Samsung's new Galaxy Gear smartwatch may be getting all of the love here at IFA 2013, but it's not the only game in town. Sony has also announced a new watch of its own, the SmartWatch 2. The Android-powered SmartWatch 2 features a 1.6-inch 220 x 176-pixel transflective LCD display, which is a bit smaller and lower resolution than the Galaxy Gear's 1.63-inch, 320 x 320 Super AMOLED screen. Sony's watch also features an aluminum frame and your choice of rubber or stainless steel bands.
Oh, and did we mention you can wear it underwater? That's right, Sony's watch, like its Xperia Z1 smartphone, has an IP57 water resistance rating. That means you can keep it strapped to your wrist in up to 3 feet of water for 30 minutes. So is Sony's SmartWatch 2 the real smartwatch to beat? We went hands-on to find out.
At 1.7 x 1.6 x 0.35 inches and weighing 4.3 ounces, the SmartWatch 2 is smaller, but heavier than Smasung's Galaxy Gear, which measures 2.2 x 1.4 x 0.44 inches and weighs 2.6 ounces. Still, the SmartWatch 2 was very comfortable to wear. An NFC radio, located on the SmartWatch 2's back panel allows for quick one-touch paring with any Android 4.0 and higher device. Samsung's watch will only work with the company's Galaxy Note 3 and Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) at launch, before expanding to other Samsung devices.
The SmartWatch 2 features an all new interface that leaves Sony's original SmartWatch in the dust. The watch face now features three capacitive Android buttons for Back, Home and Settings. As a result, navigation is much easier on the SmartWatch 2 than its predecessor. The only other button is the power button situated on the phone's right side. A microUSB port on its left side allows for charging and data transfer.
The interface is a customized version of Android. You swipe across home screens populated by your various apps and tap to open them. At the top of the screen you'll find a battery indicator, Bluetooth connection status indicator and, of course, the time. Though easy to navigate, the SmartWatch 2's interface isn't nearly as stylish as the one found on Samsung's Galaxy Gear.
The SmartWatch 2's apps library is comparatively huge for a watch, at 300 and counting. That's thank to backwards compatibility with the original SmartWatch's apps. Many other apps have also been upgraded to take advantage of the SmartWatch 2's larger display. The Gmail app, for example, has been overhauled to provide not only a list of your most recent emails, but the ability to read entire headings and messages. Similarly, users can read their latest Facebook updates using the Facebook app. And while the SmartWatch 2 may not have its own camera like the Galaxy Gear does, users can still view slideshows of images taken using their paired device.
Like the Gear, you can also use the SmartWatch 2 to place phone calls. However, because there is no microphone or speaker on the watch, you'll still have to use a Bluetooth headset paired with your phone, or your phone itself, to speak with people.
Overall, Sony's SmartWatch 2 looks like a solid combatant in the smartwatch wars. Its display may be small and relatively low-resolution compared to the Galaxy Gear, but the SmartWatch 2's app library and ease of use help it to put up a good fight. We'll reserve our final thoughts on Sony's SmartWatch 2 until we can perform our full review, so stay tuned.