They launched in September, but these two smart watches are aimed at different demographics. Sony's SmartWatch 2 SW2 (HK$1,500) looks like a traditional watch and is available only in black, while Samsung's Gear (HK$2,320) has a brushed metallic front with black, white, orange, yellow or grey straps all available, and a matching coloured screen wallpaper. Each one has a tiny camera on the outer section, while Sony's strap is plainer and can be replaced by any standard 24mm watch strap.
The square, waterproof Sony is slimmer at just 9mm, but heavier at 122 grams, while the rectangular Gear is 11mm deep and weighs just 74 grams. Samsung wins here on innovation, but the bulky wrist strap, which also houses a microphone, doesn't feel as comfortable. Sony's design, which has a traditional clock face, is less of a stylistic leap.
Both watches have a 1.6-inch screen, but Samsung wins on geek points by fitting the Gear with a higher resolution 20x320 pixel touch screen that uses the same Super AMOLED tech found in many of its smartphones. Sony uses a 220x176 pixel screen, though both lack the detail we are used to on smartphones.
Samsung's Gear brings a new feature to the world of watches. A 1.9-megapixel outward-facing camera embedded on the strap, activated by swiping a finger slowly down the screen, can take square or 4:3 photos, and shoot video in widescreen HD quality. Other features include Find My Phone, a pedometer sensor, events reminders, new e-mail alerts and a selection of about 70 apps specially made for Gear. When you receive an e-mail alert on Gear and start to read it, you can pick up your Galaxy Note or S3/S4 smartphone, which will already be displaying that e-mail. Gear also includes S-Voice recognition for sending SMS, setting alarms, or even for asking about the weather. There's a memography mode for "visual notes", and it can translate text read by the strap's camera.
As well as having more apps, the Sony has a stopwatch, timer and compass, can be used to operate music on a connected device, and silently vibrates when you receive an e-mail, SMS, message on social media, a calendar event begins, or you get a phone call. Calls can be made hands-free - and phone-free - if you use Bluetooth headphones, whereas Gear answers phone calls as it's raised to your ear.
Thanks to its NFC technology, tap the Sony to any Android 4.0 device and they'll instantly pair over Bluetooth. A slave device to the Galaxy S3, S4 and Note3, Gear won't work with an iPhone or any other Android brand, while Sony's watch pairs with anything running at least Android 4.0. While Sony's battery should last more than six days, Gear's runs for only 25 hours at most - a big difference. Both charge using a microUSB cable.
Sony's watch has the edge on responsiveness; Gear feels a little more sluggish while swiping through the simple user interface. But they both feel like secondary devices, not high-powered flagship gadgets.
The first watch that lets the wearer receive and make calls without taking their phone out of their pocket, Samsung's Galaxy Gear has an impressive features list. But it's a slow and sometimes frustrating product to use. It may become a fashion must-have, but only for a certain age group. Sony's more limited effort, which is essentially a smartphone remote control, could have wider appeal. It works with any new Android device, too, and is far more affordable. But does anyone really need a smart watch? We're yet to be convinced.