Sony's first SmartWatch didn't quite live up to expectations. It came with an expensive price tag, as well as poor functionality — you needed to install multiple apps to enable basic features, such as notification from calls or messages. And it is not even water resistant.
The original SmartWatch made competitor products, such as the Pebble Watch, an interesting choice for users hunting for a smart watch. It worked with both iOS and Android, and was water resistant — you could take it into the shower or the swimming pool.
However, with the introduction of the SmartWatch 2, Sony has since made some modifications and improvements. Here's a quick look at some of its features.
Compared with the plasticky Pebble, the SmartWatch 2 is made of aluminium; this gives it a nice, premium feel that the Pebble lacks. It features a removable 24mm wristband, so you can swap in other standard bands to customise to your liking. (Sony's press materials suggest that the default wristband is "stainless steel", but that seems counter-intuitive; we're asking for clarification.) A big, round power button is found at the side, much like the power button that you will find on Sony Mobile's 2013 Xperia line-up.
Like the original SmartWatch, the SmartWatch 2 features a 1.6-inch touchscreen display, but unlike its predecessor's OLED screen, the SmartWatch 2 uses a transflective LCD panel instead. This should give it good visibility outdoors. In terms of screen resolution, the watch just has 220x176 pixels.
Physically, the SmartWatch 2 is slightly larger and heavier compared with the original. However, I don't think the difference is noticeable; at 23.5g, you'll barely feel the 8g difference over the first SmartWatch.
Another key improvement in the SmartWatch 2 is its water-resistant properties, meaning it's protected against accidental spills and splashes. Do note that you can't take it into the shower with you, though I don't see why you need to read emails while shampooing your hair. You also can't go swimming with this watch.
Instead of the custom charging port used by the first SmartWatch, the SmartWatch 2 comes with a standard micro-USB port. This makes it easier to charge the watch, especially now that micro-USB cables are readily available.
Sony Mobile's experience with the original SmartWatch has prompted the company to ensure that it will be very easy to set up the watch. Upon pairing via near-field communication (NFC), the smartphone will download the SmartWatch app that allows users to select the various apps they want to install. By default, you'll only be getting an alarm and timer app (on top of the watch faces that come pre-installed).
The SmartWatch 2 now comes with on-board NFC, which makes it very easy to pair the watch with your handset. We wonder whether it's possible to use the watch to read NFC tags.
Sony has made the SmartWatch 2 compatible with apps from the first SmartWatch, so it can run apps such as Runtastic, Twitter and Facebook.
Surprisingly, Sony did not choose to use Bluetooth 4.0 in the SmartWatch. Instead, it runs on Bluetooth 3.0, which does not have the new Bluetooth low-energy protocol found in the 4.0 release. Since Sony is already claiming a three- to four-day battery life for its high-tech watch, I'm guessing the company didn't see the need.
Lastly, the SmartWatch works with almost any Android handset, so you don't necessarily need to get your hands on a Sony Mobile handset.
Due out in September this year, the SmartWatch 2 looks set to tap into the growing interest in the wearable tech category. This space is likely to get even bigger by the time September rolls around — especially if rumours about Apple's iWatch are true. While the next bit is pure speculation, Samsung will also likely have something waiting in the wings. The chaebol likes to dip its collective fingers into every pie, and smart watches are something it is likely to compete in.