Sony and Samsung both grabbed headlines at the IFA consumer electronics show last month with the launch of their smart watches.
The SmartWatch 2 is Sony's second stab at this emerging category, following the ill-received original that was panned for being buggy, difficult to set up, and having a screen that was difficult to see in direct sunlight.
The Galaxy Gear is Samsung's first attempt at snapping up that coveted wrist real estate, although it's had a handful of smart watches from other vendors to observe.
Sony's SmartWatch 2 has a recommended retail price of $239, although it can be bought online for less, while the Samsung Galaxy Gear has a suggested retail price of $449.
You'll need to be using an Android smartphone before you can even consider buying either device, though, , as both must be paired with a "master device".
SAMSUNG GALAXY GEAR
The Galaxy Gear offers a lot more functionality out of the box. As well as the standard smart watch feature of serving up notifications from your paired smartphone, it has a camera built into the band that you can use for shooting 1.9-megapixel photos and short 720p video clips with audio. The built-in microphone and speaker allows the Galaxy Gear to double as a hands-free device for your smartphone - as long as you don't mind speaking into your wrist - and it can also replace a fitness tracker, thanks to the integrated accelerometer and gyroscope.
As promising as all of that sounds, the Galaxy Gear is crippled by two significant shortcomings.
The first is that it can only be used with the Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 edition. A software update later this month will extend it to the Galaxy S4, Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2, but that's still a tiny pool of devices that you can use it with. This shortcoming extends beyond initial device compatibility - it also means that if you jump ship to another brand, your fancy new smart watch loses about four-fifths of its brain.
That said, the Galaxy Gear offers a couple of nifty features that wouldn't have been possible if it were compatible with all Android devices. The auto-lock feature locks your smartphone as soon as the Galaxy Gear (and presumably you) are 1.5 metres away, and the nifty Smart Relay feature automatically displays any messages you were reading on the watch on your smartphone screen as soon as you retrieve it from your pocket. The Galaxy Gear's other shortcoming is that it only has 25 hours of battery life, meaning you'll have to charge it almost as much as your smartphone.
SONY SMARTWATCH 2
The SmartWatch 2 may not be as capable as the Galaxy Gear, but it has a few aces up its sleeve that may make it more attractive. Its biggest drawcard is that it's compatible with any Android device, which extends its appeal to a much wider range of users. As long as you keep within the Android ecosystem, this also means you're free to upgrade to any smartphone you want and still be able to use your smart watch.
Battery life is another major advantage. Sony promises up to four days of battery life with normal usage, which is roughly four times that of the Galaxy Gear. The SmartWatch 2 also uses a standard micro-USB connector for charging, so you can use the same charger that you now use for your Android smartphone. Other perks of the SmartWatch 2 include the fact
that it's a lot lighter (48 grams with the standard silicone strap compared to the 74-gram Galaxy Gear) and has 400 apps available at launch (nearly six times more than what the Galaxy Gear offers). Since it has a standard-sized 24-millimetre strap, you'll also be able to swap in your own wristband; whereas the camera built into the Samsung Galaxy Gear's wristband means you can't replace it.
Which high-tech ticker should you spend your hard-earned dosh on? There's no outright winner, as both are fairly balanced. Practical buyers should veer towards the Sony SmartWatch 2 because of the lower price and wider device compatibility, while power users will find the Galaxy Gear's strong feature set hard to resist, even if it means being tied to the Samsung Galaxy ecosystem.
- FFX Aus