Testing out Sony's Smartwatch 2

A model poses with a Sony SmartWatch 2 at the Sony booth during a media preview day at the IFA...

A model poses with a Sony SmartWatch 2 at the Sony booth during a media preview day at the IFA consumer electronics fair in Berlin, Sept. 5, 2013. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Syd Bolton, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:41 PM ET

I've definitely been jumping on the standard wristwatch replacement bandwagon lately. First, with the Shine from Misfit Wearables (misfitwearables.com) and lately with Sony's SmartWatch 2. I'm definitely giving them a try and this is likely the future as wearable technology becomes more and more accepted in our society.

So what makes a watch smart, you might be wondering? The easiest way to think of it is as an extension to your smartphone. The "smart" being that it's much more than just a regular watch, with all kinds of apps available that extend its functionality. In this case, the SmartWatch 2 works in conjunction with any Android phone or tablet. (Personally, I tested it with the Sony Xperia Z1.)

Overall, the watch works best when the phone is within a short distance of the watch (such as in your pocket). And several apps will not work without the support of the phone. The reasons vary, but a lot of it has to do with the fact that the watch weighs barely 123 grams so doesn't the engine under the hood that your smartphone will have. With limited storage on the watch itself, the reliance on the phone is heavy but there are many things that work without it that I will get to shortly.

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Starting out with the watch,  I was a little skeptical to be honest. Nobody really needs a device like this. But after a few days it became apparent that's it's a nice gadget to have. It's one of those things you need to try for yourself to truly understand the value. A week in and I'm still getting used to my wrist vibrating when a new tweet comes in. But it is often much more convenient to look at what's going on the face of the watch rather than the phone. There is currently support for Twitter, Facebook and e-mail, such as Gmail.

I was most curious about how useful the watch could be without being tethered to the phone and I was surprised by what I could do with it on its own. The flashlight app is simple and does just what it says, turning the watch into a makeshift flashlight for those times when you need more light (and it works surprisingly well). The calculator app is also handy when you don't have anything else on hand and the "find my phone" app is great as well, with the watch acting like a sonar beacon of sorts for when your phone has been misplaced. Let's face it, we've all done that.

As just a good ole watch, the Sony SmartWatch 2 performs as you'd expect with a bit of a twist. The way you look at the time is customizable (I prefer an analog face, but a digital one is also available) and I love the way that it replaces the "3" with the current day of the month. Extremely handy.

Considering the screen is on all the time, the battery life is surprisingly long. The screen is touch-enabled but you have to push a physical button on the side to activate it. This provides the perfect mix. No accidentally turning the watch on and having it do something you don't want. The touchscreen also makes it easy to use.

I tend to leave my watch on all the time - while sleeping and showering, and this was the one area that I had to modify my routine while using the SmartWatch 2. Although rated as IP57 water resistant, this does not mean you can go dunking it in a soapy shower. It's fine for the times when it is raining or snowing or if it accidentally fell into a shallow stream.  But beyond that, you need to keep it away from water.

There's also the issue of needing to charge the watch. The specifications say it will last up to seven days in "standby" on a single charge and three to four days with normal use. These numbers seem consistent with my experience as I only had to recharge the device once during the week I used it. You are going to have to take it off your wrist to charge it so for me, doing so at night made the most sense and it just means getting used to a new routine.

Overall, I'm impressed with this watch more than I thought I would be. At a suggested retail price of $199 it's not going to be for everyone, but for those that want just a little bit more and have the "time" to learn a new device, it fits the bill perfectly. For more information visit http://bit.ly/1hlcHgH.

Syd Bolton is the curator of the Personal Computer Museum and the manager of Information Technology at ACIC/Methapharm. You can reach him via e-mail at sbolton@bfree.on.ca or on Twitter @sydbolton.

 


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