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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Sony SmartWatch is portal to your phone functions

First, let's make clear what Sony's SmartWatch is NOT.

It's not a standalone watch-style smartphone. This little gizmo is more like a digital watch and a second screen that sits on your wrist for your Android phone (not compatible with iPhones.) Wirelessly paired via Bluetooth 3.0, the SmartWatch keeps some basic functions at your fingertips without having to dig out your phone from your pocket or purse. It can act as a remote for your phone's music player, and also show messages, emails, and calendar reminders, among other functions. If paired with Sony Xperia phones, it can also take calls with this device, but not with other brands. Make sure you check your phone's compatibility before you splurge on this device.

Note this limitation: You'll have to keep the phone within about 10 yards of you to maintain connection. So if you go out jogging, the SmartWatch is great to glance at incoming notifications, but you'll still have to carry your smartphone with you. But if you have, say, an armband holding your phone, a glance down at the watch is much easier than working your big phone during your exercises. Vibrations alert you to new messages, which you can scroll to read. If you're in a loud area, or you have to turn off your phone ringer, you can still be aware of incoming messages or calls on the SmartWatch.

What your watch does will depend on what apps you have on your phone. There are hundreds of SmartWatch apps to choose from. Some are fee, some are not. And the number of apps is limited to your phone's memory capacity.Setting up the SmartWatch is cumbersome. After downloading the primary LiveWare app on Google Play, you'l have to connect the function apps and configure them to work on the SmartWatch. The number of apps and functions can be overwhelming. The more you customize, the more user friendly the SmartWatch will be.

Then there's the navigation on the watch itself. First you select the watch style in the main app. There are several watch styles to choose from – analog, digital and abstract. The "timepiece" doesn't stay on. It goes to sleep after awhile. (Doesn't that defeat the purpose of having a watch?) So to check the time, you'll have to wake it up. Some watch styles have a tap-to-wake mode.

The device is about 1.5 inches square, and about a 1/2 inch thick. The white plastic case has an aluminum frame around the edges. The screen is a 1/3-inch multitouch OLED with a 128x128 screen resolution. Sony says it can show 65,000 colors. (Overkills for a screen this size?) The icon images are bright and crisp, but there's a drop in sharpness and legibility for  text.

The back of the SmartWatch is actually a clip, which securely attaches to a molded rubber wristband with a metal fastener that comes in the box... or anything else you'd like to clip it on. The band is moisture resistant and comfortable for exercises. The band with the test unit was black, but Sony has a few other colors, some – pink or mint – look too childish to wear.

The power charger is cleverly placed under the clip for a secure connection. The only button on the device is the power button on the side. You can use this to wake the SmartWatch, or tap or shake it. The battery like for a typical user is three to four days, but can be anywhere from one day to about a week.

Navigating the watch is by swiping up or down to scroll, sideways to go through app screens, a tap to launch icons, or a long press to open the options menu. It takes some getting used to.

The drawback is the price tag: $150. Is it worth it? Its functions are dependent on the apps to install. But it's not the most user-friendly gadget.

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 7, 2013 1:07pm]


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