Jul 19 AT 5:39 PM Taylor Wimberly 63 Comments
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Over the last couple of years I have desired a smartwatch, but I have yet to find one that had style and delivered all the features I needed. Sony’s LiveView accessory got me excited a couple of years ago, but the early reviews said it had some issues and didn’t live up to people’s expectations. After listening to customer feedback, Sony went back to work and delivered the new and improved SmartWatch.

This time I wasn’t an early adopter, but I finally took the plunge and purchased the Sony SmartWatch after I played with one and a trusted friend gave it the thumbs up. I picked up my SmartWatch at a local Sony Store for $149, but they can be found online for as low as $114.

After spending a couple of weeks with the SmartWatch, I’m finally ready to share my thoughts. Read on see how it performed and if I would recommend it to others.

The Good

Discrete Notifications: Read all your text messages, emails, Facebook and Twitter updates, and more from your Android smartphone on your wrist. Active notifications allow you to tap a single icon and instantly read your messages.

Over 100 apps extend the usefulness of the SmartWatch.

Hundreds of apps and widgets: Sony provides a dozen official apps for their SmartWatch, but there are over 100 3rd-party apps and the list is growing every day. Sony provides a Smart Extension SDK that allows developers to create new apps and extend their current apps to use the SmartWatch display and sensors.

Multi-touch color display: SmartWatch features a 1.3 inch OLED multi-touch display with 128 x 128 resolution and 65k colors. Multi-touch gestures allow for easy navigation between apps and the OLED color display is good for viewing your friend’s avatars and photos.

Lightweight design: Made from aluminum and glossy plastics, the SmartWatch is surprisingly light. The watch only weighs 15.5g (0.55 oz) and the watchband is 26g (0.9 oz). When I’m wearing the watch, I can barely tell it’s on my wrist.

Sony offers additional watchbands for $19.99.

Choose your own watchbands: The SmartWatch ships with a classic black wristband and Sony also sells five other colors including pink, mint, grey, white or blue. Furthermore, an included adapter allows you to use any 20mm wristband of your choice.

Battery Life: Sony advertises that the SmartWatch will last 3-4 days with typical usage, and up to 14 days standby. I found these claims to be accurate and the SmartWatch easily lasted 4 days between charges when I was using it.

Easy setup: I had the SmartWatch up and running within minutes of taking it out of the box. Sony LiveWare Manager allows you to connect to the device and manage your installed applications and widgets. LiveWare Manager also highlights the best SmartWatch applications and lets you search the Google Play Store to find new apps.

Sony LiveWare Manager allows users to install new apps and manage settings.

Compatible with numerous smartphones: The SmartWatch is compatible with and optimized for Sony Xperia phones, but it works with most devices that run Android 2.1 or higher and feature Bluetooth. I had no problems connecting to phones from HTC and Samsung. In my testing I found the SmartWatch also works with the latest Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.

Software updates: Sony continues to improve the user experience of the device with updates to their SmartWatch app. Users download this app to their Android device and then it updates the firmware on the SmartWatch. Recent updates have expanded compatibility with new devices, provided a choice of watch faces, enhanced battery life, improved connectivity, and fixed various bugs.

The Not so Good

The display is readable outdoors, but it can be difficult to see in direct sunlight.

Display is hard to read in direct sunlight: I have no problems seeing the display in-doors, but I needed to shield the display to read it if I was outside in direct sunlight.

Does not pick up all system notifications: Sony has apps that relay most of the important notifications from your smartphone to the SmartWatch, but it does not pick up all system notifications. An app needs to be optimized for the SmartWatch in order to display notifications. Additional 3rd-party apps can pick up system notifications, but it would be nice if Sony could provide an official solution.

Final Words

The Sony SmartWatch is a keeper. Some users might be underwhelmed with the SmartWatch when they first set it up, but after it is personalized they will find a convenient device that can make their lives easier.

Every day I wear the SmartWatch, I’m finding new ways to take advantage of it. At first I was using it to discretely check emails when I was at the movie theater with my wife. Then I started using the incoming call notifications while I was driving to see if I needed to pull over and answer a call. Pre-defined text messages allow me to respond to my friends without ever taking my phone out of my pocket.

I soon discovered I could open the active notifications by pressing my nose to the SmartWatch display, which is great for those random times when you need hands-free operation (like changing a diaper). By installing additional apps I was able to find my lost phone in the couch, receive Instagram updates, get GPS navigation, view my gallery photos, and adjust my phone settings.

The Sony SmartWatch might look like a simple device, but it’s quickly becoming one I don’t want to leave the house without. It’s fun to explore all the apps that are being released and I continue to be amazed when I discover all the use cases for the SmartWatch. I haven’t wore a watch since I purchased my first cell phone, but the Sony SmartWatch has found a permanent home on my wrist.

Other reviewers have been pretty tough on the Sony SmartWatch, but I think a lot of their issues were related to older software that had some various bugs. Most of the complaints centered around connectivity and battery life, which were two things I had no problems with. The ecosystem of available apps continues to grow, so I think the users will find the SmartWatch more useful then when it first came out.

After getting to know the Sony SmartWatch, I would definitely recommend it to people with Android phones that are looking for a smartwatch. The initial experience might be limited, but the numerous apps really allow you to customize the device to you liking.

Taylor is the founder of Android and Me. He resides in Dallas and carries the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC One as his daily devices. Ask him a question on Twitter or Google+ and he is likely to respond. | Ethics statement

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