Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Sony SmartWatch 2: hands on review

Sony SmartWatch 2: Good for "three to four days" of normal usage.

Sony SmartWatch 2: Good for "three to four days" of normal usage.

Hours ahead of Samsung's Galaxy Gear launch and an untold number of months in front of Apple's rumoured iWatch, Sony has snared a tactical lead in the war of the wrists with the debut of its Android-powered SmartWatch 2.

Do you need it? No. Will you want it? Maybe. Do you have an Arnold Schwarzenegger-sized wrist? That'll help the SmartWatch 2 look less bulky than it really is.

But the more your life revolves around being ever-connected thanks to your Android smartphone, the higher this high-tech timepiece will sit on your Christmas wish list.

Launched overnight at Berlin's IFA consumer technology show, and on sale later this month, the SmartWatch 2 is Sony's third shot at the nascent smart watch market following 2010's Live View and the original smart watch of 2012.

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Like its forthcoming competitors in the smart watch wave, Sony's SmartWatch 2 works as a second screen to any Android phone via Bluetooth wireless.

It's meant to replace pulling your phone out of your pocket or purse dozens of times a day for a quick glance.

Sony SmartWatch 2.

Sony SmartWatch 2.

To put it another way, the smart watch is for viewing while the smartphone is for doing.

While caller ID shows who's ringing you, there's no microphone or speaker so you can forget about talking to your wrist Dick Tracy-style. But that's probably for the best.

It also runs "watch apps" written expressly for the 1.6-inch touchscreen and modest processor, as well as apps that work as small-screen extensions to those already resident on your smartphone, such as Evernote and Runtastic.

The inbuilt apps do pretty much what you'd expect from a watch in terms of time-keeping along with caller ID, browsing your inbox and keeping an eye on Facebook and Twitter feeds.

A fatal flaw of the first smart watch was that its display became washed out in sunlight, but the SmartWatch 2's new transflective panel remains bright enough to be easily read outdoors – albeit with a near monochrome palette compared to the full-colour display enjoyed indoors.

The 220 x 176 pixel panel shows six icons at a time with familiar Home, Back and Menu buttons, and is quite responsive to swiping back and forth.

Sony rates the SmartWatch 2's battery as good for "three to four days" of normal usage. That can include wearing it while you take a bath, as it's waterproof to one metre for up to 30 minutes.

And while the SmartWatch 2 is chunky it's also solidly built, with a black machined aluminium casing.

In Europe the SmartWatch 2 will carry a €179 ($A260) price tag and be offered with a range of coloured silicon straps. Australian pricing and release date are yet to be advised.

The writer travelled to Berlin as a guest of Sony Australia.

What do you think of the Sony SmartWatch 2 and the smart watch concept in general? Let us know in the comments.

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