Metawatch vs Pebble vs Sony Smartwatch observations

Pebble macbookair

I recently received the Pebble watch I’d ordered via Kickstarter. Using the Pebble got me wondering what other smart watches were like. So, I picked up a few more to check them out — my experience is based on using these watches paired with my Android (Note II) phone.

Spoiler: The watch I liked best was the one I’d expected to like the least!

Metawatch

metawatch.jpeg

I picked up a metawatch “Frame,” which has a lovely Apple-esque appearance (especially the white version) and a silvery grey-scale TFT screen. Metawatch also has a “Strata” design which is similar (in appearance) to sport watches on the market. Here’s my take on the Metawatch Frame:

  • Metawatch describes the screen as 96×96 pixel sunlight-readable, reflective mirror display (Polymer Network LCD technology)
  • Easy to read in bright sunlight; much harder to read in low, ambient light
  • I found it confusing to set up: There is an official Metawatch app in Android market, and then some open source apps with much higher ratings — the only catch is that the open source apps don’t appear to completely support the latest metawatch firmware (1.3) for each hardware rev.
  • Due to the compatibility issues noted above, i was unable to use the six hardware buttons for their secondary functions. I also noticed the watch seemed to freeze up when receiving notifications (I believe this is a resolvable software/firmware issue, but frustrating nonetheless).
  • As a consumer device, the Metawatch app/widget ecosystem seems limited (at least for Android; may be better for iOS).
  • Uses a clip-design USB charger which I found challenging to get seated properly on the watch.
  • Battery life seemed quite good.
  • I loved the MetaNeko app where a cute kitty plays on the screen.
  • While the hardware and screen are lovely, I found the physical size of the watch bigger than I feel comfortable wearing (especially at the office).
  • Watch functionality is mainly focused on providing notifications from your smartphone.

Pebble

Rather than repost my initial impressions about the Pebble and its e-paper display, here’s a link to last week’s Pebble post.

Sony SmartWatch

Sony smartwatch

The Sony SmartWatch was the only smartwatch I tested that had a color screen. It’s been out a while but didn’t seem to get very good reviews from established tech writers — owner-users seems to rate it higher. My impressions:

  • The OLED screen is bright and colorful except in bright sunlight. In bright light, it’s very difficult to read as it seems to fade out. (I’m guessing a non glare screen cover may help here.)
  • Sony indicates the watch dimensions are 36 mm / 1.42 in x 36 mm / 1.42 in, thickness: 8 mm / 0.3 in
  • While the watch is smaller and less obtrusive than I expected, it has a built-in clip on the back that you can attach to clothing, or using an included adapter, attach to your own watch band. That clip makes it sit higher on your wrist, and the fact that the clip is white (against the metal watch) makes it stand out all the more.
  • There are a lot of Sony SmartWatch apps in the Android play market, some from Sony and others from third-party developers. Everything I’ve tried so far has worked well, no freezes or other odd behavior.
  • Unlike Metawatch and Pebble, I believe the Sony SmartWatch only pairs with Android phones — I don’t think it’s iOS compatible.
  • Unlike Metawatch and Pebble, Sony SmartWatch has a greater focus on onboard apps (vs simply displaying smartphone notifications). This enhanced functionality made the Sony SmartWatch extremely useful for me — there are times I want to reference information on my phone but don’t feel comfortable pulling out my phone. Being able to casually glance at my watch to flick through my twitter stream has been super handy, especially as someone who uses twitter to keep up with breaking news events.
  • The colorful screen eats up battery much more quickly than the other two grey-scale display smart watches. Still, it’s lasted throughout the day even with a variety of notifications enabled (including full sync of my twitter account each hour).

My favorite of the three smart watches?

The Sony SmartWatch

I’ve found the greatest utility (for me) in a smartwatch isn’t the notifications but rather easy accessibility to data that’s otherwise on my phone (e.g., my gmail inbox, calendar, twitter stream). The Sony SmartWatch offered the greatest utility in this regard since the other smart watches I tried both focus more on displaying notifications. And interestingly enough, it’s also the most affordable (currently offered on Amazon at about $90).

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9 responses to “Metawatch vs Pebble vs Sony Smartwatch observations

  1. augmentedtraffic

    Hi there I see that you have a Fitbit also. You may find the support for Sony watch and Fitbit to be useful (especially the graphs).

    http://augmentedtraffic.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/support-for-fitbit-in-augmented-smartwatch-pro-for-sony-and-metawatch/

    If you are interested i am willing to send you a free version of the upcoming 4.0 release of Augmented SmartWatch Pro – which takes the Pebble to another level (IMO :))

    • Thanks much for your comment! Based on your linked post, I enabled Fitbit in Augmented SmartWatch Pro. WOW, that’s awesome!! It’s exactly the type of information I want to be able to view on my Sony SmartWatch.

      Thanks for your kind offer — I’d love to try the upcoming 4.0 release of Augmented SmartWatch Pro with the Pebble! (I’ll email you.)

  2. Hi! I just stumbled across your blog today while looking for some real-world reviews on the MetaWatch Frame. I’m a huge gadget geek myself and currently own both the Sony Smartwatch and the Martian (backed on Kickstarter). I also backed, and finally received, my Pebble, but was not impressed with the look of it at all and sold it on eBay. It just looked too toy-like for me. I love my Martian (I love the analog watch part–appropriate for the office), but have been itching to try out the MetaWatch as well. Would you recommend it?

    • karenclassic

      I found the MetaWatch to be frustrating — it seemed to freeze up at times and the secondary functions (associated with the 6 buttons on the sides) didn’t seem to work. Having said that, there may have been a firmware update since then that would have resolved matters, but I’m not sure.

      I’d suggest doing some reading on the metawatch forums to see what Frame users are currently saying about the watch and their current experience with it:

      http://www.metawatch.org/forums/

  3. I own a Matawatch Frame, a Sony Smartwatch and a Motorola MotoACTV.
    The Metawatch is my main watch, I use it with MetaWatch Community Edition app not the limited official app. I also use Augmented Smartwatch pro (this app works Metawatch, Sony Smartwatch, Motoactv and the Pebble) for added functionality. With the latest firmware has pretty much fixed the freezing issues (will still happen on occasion, but very seldom now). The latest firmware also greatly improved the batter on my Frame, I’m now getting 5 – 6 days of use before a charge.The Metawatch frame is also the better looking of the watches and it leather band is nothing special but nicer than most of the others.

    I especially that with the metawatch I can see the time, weather, and various otherdisplay options (missed SMS, phone battery, voice mail notification). The screen did take a little getting used to. Is is very visible outdoors and in direct sunlight, but harder to read in low light (it has a light, but is not backlite so it’s only adequate). I love the face that the display is always on

    Sony works well with the augmented smartwatch pro app, but I find the touch screen to not be the best. I use it to get notification from by business phone. Though the built in clip make it a but thicker than I would like it does come in handy. I can clip it to my shirt, pants or even to my other watch. It does come in handy for notifications such as call and text. With Augmented Smartwatch Pro you can even get Google Voice, Google Now, Skype and even rain/snow alerts (just to name a few). I don’t like having to scroll through to get to the weather, I much prefer just glancing at my Metawatch.

    The Motoactv is very nice. It has a nice large color display that bigger than the other. It also run Android and can be rooted. Some people love this but I find it of limited use (don’t car to run Angry Birds in a 1.6″ display. I do however run a modified version of RunKeeper. I use RunKeeper rather than the Motoactve run tracker mainly because it’s what I have been using for years. Runkeeper is my main use for this watch.

    Motorola also has a notification system for weather, calls and basic things like that, but with Augmented Smartwatch Pro it can also get all kinds of notification like the other watches that pop up instead of having to navigate to the notifications section of the Motoactv. The one Major flaw with the Motoactv is that is has no vibrating motor, instead you get a white LED notification light. So it easy to miss notifications unless you constantly looking at your watch. Now the Motoactv is mainly designed to be a fitness device and does include a stand music player and headphones jack and can pair with Bluetooth headphones. So the Motoactv is the only device you need when on runs (though I still carry my phone). If you have the headphones (wired ot BT) you will get an audio cue when a notification is received, but vibrating notification is sorely missed! I like the look of hte Motoactv for sports or casual everyday use, but it’s not something most would want to wear when getting all dressed up.

  4. I have meta watch and a pebble and frankly pebble is better on many levels.
    1- Meta watch freezes a lot
    2- the GUI is poorly made and slow to respond
    3- Battery life is short in comparison to the pebble
    4- The out of the box manager sucks
    5- I wore my meta watch outside in the winder and humidity got into the watch making the screen wet from the inside took 2 days for it to evaporate.
    6- Pebble screen is superior in the sun

    Between the 2 watches pebble is a clear winner.

  5. I’m not sure exactly why I would buy a Meta over a Pebble. Interesting Best Buy will display two very similar watches next to each other when they have a lot of the other options for variety’s sake.

  6. I found your blog because I’m researching smart watches that might actually fit my (rather tiny) wrists. Sounds like you’re saying that Sony is both smaller than the other three (thank goodness; I tried a friend’s pebble, and it would have interfered with my ability to use my wrist!) and perhaps more useful.

    Do you have especially small wrists, do you think? I wonder if I can find a store with one to try on, rather than just hoping they would fit…

    • Hi Suzanne – I think your idea about trying one on (or at least seeing it in person) prior to purchase is the best route — I think Best Buy usually has a variety of smartwatches on display in their brick & mortar stores.

      I’d guess my wrists are average size for a woman… but what I consider too big you may consider “just right.” For what it’s worth, I’m currently wearing a Pebble Steel because the build quality is better than the original Pebble and the watch size isn’t as huge as alot of the other smartwatches currently on the market. I’m hoping that as smartwatches continue to be refined, that smaller versions will become available.

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