Tech Review: Sony Smartwatch Vs. Samsung’s Galaxy Gear

December 9, 2013
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A few months back I gave you the lowdown on Samsung’s Smartwatch. Now here come the far savvier folks at Sony, just in time to bid for a place of honor in your Christmas stocking. While growth in the smartphone market is slowing, especially at the high end where companies have been making a killing because money seems to be no particular object for certain ‘elite,’ wearable computing is where they’re gambling the next ‘at’ is at.

So will certain folks put away their Seikos, Hublots, Tags, Rolexes, Tissots, Seikos, Citizens, Bulovas, Cartiers, etc. and jump in for a digital watch tied to a smartphone? I reviewed Samsung’s Galaxy Gear in late October.  My review was, in a nutshell, so-so for lot of dosh. The Samsung PR folks keep sending me literature that says they shipped 800,000 Smartwatches, but it’s interesting that they haven’t given an estimate on how many actually sold.

The truth is that Sony has been in the Smartwatch game longer. Indeed, they launched two Smartwatches long before Samsung, although, of course, being first doesn’t necessarily mean being best. Anyway, it seems simplest to do a direct comparison.

Sony Smartwatch

Universal compatibility: This is an obvious point in the plus column for Sony’s SmartWatch 2.

SmartWatch 2 works with every modern Android phone out there. In other words, Sony’s SmartWatch 2 works with every recent Samsung smartphone on the planet while Samsung’s own Smartwatch only works with a handful of Samsung products!!!

Price: Sony’s SmartWatch 2 costs US$199.99. Samsung’s Galaxy Gear costs US$299.99.

Battery life: Sony’s SmartWatch 2 gave me four days of use per charge. Samsung’s Galaxy Gear smartwatch lasts for a little more than one day on a full charge.

Sony Smartwatch

Standard microUSB charging port:  Big, big deal to me! Sony’s SmartWatch 2 has a standard microUSB port that is covered by a connected rubber cap. Want to charge the device? Pull out the attached rubber cap and plug in any standard microUSB charger. That’s it! Easy. Even a U.S. senator can manage that easily. The Galaxy Gear ships with a clam shell cradle for charging. A standard microUSB charger plugs into the cradle, and then the cradle is closed around the watch to charge it. Badly designed, it’s awkward to handle and has to be recharged daily.

Apps: Samsung’s Galaxy Gear is very limited in apps. Sony manages the connection between the SmartWatch 2 and the user’s smartphone, so it becomes a portal through which users can find both free and paid apps, easily located in the standard Google Play Store. I counted 64 new Apps on Sony’s gear.

No camera, no voice controls: Sony simply doesn’t have it. If, however, you like that Mr. Spock/Dick Tracy-thing of talking into your wrist or taking photos, Samsung are winners. To me, less is more. The same goes with Voice Recognition. It’s yours if you want it with Sony. The experience of talking to your watch at home or, worse, in public, is daft. Also, Samsung’s “S Voice” solution works very slowly. The same goes for the camera. Why tap your watch to take a fuzzy photo rather than use your smartphone out of your for something high-quality photo?

Interchangeable straps: Sony allows you to use any of thousands of different straps on the market, which are 24 millimeters wide. No such luck on Samsung’s Smartwatch.

Hardware design: The SmartWatch 2 – outside its ugly camera lens on the front of the strap, Samsung’s Galaxy Gear is well designed with a sleek stainless steel case. Sony’s watch is sort of bland in its design and interface which looks like, umm, the standard Android model.

Messaging limitations: When you get text messages on your phone, the SmartWatch 2 displays a notification. Yet, replying to these messages without using your phone is something of an issue with both phones. In both cases, you can’t reply to texts with a message created on the fly.

The Bottom Line: Would you go for a less attractive watch with a wider range of functionality for US$199, or get something more handsome but limited in capability for US$299? It’s early yet: maybe you should wait till next year!

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