I recently reviewed the Sony SmartWatch, which I now wear daily on my wrist to up my geek cred. My review concluded that the watch was “for gadget freaks and early adopters only” due to the spotty Bluetooth, random crashes, and not being able to see the time without touching the watch.
My patience has paid off, however, since I received a firmware update yesterday that vastly improves the SmartWatch in many ways. The watch requires a constant Bluetooth connection to your smartphone, and the phone needs to be running Sony’s SmartWatch app. The app was updated first, automatically for me, from the Play Store. Once the app finished updating, it fired off the watch firmware download and pushed it to the watch. The entire process took less than 5 minutes and was very smooth.
Once the SmartWatch rebooted, it re-connected to the phone and that was that. Now to explore what has changed.
The SmartWatch App
The app received an updated, and much cleaner, user interface, with six big icons on the start page.
Great start so far. What immediately caught my attention was the icon labeled “Clocks”. Oooh, does that mean there are multiple clock faces to choose from? Clicking it gives you this:
Nice. If you read the small print for each option, you’ll notice that the second two say “Displayed as long as the SmartWatch detects movement.” FINALLY! I can find out the time without having to touch my watch! Honestly, it was embarrassing when people would ask me the time and I had to double-tap the screen or hit the button. I mean, watches have always been a hands-free affair, so requiring you to interact with it to simply check what time it was seemed like a step backwards.
Of course, the reason for this was to save battery life since the watch uses an LCD display which, when left on all the time, consumes power continuously. What Sony did to remedy that was to design two simple black and white clocks that don’t draw too much on the screen, and shutting the screen off if no movement is detected, minimizing the battery life impact.
I haven’t had enough time to see if these clocks drain the battery yet, but in the one day I’ve been using it, it does seem to drain a bit more than before, but not enough to stop using it. The convenience far outweighs the amount of power it requires. Plus, it’s really not that big a deal to plug in my watch at night (or possibly every other night). For those who would rather have 3 or 4 days of battery life, you have the option to use the original clock which is only available by touching the watch.
Here are a couple of shots of what the clocks look like on my SmartWatch.
The Play Store lists the following changes:
SmartWatch 1.2 update
Sony has updated SmartWatch software to enhance your SmartWatch experience with improved performance and usability
Watch interface (analog/digital) always visible
Active notification icon – tap once to open item
Faster navigation in apps
Improved user interface
Tips and help in Android phone SmartWatch application
Bug and stability fixes
Extended smartphone compatibility
Ice Cream Sandwich Android™ 4.0 support
The Active Notification is great. Now, if you receive an email or text, the watch displays a little icon on the screen (like it always did) but now the icon is clickable and opens the appropriate message. Great!
Android 4.0 ICS support is a nice addition, though my Evo 3D has yet to get it so I can’t speak to that (come on HTC!)
Bug fixes and stability… hard to say right now. The watch has not crashed on me yet, which is great, but I have still had a few Bluetooth connection issues. This could be due to my specific phone, but so far it seems about as stable as it used to be. I can usually get through most of a day without an issue, but I have yet to go an entire day without a disconnect, even with this new version. Your mileage may vary. Hopefully when I upgrade to the HTC Evo 4G LTE things will get smoother
This is a great update, no question. The always-on clock faces are the best feature, and the new app UI makes this much more accessible to “regular” people. If you own a Sony SmartWatch, update it now. If you’re on the fence, this update is a check in the plus column.
Thank you for the update, Sony, and thanks for continuing to improve the SmartWatch and not letting it whither on the vine.