Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Review: Sony SmartWatch MN2

Everyone is currently talking about smartwatches. Some companies, like Samsung, announced new products, for other, like Google and Apple, people are speculating about them releasing a smartwatch. I already wear one everyday since December because I got one for christmas: the Sony SmartWatch MN2.

Let's start at the beginning: what is a smartwatch?

Simply put, it's just what the name says: a wristwatch, which can display more than just the time, but also more sophisticated information. Usually smartwatches include a (for a watch) big display, different sensors, like vibration or sound and they are connected with your smartphone to connect with the internet. Some recently announced smartwatches also come with a mobile radio, but usually you connect them with your smartphone.

Why would I even need a smartwatch?

The simplest use case for a smartwatch is displaying information from your smartphone – usually notifications about incoming phone calls, text messages, emails or the latest weather report. Basically, a smartwatch is an external display for your smartphone. It's especially useful if you receive a lot of notifications and don't want to check your phone all the time – just look at your watch and you know if the notification is important enough to get our your phone ;)

Specifications and the Sony SmartWatch MN2

Let's start with the specifications of Sony's SmartWatch MN2, which is the direct successor of the 2010 Sony Ericsson Live View. The SmartWatch has a 1.3" OLED color display with a resolution of 128x128 pixels – not retina but enough. The display supports multitouch gestures with up to two fingers. In order to use the SmartWatch, you have to connect it with your Android 2.1+ device via bluetooth. It would be nice to also use it with other platforms like Windows Phone, iOS or BlackBerry 10, but I don't think Sony will (and even can) release apps that support those devices too.
The case is made from aluminum and plastic and only measures 36x36x8mm, which is not much bigger than traditional wristwatches. According to Sony, the battery lasts about 3 to 4 days, or 14 days when in standby. To inform you about notifications, it includes a vibration module. You can get the Sony SmartWatch MN2 via Amazon.at at around 80€, which is quite cheap – especially compared to other smartwatches.
Some days ago the SmartWatch received an update, which included more types of watch faces and a better user interface of the Android management app. In order to run apps, you have to install them on your Android device and connect via bluetooth. Otherwise you will only be able to see the time. Apps will run on your phone and only send display and vibration updates to the watch. You can also interact with the apps via touchscreen inputs.

Me and the Sony SmartWatch MN2

After more than two months wearing the Sony SmartWatch, I can only say that I'm really satisfied and I love using it. At first I was really skeptical if an external display even makes sense, but by now I have postponed reading and replying to unwanted mails often enough but just looking at the watch's notification that it definitely makes sense to own one ;)
Another concern was battery life – not only of the watch, but also of my phone. I was worried over nothing, because when disconnecting the bluetooth connection over night (I'm not wearing it when I'm sleeping ;)), the battery lasts almost a whole week! And my smartphone? No difference to before, even though it's not even using bluetooth 4. You can even schedule disconnecting your watch using Sony's Smart Connect app.
I'm also very satisfied with the apps available for the watch. They can be installed directly via the Google Play Store and Sony already released a lot themselves. In addition, there was a coding contest last summer, which resulted in a lot more 3rd party apps. There're apps for reading email, text messages, a minimalistic phonebook, weather and calendar apps and much more.

Similar products

There are of course other products than Sony's SmartWatch. There's Pebble, a kickstarter funded e-ink smartwatch, i'm watch, from an italian manufacturer, Meta Watch, a very open and developer-friendly product. Casio also announced a G-shock smartwatch, which looks just like their regular digital G-shock wristwatches.

Résumé

It's definitely not for everyone but thanks to many different manufacturers, smartwatches are slowly getting the attention they deserve. Even though they are nothing more but an external display for smartphones, they are great for deciding on getting our your smartphone or not. It's really nice when people notice my watch, ask me about it and even comment, how cool it is to own the "Knight Rider watch" ;)