WIPJAM – Sony SmartWatch 2 and APIs

By | February 26, 2014

A few days ago I participated in the Hackathons of WIPJAM with my colleague from EMDC (Maria Stylianou). She is a passionate graph miner/ data scientist, check her blog! 😛 Our 1-day project consisted on developing a project over the Sony SmartWatch 2. This is the first time I comment on gadgets/hardware, so please bare with the lame opinion 😉

Sony SmartWatch 2

In case you are not familiar with this device, the Sony SmartWatch 2 it is the world first Android-compatible with NFC. This sounds flashy but my guess is the NFC is only for automatically setting up the bluetooth connection to the phone (no?! please correct me on this).

We arrived on the conference with only a few ideas, didn’t even look at the Smartwatch APIs. Regarding this device, first assumption was that it would be running Android… even attempted to run adb on it with no success. It does not provide debug over USB (well it does but it not accessible for developers) so your debugging should be based on sent Intents behavior on the watch UI or perhaps callbacks.

Although all the development of applications is done using the typical android layouts and intents, the watch itself is not Android and barely does anything other than providing a new screen/UI for mobile applications running on the phone. If you want to display an image on the device, you create a ImageView on the layout but instead of just accessing the field and change it,  you will have to broadcast the bitmap within an Android Intent. This intent is probably intercepted by the Sony service and transparently sent to the device. The whole communication is abstracted which is cool. With a complete documentation (which were lacking during this hackathon but on its way) it should not be very complicated to build a new application.

Guess the major utility will be to display mobile device notifications such as phone calls, SMS, social network, etc. Don’t take me wrong, this is actually very useful (and distracting :P). Also it is very useful for micro actions (like rejecting calls), its accelerometer might be cool for some use cases (actions on remote devices) and the fact that it is easy to look at any moment opens a new branch of usability (GPS directions /alarms). Its potential is totally up to the adoption-level in the development community (number of apps and so on).

From the applications that I tested, there were still problems with the music player (it did not work and muted my device, making it impossible to turn back on without uninstalling the app ) and the accelerometer apps. The notifications, sms, calls were great. The featured Runtastic app was ok.

How it feels? The look is awesome, it is not too big and feels good on your wrist.

Would I buy it?  Probably no. Unfortunately for me the screen size/resolution and (for now) limited capabilities turn me a bit off (this was a pre-release, still not fully functional). It feels a bit like you are using a old phone OS. Would get it second hand or cheaper for doing some hacks and experiments. Perhaps by the current price only once I see more apps coming for it.

SmartWatch 2 – Documentation and samples

If you are looking for a quick peek at the actual state of the Sony SmartWatch 2 documentation, you can take a look at the provided files on the WIPJAM hackathon : sdk-mwc-hackathon.zip. It has some nice samples of list layouts, displaying canvas, text and so on. Regarding documentation feel free to check :

Download (PDF, 787KB)

Download (PDF, 1.45MB)

Download (PDF, 1.27MB)

Conclusion

Overall pros : its a good looking device; relatively simple to develop apps (might seem strange at beginning); lasted around 3 days without charging; new usage branchs and some potential.

Cons: difficult to make apps look good over such a small screen; limits functionality and usability of UI; price for such a limited device. Tested the Samsung smartwatch and I have to say it looked not as pretty in the outside, but much cooler on the UI (perhaps because it was a development sony smartwatch).

Hope you enjoyed this humble opinion and feel free to comment.

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