First announced in June and now ready for its retail release, Sony's SmartWatch 2 continues an unfortunate trend in smartwatches: the materials and design are getting fancier, but the watches aren't becoming any smarter. I got a chance to try one of the new SmartWatches out ahead of this week's IFA showcase in Berlin, and while it delivers the usual set of smartphone-connected apps and options, it remains a device with distinctly limited appeal.
Sony bills the SmartWatch 2 as a second screen for your smartphone and that's very much what it is. You can do one-touch pairing with compatible devices over NFC, a neat addition that underscores Sony's commitment to the contactless standard, and you can do fun things like activating your phone's camera shutter remotely with the SmartWatch 2. In terms of design, Sony has really smartened up the appearance, durability, and endurance of its SmartWatch, with IP57 certification for water resistance, the same aluminum power button as on the company's Z line of smartphones, and what's claimed to be the longest battery life among smartwatches.
The 1.6-inch display has also been improved to make for better readability in direct sunlight, though its resolution of 220 x 176 pixels is a far cry from the pixel-dense visuals even a mid-range smartphone can deliver today. Still, the SmartWatch 2 presents an all-around attractive package and Sony has kept the straps interchangeable while introducing a neat set of colored silicone bands to go along with the stainless steel option.
The UI has improved, but that wasn't a high bar to leapSony's promise of an improved user interface has been fulfilled with the SmartWatch 2, but that's only owing to how poorly the first SmartWatch did in this category. Responsiveness to your touches and swipes on the touchscreen is relatively swift. The major issue of a shortage of compatible apps is being taken seriously by Sony, which is working to encourage more third-party developers onto its platform, but for the moment, you're still looking at something that will most commonly serve as either a watch or a smartphone functionality extender, not a smart device in its own right.
Where the Sony SmartWatch 2 truly falls down is on the price, one of the biggest issues with the original SmartWatch, which is 179 euros for the new wrist accessory. That's if you opt for the black silicone strap, the classier stainless steel model will set you back 199 euros, and each of the colored bands is a 19-euro optional extra. All will be available by the end of this month, though whether or not you should buy them will depend on just how pretty — not how smart — you want your watch to be.