Sony has been in the smartwatch game longer than many. Their first offering was basically a dud and they then introduced their follow-up smartwatch at CES 2012. Just under two years later have pushed out the cleverly named Sony Smartwatch 2. While I’ve only spent minimal time with the original offering, I can say that the latest version is a big step forward — even if it does still have a way to go.
When first strapping on the Sony Smartwatch 2 it’s instantly noticeable how heavy it is compared to other smartwatches. The SW2 weighs in at 127g — that’s pretty heavy when you consider the Pebble is just 47g and even the Samsung Galaxy Gear is 74g. If you’re a big watch person and like the weight that goes with it then this will be right up your alley. For me, I prefer a lighter watch that I can ignore if I want to.
The watch does look nice overall. It’s aluminum all around with a single button on the right side. The majority of the face is black but its edging shines through in subtle silver. The included band is nothing special — a basic silicone band that thankfully can be swapped out with any standard 24mm band should you choose to do so.
The front of the watch has the Sony branding on top and a set of three touch buttons on the bottom — back, home and action. For first time users it may be hard to get control of the watch and will just go wildly tapping away at the face buttons, however you need to keep in mind that you’ll have to press the side button first, then control using the touch buttons. Not so intuitive.
Overall the Sony SW2 is well built and looks like it will stand up to average use. It feels like it can take some hits and keep running, so that’s a good thing as you won’t have to baby it each time you strap it on your wrist.
I have to knock points off the Sony SW2 when it comes to comfort and wearability. Mostly due to the cheap silicone band (which can be replaced with any standard 24mm band) the SW2 was more than uncomfortable to wear for any length of time. I found the band actually cut into my wrist a bit too much and I had to take it off a few times during the day. Of course this totally varies for each person — different wrist sizes, comfort levels etc — but for me, it wasn’t the greatest. I didn’t get a chance to pick up a new band to try out but I do feel that it should be a bit better out of the box experience regardless.
First pairing the watch with my Nexus 5 was more annoying than it should have been. The quick-start guide is lacking specific instructions but when I tried using NFC to pair my watch, it didn’t seem to work as it should have. I ultimately ended up downloading the app from Google Play on my own and setting up manually using Bluetooth.
The Sony SW2 runs through Sony’s own Smart Connect app as well as the official Smartwatch 2 app. The Smartwatch 2 app is what controls the watch and houses all the add-on apps for notifications like email, Facebook, Twitter and phone calls. Getting used to how it all works it a bit juggled at first, but once you get the main idea it all comes together nicely.
When it comes to apps the Sony SW2 has plenty. Sony says there are over 400 apps currently and I’m sure that number is growing daily. There are some default apps listed in the official SW2 pp for Facebook, email and calendar with more available via search through the app or just in Google Play. Currently you can find apps for pretty much anything you need from notifications to weather to fitness and even games. There’s really no shortage here, though some apps are limited in functionality.
The “apps” are essentially add-ons that are each downloaded separately from Google Play and in turn integrate with the Smartwatch 2 app. You won’t find the app icons on your phone but the apps will show within the Smartwatch 2 application. I do wish there was a better way to discover new apps, perhaps a built-in store that only listed the SW 2 apps rather than having them scattered around Google Play.
Setting up the standard apps isn’t very intuitive, but once you’re setup, actually using the apps is pretty straight forward. You make any settings changes to the apps on you phone (most don’t have many options) and you’ll have an icon on the watch for each respective app. Even though there are no apps names on the watch face, the icons are still recognizable so even new users won’t have a problem knowing what’s what.
Within the settings on the watch you can find options for display, date & time, PIN lock and other items. There are also settings to enable or disable the built-in apps like timer and alarm clock.
While the notification system works well, it still has a long way to go
While the notification system works well, it still has a long way to go. I’ve noticed a substantial delay at times from when a notification comes to my phone and to my watch. With my Pebble I get the notices at the same time, however with the Sony the watch alerts are almost always a few seconds behind. Not a deal breaker, but still could prove annoying for users that want instant gratification. The alerts themselves are clunky and could definitely use some work. You can choose a different view for most alerts — from detailed into to just the app name — but you still end up having to tap into a notice to fully see it. For example - when an email is received with Gmail you see a preview of the message (either the sender and/or a snippet of text) but you still have to tap the notice to read the full email.
What’s cool is the the apps are actually apps. As opposed to some other devices where you can simply see notifications, the Sony SW2 apps let you do things like browse your Gmail inbox or Twitter feed. So it does take things a step beyond in that regard. At the same time it can be a bit too much. Having the apps on both your phone and watch means you can get to them no matter what, so it can be a bit excessive if you don’t manage it. The watch itself is really just a "mirror" for the apps though as they reside on the phone and not the watch.
Having the apps on both your phone and watch means you can get to them no matter what, so it can be a bit excessive if you don’t manage it
As I said before there are apps for anything and everything on the Sony SW2. I’d recommend going with an all-in-one solution like WatchNotifier though. Rather than having a dozen apps to sent you alerts, you can grab an app like this and just choose from nearly any app on your phone to send notifications to your watch.
The Sony SW2 doesn’t allow you to make voice calls on the watch itself, but you can use the phone app on the watch to dial your phone remotely. Same goes for answering or declining calls.
You also can’t simply disable an installed app. For some apps like Gmail or Facebook you can logout and thus won’t receive any notifications, but for apps like Missed Call or Messaging there was no way I could find to just turn off the respective function without totally deleting the app from my device.
Deleting apps is also a bigger pain than it should be. Rather than being able to remove apps from the SW2 application, you need to find the add-on within your Android apps list and delete from there.
As for watch faces, Sony has a default set of ten with a mix of digital and analog, date and no date. I’d love to see more faces available to choose from but that’s something we can hope for in future updates. There are a handful of third-party apps that have watch faces available but they are more apps than faces and don’t integrate very well at this point.
Overall I do like the Sony Smartwatch 2. It has a load of apps available that should keep most users happy, the battery life is average and it looks really good. As I said before though, it is on the heavier side of all the watches I've used and you'll most likely want to replace the band before too long. The SW2 is a great watch overall. It has a great look, nice screen and the battery lasts a few days on a charge. I have to knock points for the way apps work/install, but overall if you've been eyeing up the Sony Smartwatch 2 I'd say it's a good bet — just keep in mind an updated version may not be too far off.