As expected, Sony(s sne) launched a new smartwatch on Tuesday at the Mobile Asia Expo in Shanghai. The SmartWatch 2 is a follow-up to the company’s Live View series of watches that appeared in the past few years. Like its predecessors, SmartWatch 2 acts as a second screen for Android(s goog) phones but adds NFC, or near-field communications wireless technology, for easy pairing of the watch with a handset. Oh, and it tells the time, too.
That last bit sounds obvious of course, but Sony is touting the SmartWatch 2 not just as a second screen. The device has “standalone capabilities” as well, which, when I read that, got me excited. Then, I noted what these functions are:
“When not connected to your phone, SmartWatch 2 works as a standalone digital watch. Read previously received notifications, access the time, set your alarm or even use as a light when searching for your keys.”
My first reaction was, “Well, I should hope so!”
I do remember that when my first Live View watch experienced a data connection loss — more often than not — the watch actually lost track of the time. So, all in all, this is a good feature fix, even if it’s something that never should have been a problem for a watch in the first place.
I think I’ve been spoiled by my own smartwatch, which offers more standalone functions: a scorekeeper and GPS on the golf course and a fully-featured exercise and heart rate tracker. Second screens are nice — they can help triage messages from the smartphone — but today’s technology supports apps and features on a watch that don’t rely on a smartphone.
So what else is new in the SmartWatch 2? Mostly incremental changes from what I can see. The device is now water-resistant, has a user interface similar to Android, and boasts a larger touchscreen display: 1.6-inches with 220 x 176 pixels. It still works for reading social network messages, caller ID, texts, and as a music remote; all features that were in the prior generation. Overall, at least on paper, the SmartWatch 2 seems far more evolutionary than ground-breaking.
Still, Sony must be doing something right here as it quotes research firm Strategy Analytics in saying that Sony is the smartwatch market leader. That may be true. Even if it is, however, incremental advances at best won’t be enough to stave off more nimble and advanced competition in the smartwatch market. Sony says to expect the SmartWatch 2 in September.