Mobile phones are marvellous little compact slabs of technology, but for some it seems, a phone is just isn’t handy enough. Enter Sony’s SmartWatch, designed to connect to your Android phone via Bluetooth and deliver a wealth of functionality from your wrist including music controls, messaging and social networking updates.
Hardware and Design
WELL BUILT, CHARMING, AND LESS BULKY THAN YOU’D THINK
The SmartWatch’s main feature is a 1.3-inch OLED display fitted into a case reminiscent of the sixth-generation iPod nano, measuring 1.5 inches across its square face, and a half-inch high when locked into the integrated clip. A power button is placed where you’d find the crown winder of an analog watch, and a Sony logo is printed on the bezel beneath the glass face. There’s an obvious distinction between the bezel and the display, which is slightly disappointing — it breaks up the otherwise glossy black face when the backlight is switched off.
An aluminum frame wraps around the edge of the display, broken only by the aforementioned power button, and the sprung clip and bottom casing are made of white plastic. Underneath the clip are four golden metal contacts, used to charge the device with a proprietary USB cable. This is a neat design in that there aren’t any flaps or exposed ports on the device, though if you lose or break the cable it could be difficult to find a replacement.
The display itself is bright, clear, and astonishingly sharp, though its low 128 x 128 resolution makes images and text grainy and jagged. The color depth is decent, especially for something so small — Sony’s specs say that it’s capable of showing 65,000 colors — but it’s difficult to look for detail in the color amidst the pixel noise.
The watch uses Bluetooth 3.0 to connect to your phone, and is designed solely for use with Android handsets, specifically with Sony’s Xperia line, though a smattering of phones from other manufacturers are also supported — a full list is available on Sony’s website. Out of curiosity, I tried using the SmartWatch with my HTC Desire running MIUI (admittedly not one of the handsets listed as recommended) using the apps available from Google Play, and found that it couldn’t maintain a reliable connection with the watch.
I also tried connecting it to the Sony Xperia S, one of the phones described as a “perfect partner” to the SmartWatch. Having charged the watch, I paired the handset via Bluetooth, followed the prompts to install the software needed, and upgraded the watch to the latest firmware. So far, so simple.
Here’s where it gets frustrating: configuring and adding apps to the SmartWatch is an unnecessarily laborious process. The only preinstalled app is the Events widget — an aggregator of everything else sent to the watch. To install more apps, you’re directed to the Android Market (now the Play Store) to download and install each and every one. Once you’ve added an app, you head back to the SmartWatch configuration pane, which is present in your Android notification tray whenever the watch is connected. From there, you can configure the downloaded watch app’s behavior, what accounts to use, whether it should show as a widget, and so on. The whole process is just needlessly complex. Since it’s a totally proprietary system, it seems strange that Sony hasn’t created its own method of adding apps to the device, when offering one-click installations would be much simpler. It’s worth mentioning that I was using a preview version of the watch, so this software might be updated by launch, but as things stand it’s overly complicated.
|Display||1.3in OLED multitouch|
|Weight||15.5g (plus 26g strap)|
The Sony SmartWatch is well designed, well built and well meaning, but despite its hi-tech capability, the small screen size means it’s not always as easy to use as it should be.