Sony recently released the SmartWatch 2, a revamped follow-up to the underwhelming Sony SmartWatch launched earlier this year. It runs Android OS and though it's tailored for use with Sony's Xperia smartphones, it works with any type of Android device. Without question, the SmartWatch 2 blows its predecessor out of the water and it's a much better option than the Galaxy Gear smart watch that Samsung released this fall. You can buy the SmartWatch 2 for $199.Design
Overall, the SmartWatch 2 looks pretty slick — for a smart watch. With a minimalistic black-and-silver design, it's sleek and attractive enough that you could wear it without feeling like a total tech dork. You'll appreciate the design consistency if you use one of Sony's Xperia smartphones.
The silicone watchband is very comfortable, but if you're not already a big watch wearer, the SmartWatch 2's overall chunkiness will take some getting used to. If you're willing to spend a little more money, you can also buy your watch with a leather or metal band.
A nice feature of the watch, though, is that you can actually detach the watchband and use any other that has a standard design, which means potentially endless customization and the ability to spruce up the watch's look for different occasions.
Unfortunately, the watch face isn't quite as versatile as the band. The SmartWatch 2 comes with five built-in face options and although you can download an app to give you more variety, you'll be reverted back to the standard faces once you're out of Bluetooth range with your phone. Another popular smartwatch, the Pebble, allows far more choices, so if you're picky about that kind of thing, the SmartWatch 2 definitely disappoints.
However, it does otherwise function perfectly as normal watch even when not connected to your phone (sounds basic, but the original Sony SmartWatch needed a Bluetooth connection to show the time) and the screen looks bright and beautiful even when you're looking at in sunlight.Using It
The Sony SmartWatch 2 offers diversion, not immersion. Basically, it's great for minimizing the number of times you have to look at your phone throughout the day.
To connect your smart watch and your phone, you have to download an app called Smartwatch Connect and from there you manage all of your watch's apps and settings. You can download a wide range of apps customized for the watch through the Google Play Store, but many cost money (generally $0.99) and would be debatably useful. (Do I really need to turn my smartwatch into a Magic 8 Ball?) When you buy the watch you also get access to a Runtastic Pro account, to let you track your workouts.
Overall, I stuck with the basic communication apps and was pretty happy with the watch's functionality. You can't answer phone calls from it, but you can see if you're getting a phone call and either reject it or respond with a pre-written message. You can read texts, tweets, emails, Facebook feeds, and you can download an app to actually let you respond to texts or emails from the watch too (though you have to use a teeny-tiny keyboard, of course). Every time you get a notification, the watch vibrates.
It actually was very cool to be out with my friends and be able to just quickly glance at my wrist if the watch vibrated with a text, instead of diving into my actual phone and further distracting myself from conversation.
The watch is also highly waterproof and I loved being able to keep it on while scrubbing dishes or in the shower. Yes, there is something strangely cool about being able to look at a text message while shampooing your hair.
When you use the Twitter or Facebook applications, you can choose what kind of updates you receive, which is great way to minimize incessant wrist-buzzing. For example, I opted to only get notified when someone mentioned me in a tweet or DM'd me. Annoyingly, though, every time I followed someone new I would have to go into the settings on my phone and manually uncheck a box to stop myself from getting their tweets pushed to my wrist.
But despite that little complaint, the SmartWatch 2 handles social media notifications light-years better than the Galaxy Gear, which doesn't even let you read a tweet or email from the watch.
Sony pegs the watch's battery life at around three or four days but I could only go a day and a half without juicing up (and it was slightly disconcerting because it seemed to go from "half-way there" to "dead-as-a-doornail" in no time at all, making me think at first that I had broken the watch when it wouldn't turn on).
Inevitable downside: using Bluetooth to connect to the watch made my Android phone battery drain much more quickly than usual.Conclusion
This watch is great if you want to be able to keep your phone in your pocket more than usual. I loved being able to stay on top of any important messages while ignoring the ones that didn't matter. I kept my phone tucked away, which, admittedly, is something that my fellow millennials and I sometimes struggle with.
Plus, if you want a smart watch, the Sony SmartWatch 2 is ridiculously more appealing than the Samsung Galaxy Gear, which costs $300 and is only compatible with a single type of phone. It's biggest competitor would be the Pebble smart watch, which costs $50 less, works with Android or iPhone, and is overall slightly more stylish.
The other smart watch buying option: Just wait. The smart watch industry is just scratching the surface and figuring out what makes the perfect watch, so the next generation of watches will probably learn from the mistakes of the ones we're using today.
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