Smartwatches may seem like a fad, but Sony is back with the second generation of its SmartWatch.
Sony has honed the design of the SmartWatch for this second version. It's slimmer than before, looks more stylish and doesn't need clipping onto the strap.
An issue we had with the original SmarWatch was its bulkiness. Its successor is 9mm compared to 12.8mm. It's still occasionally difficult to get some items of clothing over it, but the situation is much better.
The SmartWatch 2 has a similar design but looks more modern with its square shape and silver bevelled edge. Although it's thinner than the original, the device itself is larger because the screen size has been increased.
See also: Samsung Galaxy Gear hands-on review.
Unfortunately, Sony has stuck with the same silicon rubber wrist strap (available in various colours) which is prone to getting a bit grubby and gets clammy. Luckily there are leather and metal options, though and you can use any 24mm strap you like. The SmartWatch 2 is water resistant (IP57) so no need to worry about it if you get caught in a rain shower.
A welcome design change is that it now charges via a regular microUSB port which sits on the side under a flap. It's a vast improvement on the proprietary connector which was unreliable.
See also Apple iWatch release date and specs.
Not only is the connection better, the battery life is too. The original SmartWatch only lasted a day when used heavily and a couple with a more regular amount. We've found the SmartWatch 2 comfortable chugs on for four or five days if you switch it off over night. Sony says it will last a week in low usage.
Bear in mind that connecting a device like this to your smartphone over Bluetooth will affect its battery life also.
There are a few smart watches on the market now and although made by Sony, the SmartWatch 2 isn't limited to the firm's own smartphones. You can use it with any running Android 4.0 or later. Not only is it versatile in this way, it's also cheaper than rivals such as the Samsung Galaxy Gear - £149 against £299.
The SmartWatch 2 is super-simple to setup. It's got an NFC chip built-in, so as long as your smartphone has one too, simple tapping them together with pair them up and away you go.
Sony has increased the size of the screen to 1.6in from 1.3in. It doesn't sound like much but you can see a lot more on the screen. There are also familiar back, home and menu buttons below the screen so navigation is no longer solely gestures.
The LCD display has a resolution of 220x176 which is a little way behind the Galaxy Gear's 320x320. It doesn't look as crisp and clear as Samsung's rival but it doesn't look too bad either – a little old-school looking perhaps.
We're pleased to report that unlike the original, the SmatWatch 2 shows the time constantly. The original didn't to save power so you couldn't just glance at the time, whereas this model shows the customisable clock face dimly. A press of the power button cranks up the brightness briefly and a second press will launch the full interface.
The full interface will be familiar to Android users with sets of 3x2 icons and a status bar at the top showing battery level, which page of apps you're on, the Bluetooth connection status, and the current time. There's even a drop down notification bar.
Pre-loaded apps include am alarm, timer and flashlight which simply turns the entire screen white. But don't worry, that's just the beginning of what the gadget can do.
It's very difficult to miss a notification when wearing the SmartWatch 2, although we'd like the ability to adjust the vibration level. Anyone who misses calls, txts or emails because their phone is in a pocket or bag then this is exactly what the SmartWatch 2 is for.
You can go beyond basic notifications too, by installing apps for social networks like Facebook and Twitter, for example. The more you add, the more the watch will go off so you'll need to strike a balance.
The device lets you read text messages and emails but you can only reply to the former with an emoticon or pre-set message. The screen is too small to type on. You can also instruct the connected phone to make a call – handy if you're wearing a hands-free headset.
You can install all kind of apps from Sony and third-party developers from the Google Play store. For example, you can use the SmartWatch 2 as a remote control for your phone's camera or music playback, use it as a fitness gadget with the free Runtastic app, or even play games on it. There are a lot of apps so you're likely to find something for your lifestyle.