face, fulfilling the prime benefits of having a smartwatch in the first place. When a phone call comes in, the notification shows you the name and number of the person who is calling, along with controls to mute your smartphone's ringer, reject the call outright, or reject the call but respond with a predefined text message.

Text-message notifications appear at full length, accompanied by options to quickly reply with an emoticon or with one of eight predefined templated messages that you create and edit on your phone. Again, you have no on-screen keyboard or dictation function, so you can't write and send texts from the watch, let alone compose tweets or Facebook updates. But as a simple bridge to your phone, the SmartWatch 2 offers an easy-to-understand, just-good-enough interface for managing calls and messages when you're stuck in a meeting or otherwise occupied.

 

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