Sony SmartWatch Review
Smart watches are all the rage these days. These touch-screen watches connect to your phone via Bluetooth, allowing you to see and control a number of your phone’s functions – you can see who’s calling you, control your music and even take pictures remotely.
The latest and greatest of these comes from Sony and is called the SmartWatch. After dropping the Ericsson part of the name, the SmartWatch is Sony’s generational upgrade over the earlier Sony Ericsson LiveView.
The watch is well constructed, with the 1.3” OLED display wrapped in an aluminium frame. The display itself is bright and clear, although its resolution is only 128 x 128 pixels. The capacitive display supports two finger multitouch as well and feels quite responsive.
The SmartWatch actually looks decent – something you’d actually want to wear instead of something that’s much too nerdy to exist outside the realms of your own home. Having said this, the watch strap that comes in the box isn’t the best, but you can attach it to any watch strap you like using a specialised adapter that’s coming soon.
Unlike most smart watches, which ship with only a few apps preinstalled, the Sony SmartWatch allows you to install new apps onto the watch itself, unlocking additional functionality as third party developers make additional apps. However, installing apps is a rather asinine process – each one has to be installed in sequence from the Google Play store, then selected and configured in the software that runs on your phone.
Once you’ve got things actually installed and set up though, it works quite well. You’re able to read incoming texts, email messages and tweets as advertised, and the music and camera controls are particularly useful.
However, once you receive a notification, tapping on it doesn’t take you to the item that you’ve been alerted about – instead you just have to get there yourself. It’s not as intuitive as the iPod Nano, which nowadays is a similar form factor and includes a similar interface, but it’ll become second-nature within a few days. We know, we know, the iPod Nano isn’t a smart watch, but thousands of people now have them attached to a strap and are using them on a daily basis as a wristwatch.
Compatibility seems to be best with Sony-built phones as you’d expect, but it should work with all Android phones that support Bluetooth 2.0 and run firmware version 2.2 or above. All you need to do is download Sony’s LiveWare Manager app from the Play Store, then install the SmartWatch app when prompted by LiveWare Manager, and you’re set.
We only ran into problems when testing the SmartWatch with Samsung’s new Galaxy Nexus running Android 4.0, aka Ice Cream Sandwich. Sony has since rectified these problems with an update to the LiveWare Manager app, which should stand all Android 4.0 phones in good stead with the SmartWatch.
By far the most useful feature of the Sony SmartWatch, in our opinion, is the ‘Find My Phone’ app, which can be downloaded through the SmartWatch app. As the name suggests, this app will locate your misplaced phone by calling it – just don’t leave your phone on silent.
All in all, it’s a definite step up from what we’ve seen previously for Android phones, although there’s still some way to go in improving the SmartWatch’s user interface. Thankfully the issues all seem to be software-related, so it’s quite possible that many of them will be improved over time, particularly as new apps are developed for the platform on an almost-daily basis.