Tested: Sony SmartWatch2
Smartwatches: You couldn’t move at the technology show CES earlier this year for them, and yet more launched recently at MWC. So what’s all the fuss about? WearableTechWatch put a Sony SmartWatch 2 through its paces, asking: Are smartwatches smart enough yet?
The early smartwatches certainly are not subtle in terms of on-wrist presence. Although the Sony and Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch are not in the same size league as the Neptune Pine, they are still large enough to get noticed. The Sony looked and felt chunky when handling, but was less obtrusive than we expected when on the wrist.
The sapphire glass was a disappointment, though: our test unit was easily prone to scratches, a factor that would be cause for disappointment for a device that’s designed to be looked at.
The Sony watch is easy to set up with an Android phone running KitKat. After the initial pairing via NFC, the watch used Bluetooth to stay in touch. It’s really simple to set up and use: Just press the power button to take the watch out of snooze mode (press the button where the winding mechanism would have been on a regular wristwatch) then tap the home button. The battery managed a couple of days between charges, via a standard micro USB plug.
But even Sony is struggling when it comes to defining a true use case for the watch, with its marketing material stating: “You can keep track of everything without taking your phone out of your pocket or bag.”
Sony offers 12 stock “recommended” applications for Android, including a remote shutter for a host smartphone’s camera, and “smart extensions” for calendar, email, SMS and call handling. There’s also Facebook, a music player, Runtastic and Twitter. It is possible to initiate and answer calls, but a smartphone (or headset) is still required for the talking or Tweeting part …
Without a smartphone, most smartwatches today are still as useless as smart wristbands, because they rely on the smartphone as a communications gateway. The Neptune Pine is an exception since it has its own SIM card.
In essence, a smartwatch simply moves the function of absorbing information from the smartphone screen to a smaller, wrist-mounted device. So think of it as a slightly more discreet mirror of your smartphone screen. Yes, you can see who is calling without taking your phone out of your pocket – and yes you are less likely to drop your watch down the loo than your smartphone when checking mails during an “idle moment”. (The Sony model is also water resistant)
Today’s smartwatches are still almost exclusively for content consumption only. You can check emails, calendar appointments and even the time, but when it comes to actually creating content of any kind, even replying to an email, then you’ll be turning back to your smartphone (or PC).
But don’t write smartwatches off just yet. The experience gives us déjà vu from the early days of the feature phone. Then, many people asked why they would ever want to sync their calendar with their mobile, when a PDA or paper diary did the job perfectly well? Once the syncing moved to over the air (OTA) instead of being manual by cable (Hello, my old BlackBerry) then the functionality really became usable.
With this in mind,there is surely an “a ha” moment ahead for smartwatches: Perhaps it’s the integration of voice recognition that will really kick-start the technology. And that is when you know that Gene Roddenberry and team really had seen the future.
Beam me up, Scottie.