Sony Smartwatch 2 wins on design points, but on a functional level doesn’t seem a contender for the Galaxy Gear

8c6cd762a739172f478705c02870a0e4_viewTwo smartwatches were in the spotlight during the last edition of IFA in Berlin: Samsung’s Galaxy Gear and Sony’s Smartwatch 2. But is it fair to compare the devices to each other?

It isn’t, we concluded when we got the chance to test the Smartwatch 2 at Sony’s stand. In terms of display size, the two smartwatches are virtually identical: 1.6 inch in Sony’s case, and 1.63 in Samsung’s case. However, the image quality of the display is a different story altogether: with an AMOLED display and a resolution of 320 x 320, the Samsung Gear offers sharper and therefore more beautiful images. This is the kind of quality you would expect from an iPhone or Samsung S series device. With 220 x 176 pixels, the Sony Smartwatch images mainly looks pretty granular and unclear.

However, many people are much more enthusiastic about the design of Sony’s smartwatch than about the Galaxy Gear’s design. From a small personal poll on Twitter, we quickly learn that 90% of the respondents prefer Sony´s design over that of the Gear. Sony’s smartwatch looks a lot like an iPod Shuffle attached to a watchband, and despite its 1.6 inch screen it looks small and flexible. Added to which, the wristbands come in a broad range of colors varying from black, white and brown to pink, purple and turquoise.

Yet, there is a reason why the Smartwatch 2 is considerably smaller than the Galaxy Gear. The device does not have any of the special features of the Galaxy Gear. Examples are a microphone and speaker that allow you to make calls from your wrists, an integrated 1.9 megapixel camera and hard disk for storing pictures, as well as a pedometer, gyro sensor and accelerometer for tracking various types of activity.

The Sony offers nothing of the kind. It exclusively functions as an extension of your mobile phone — a second screen, in fact. Does that render the device completely useless? Absolutely not, because if you pair it with your smartphone via Bluetooth, you can open apps like Twitter, Facebook and Runkeeper and view their content on your smartwatch. This is really handy in some situations. If you wear a headset, you can also use the device to make and answer calls without the need to remove your phone from your pocket.

So, it still remains to be seen who’s going to win the smartwatch battle: will people opt for design and a smaller feature set, or will the early adapters decide for the chunky Galaxy Gear en masse for their first wearable experience? Time will tell, but the price of both devices might just play a decisive role in their selection: the Sony Smartwatch 2 is directly available at a recommended retail price of €199. The Galaxy Gear will hit the shops later this month and retail at €299.