Sony Ericsson LiveView Review

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Introduction and Design
Introduction:

Bluetooth watches. Sony Ericsson have created their fair share of these over the last decade with their MBW line allowing you to control music playback and see who's calling you without having to take your handset out of your pocket. So what's so special about the LiveView then? The answer - it offers more, for less. At a lower price point than the MBW series, the LiveView is less a watch, and more an accessory to Android devices running 2.1 or higher. It also happens to double up as a watch. On top of this, you're also getting a platform that supports "plug-ins", opening up a host of potential uses. So is this neat little watch / clip-on accessory the James Bond gadget we've been waiting for? Is it even useful in day to day life or is the Sony Ericsson LiveView more fizzle than sizzle?

Design:

The Sony Ericsson LiveView is packaged as a clip on accessory with no watch strap attached (this can be found separately in the box). With a 1.2 inch OLED display (128x128 pixels) which isn't the sharpest screen, but gets the job done, the LiveView itself is 11mm thick and the fascia is 35x35mm. It has two physical buttons, one on the top left, the other on the top right. In turn, it resembles a miniature stopwatch. There are also four touch sensitive points on the fascia, one on each side of the screen. At the base is a microUSB port for charging the device. Despite being larger than a standard watch fascia, the Sony Ericsson LiveView is still compact enough to have with you without much imposition. In the box is the DIY velcro watch strap. It needs to be assembled which is a bit fiddly, but once put together, acts as a mountable strap for the device.



While the LiveView does act as a watch, unlike the MBW series, its display is only visible when activated. In addition, the less robust clip-on form factor leads to occasionally accidental un-clipping from the watch strap, meaning that in day to day use, our LiveView unclipped and fell on the floor which is really bad. It is therefore safe to say that being a watch isn't as primary a function of the LiveView, or indeed as practical a function as the manufacturer's MBW range. The light, plastic finish and velcro strap also mean the Sony Ericsson LiveView is less 007 sophisticated and more 15+ gadget aficionado, though this is hardly surprising with an RRP of around $70.



Taking all this into account, the LiveView is designed well for the most part, offering functional versatility, affordability and ingenious design. It isn't as robust or as practical as we would like it to be, so don't expect a slick durable watch replacement, but with curbed expectations it could be just the ticket.



Performance:
 
The Sony Ericsson LiveView is certainly a pretty sweet package when you take into account its price, but when it comes to performance, the device is hampered by poor usability and stability issues among other things. Without an Android connection, the gadget won't even tell the time. It needs to be synced in order to do even that, making it's functionality wholly dependent upon an Android device running 2.1 or higher. Using the LiveView as a watch replacement is therefore totally unrealistic unless you always have your phone on hand, as with every power down, the time resets to 00:00 which is a shame.



Working around the Sony Ericsson Live View isn't particularly intuitive on first use with no indication of button function on the unit itself, though it doesn't take long to get to grips with how it works. In addition, the LiveView app is required to make any changes to the unit. On-board functions include a text message reader, call alert, RSS reader, Facebook and Twitter as well as control over your music player and a “find your phone” function which makes your handset remotely ring. You'll notice email support missing from the list - a huge let down. One of the appeals of the Sony Ericsson LiveView, at least in principle is the support for plug-ins, offering potentially unlimited functionality. The reality however is that of the 5 plug-ins we tried, only two worked relatively smoothly, with one plug-in making our LiveView vibrate until it ran out of juice, buggy to say the least.



As far as the core features go, these are also hit and miss. We found the Facebook functionality didn't work right which in itself is a bad start. Notifications for calls and text messages come through instantly, as do calendar notifications, while other updates make their way to the Sony Ericsson LiveView at set intervals of 15, 30 minutes, 1, 2, or 3 hours. These set time frames are a bit restrictive and we would have preferred more control over update intervals. Once updates are on the unit, you can navigate them on the screen. These appear in a plain text stripped down format with your only option being to scroll through them until you reach the bottom of the update. Once scrolled through, you can send the update to your phone so next time you switch your phone on, it'll be available there. The calendar will notify you when an event is coming up, though there is no access to future or past events which is disappointing. The functions which we found to work the best are call / text alerts, music control, followed by RSS and Twitter support.



With battery life quoted at 4 days, we found more realistic expectations being two and a half with medium usage and the vibrate alert switched on. As mentioned earlier, the Sony Ericsson LiveView needs to be connected to an Android device running 2.1 or higher, and we tested it with the Sony Ericsson X10 (2.1) and a Dell Streak (2.2), finding similar hit and miss performance between devices.

Conclusion:

Suffice to say, the Sony Ericsson LiveView isn't great across the board. The functions Sony Ericsson have perfected in their MBW range work well (text / call alert and music control), however, most of the additions feel like a bit of an afterthought, making the unit perform like a beta with dodgy connectivity here and there as well as strained plug-in support. Hopefully this is the first of an improving line of devices, as the potential for something like this could be huge, but sadly, the LiveView in its present state doesn't hit the mark. If you can overlook the issues, then at around $70 it's a reasonable Bluetooth watch, albeit one with limitations. Otherwise, you may want to consider other watches in the MBW line which are more expensive, but look more attractive and function even in the absence of your phone.

Sony Ericsson LiveView Video Review:





Pros

  • Versatile functionality
  • Small and light-weight
  • Call / text alerts work very well

Cons

  • Entirely dependent on phone to work
  • Poor plug-in support
  • Stability issues

PhoneArena Rating:

4.5

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