The Sony SmartWatch is a small clip-on device that connects to your phone over Bluetooth and provides quick access to a variety of notifications, including incoming calls, Facebook messages, upcoming calendar items, and lots more. Some of the more interactive apps include a music handler, a remote phone ringer, and a Google Maps app . Once you’ve installed the Smart Connect app on your device, other Smartwatch compatible apps can be installed and pushed out to the accessory. The selection of quality SmartWatch apps are slim, but there aren’t a lot of alternatives for wearable smartphone accessories out there.
Though I can’t remember the last time I felt the need to wear a watch, the SmartWatch doesn’t feel totally out-of-place when worn. The brushed steel finish along the outside is very classy, though I’m not entirely sold on the spring clip mechanism underneath which lets users wear it on the packaged rubber wristband, or snap it onto an article of clothing. I’m not sure where else one could practically wear it - a coat lapel? The cuff of a sleeve? The clip isn’t strong enough that I would trust it to not be accidentally knocked or pulled off during normal day-to-day activity (nevermind anything more rigorous like excercise).
The software is extremely basic, and the low-resolution screen will stand in stark contrast to your phone. The watch is still animates smoothly, but you have to make a point to execute gestures cleanly and there's a bit of UI lag to wait for in between each one. Though they may have been a bit more of an eyesore, hardware buttons would have enabled speedier navigation than full touch.
There’s only the one power/standby button on the external face, which keeps things classy and simple. The proprietary charge and sync plug is tucked underneath the rear clip, which is nice and out of the way. Of course, a micro USB plug would have been much more convenient to work with all of my existing cables, but space is even more at a premium on a watch than a smartphone.
The Sony SmartWatch tackles a relatively new space for apps, so there’s a lot of mental adjustment to be made when using a touch-screen device strapped to your wrist. The most obvious one is the compromises made for the sake of using a tiny little screen. Some touchscreen gestures, like pinch to exit, are really awkward to execute, while others, like double-taps and swipes, work perfectly well. App user interfaces take a fair bit of getting used to, since they’re limited to these gestures, and each one reacts to those commands differently, but that works well enough in time.
Sony publishes a whole swathe of SmartWatch apps in Google Play, but there are a few of solid third-party apps available. My favorite one so far shows your current position in Google Maps. I always feel like a shmuck having my phone out while using GPS to navigate a new area of town, but having directions come up on a watch is a bit more discreet and keeps both hands free.
The companion smartphone app used to set up and install SmartWatch apps is a little clunky, but ultimately lets users set full-screen widgets, which events to push out, and further control what does what. New notifications vibrate the watch and pop up with an icon. After viewing the first few lines of an e-mail or message, there's a secondary menu that provides a handful off options, with at least one for opening up the related app on your phone. There are still some gaps in functions. For example, in Gmail, opening a message on the phone only launches the Gmail app, not the particular message you're reading, or even the Gmail account that the message comes in on.
- Unique apps
- Simple, sharp style
- Poor screen resolution
- Finnicky navigation
The bottom line
At the end of the day, I’m still not particularly interested in wearing a watch again. Sure, there’s a certain novelty value in being able to flip through e-mails on your watch, and it’s likely to impress at least a few people (even if they’re just tech geeks like you), but unless there’s a need to consistently keep both hands free while still getting at-a-glance information (if you drive all day or run a lot), then the SmartWatch isn’t going to get too much serious use.
If you're interested, the Sony SmartWatch is available in the ShopAndroid store for $149.99.