• Sony SmartWatch 2 review
  • Sony SmartWatch 2 design and build
  • Sony SmartWatch 2 design and build
  • Sony SmartWatch 2 design and build
  • Sony SmartWatch 2 design and build
  • Sony SmartWatch 2 waterproof
  • Sony SmartWatch 2 set-up
  • Sony SmartWatch 2 screen
  • Sony SmartWatch 2 review
  • Sony SmartWatch 2 review
  • Sony SmartWatch 2 review
  • Sony SmartWatch 2 review maps
  • Sony SmartWatch 2 review in use
  • Sony SmartWatch 2 review in use
  • Sony SmartWatch 2 review in use
  • Sony SmartWatch 2 battery life
  • Sony SmartWatch 2 review verdict versus Pebble versus Galaxy Gear
  • Sony SmartWatch 2 review verdict

It's a turbulent time to be a smartwatch.

Turbulent in an interesting way, like the years we spent experimenting with chains on our jeans, purple hair and pretending to enjoy jazz music. Or like the wacky, pre-iPhone age of no-rules phone design, when every handset seemed to have a built-in pico projector, a mirrored screen like Nokia's 7280 lipstick phone or a loudspeaker/scrollwheel shell like Bang & Olufen's Serene

We haven't really decided what we want smartwatches to be yet. Do we want wristwear that makes calls and snaps pictures just like your phone? Probably not. Do we want smartwatches with Mario watchfaces that last a week on one charge like the Pebble? Yes please. 

Sony's latest entry into tech's wrist wars, the SmartWatch 2, plays it safe as a simple second screen with a sensible pricetag and compatibility with all Android phones. So far, so much better than the Galaxy Gear. But does it have what it takes to take up valuable wrist space? We've just spent 192 hours glued to the Sony SmartWatch 2 to find out. 

It's a mini Xperia Z

Sony SmartWatch 2 design and build
Sony SmartWatch 2 design and build
Sony SmartWatch 2 design and build

For such a boundary-pushing slice of kit, the SmartWatch 2 doesn't make the most impactful first impression. In fact, it looks a bit route-one. Its square aluminium and plastic watchface, Sony logo, capacitive buttons and silver power button on the right-hand edge help to keep it in line with Sony's Xperia design DNA. Our sample is the Active version, which comes with a black silicone strap, but leather variants and a silver-faced version are also available.

At 122.5g it's light, comfortable and less auspicious than the Galaxy Gear – you might get through cringey small talk before someone comments on your piece of time-focused gadgetry. By cramming in a 1.6in LCD touchscreen, it makes excellent use of the limited space available too. 

The lack of any other physical buttons on the SmartWatch gives it a sleeker design, but in use we prefer the Pebble's old-school 'real' buttons on either side. With its big bezels and monochrome non-touch screen, the Pebble is already a bit old-school, but its big, physical buttons save time when skipping tracks or getting rid of notifications.

To use Sony's three capacitive home, back and app re-ordering buttons, you have to tilt the SmartWatch towards you, power on the screen then tap. We think Pebble has the right idea.

Simple set-up

Sony SmartWatch 2 set-up

Setting up the SmartWatch 2 is painless – just turn the watch on, flip the Bluetooth switch on your Android phone (it's compatible with all of them, though no love for iOS) and then scan for Bluetooth devices on your phone and pair. If your 'droid has NFC you can also tap to pair. 

The free Smart Connect app from Google Play is where all the action happens. If you have a big-screened Sony like the Z Ultra, this might be familiar: it's where you control paired Bluetooth headphones, headsets, speakers and wearables. Select the SmartWatch 2 to edit to alter settings and download compatible apps. 

2004 wants its screen back

Sony SmartWatch 2 screen

It's been a while since we gazed upon a 220x176 colour screen, but the SmartWatch 2's touchscreen boasts a respectable 176ppi given its 1.6in span. That's not a patch on Samsung's glorious 278ppi Galaxy Gear screen, mind you, so icons, text and yes, the time, will all look a bit fuzzy and jagged to nerd eyes. It's easy to forgive, considering how it can't be more expensive than the Sammy's costly RM999.

Straight on, colours are vibrant and it's a clear, bright display. Fingerprints blight it, though, and viewing angles aren't great either: if you tilt the watchface away from your body, it starts to look like an overexposed photo. 

Outdoors, the low-power mode provides a neat, subdued watchface that's easy to read in direct sunlight too. We still think the less colourful but gloriously readable Pebble display has the SmartWatch 2's beat in most usage scenarios.

Power Up (Thumbs Down)

Sony SmartWatch 2 review in use
Sony SmartWatch 2 review in use
Sony SmartWatch 2 review in use

Ah, it was all going so well: the apps, the notifications. But the SmartWatch 2 requires plenty of patience: patience we just don't have. First up, the Bluetooth connection often drops out – but since that's the case for all the smartwatches we've been wearing lately, it's not a deal-breaker. 

The glitches, however, almost are. Icons greying out, the homescreen going into low power mode for no reason, a line of static-style, multi-coloured pixels appearing, a lack of responsiveness when scrolling and swiping. This is when the Pebble's lack of touchscreen starts to look very appealing. 

And why have the notifications disappeared to be replaced by blank Jan 01 bars, Sony? The Pebble's just told us we have a meeting in five minutes while you have been busily crashing and burning. The Endomondo app, as much as we liked it, was one of the biggest culprits for causing the SW2 to go into meltdown, and not even longpressing the power button saves it. 

It took a few days for our SmartWatch 2 unit to get into this state of disrepair, but with only about 20 apps on there and with plenty of rejuicing/recuperating time, we hoped for better. If Sony can update the SmartWatch 2's software to make the experience of using it plain sailing, it'll earn at least one more star. 

Sensible battery life

Sony SmartWatch 2 battery life

What a relief to find that when the SW2 buzzes to say it's down to 15% battery, you can simply grab a microUSB cable to recharge. The port is covered with a small flap on the left-hand edge of the watch body. Compared with the Galaxy Gear's bespoke charging cradle, this is fantastic news. 

Battery life is much better than the Gear too – we charged it three times in the space of just over a week, but we reckon when we're not testing it, twice a week will suffice. Longevity-wise it sits smack bang in the middle of the Galaxy Gear (1-2 days max) and the saintly Pebble, which lasted all week on a single charge. 


Sony SmartWatch 2 review verdict versus Pebble versus Galaxy Gear
Sony SmartWatch 2 review verdict

As a concept, Sony's SmartWatch 2 seems to tread a fine line between the simple (like the Pebble) and the overblown and tricksy (like the Galaxy Gear). The design is solid, if a little drab-retro for our liking, the screen is a useful size and battery life is good enough to keep us using the device. It focuses on being a second screen to your super-capable Android phone, and doesn't try to replicate what it can do. That's to be applauded. 

But in order to adorn millions of wrists, it needs to at least approach the reliability of a real watch, and it needs a few more useful apps. The basics such as Spotify would be nice, but it'd be better still if Sony pushed the boat out with something that allowed you to use its NFC to make mobile payments. 

Right now, the most reliable smartwatch (as well as being the cheapest, longest-lasting, easiest to read outdoors and actually waterproof) is still the PebbleBut if you want an LCD screen, the best third-party smartwatch app store and simple charging, the SmartWatch 2 is just about worth your patience. 

Stuff says... 

Sony SmartWatch 2 review

Good battery life, great apps and notifications and all-Android compatibility, but the SmartWatch 2 needs a reliability boost
Sony SmartWatch 2 review
Good Stuff 
Small, lightweight, cheap
Twice weekly charge via microUSB
Good selection of apps
Bad Stuff 
Unreliable in use
No iOS compatibility, some Sony-only functions
Useless without a smartphone