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