Review: Sony SmartWatch 2 good, but do you need it?

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Sony SmartWatch 2, which will sell for $200 in the US, outperforms the Samsung Galaxy Gear in delivering messages. (AP) Sony SmartWatch 2, which will sell for $200 in the US, outperforms the Samsung Galaxy Gear in delivering messages. (AP)
SummarySony SmartWatch 2 is 33% cheaper than Galaxy Gear, and works with a variety of Android phones.

Sony's new SmartWatch 2 doesn't get as much attention - and doesn't do as much - as Samsung's Galaxy Gear computerized wristwatch. But for the things it does, Sony's version performs better.

The SmartWatch 2 is also 33 percent cheaper, at about $200, and works with a variety of Android phones, not just Sony's. Samsung's Galaxy Gear sells for $300 and is compatible only with a handful of high-end Samsung phones.

That said, neither company has made a compelling case of why people need a smartwatch this holiday season.

These wrist-bound gadgets are supposed to free you from constantly pulling out your phone to check for messages. But I found myself checking the watch more often than I would pull out a phone. That proved more distracting - and less private - over dinner, for instance.

The SmartWatch 2 is worth considering primarily if you want to be among the first with the latest technology.

WHAT SONY'S WATCH DOES:

Think of the watch as a companion to your phone. The phone needs to be within Bluetooth wireless range, or about 30 feet.

You install a free Smart Connect app on the phone to manage what gets sent to the watch, be it messages or call notifications. You give the watch functionality by adding watch apps to Smart Connect one by one. Smart Connect fetches the watch apps from Google's online Play store.

For example, I installed Sony's Messaging app to get texts on the watch. I get full texts and can reply with emoticons or pre-written responses such as "I'll get back to you." There's no keyboard on the watch to type individual replies, given that its screen measures just 1.6 inches diagonally.

The Facebook watch app lets me check the latest posts and endorse some with "likes" right from the watch. With Twitter, I can read the latest updates, retweet them or mark some as favorites. But I'm limited to text on the watch. I can't access photos and other links that are often embedded into tweets.

Getting too much? Through the phone, I can choose specific friends and accounts to get notifications for, though I can't simply add "family" and other groups I had already created on Facebook.

The watch can act as a remote control for your phone, but calls themselves are made through the phone. For the watch to be useful, you need a Bluetooth wireless headset linked to the phone.

When calls come in, you can reject

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