Saturday 24 March 2012

Sony Ericsson LiveView!

Sony Ericsson LiveView: In depth review.

   Hi guys, I promised a review would be coming soon and I've had a good 3 or 4 days to get to know the Sony Ericsson LiveView inside out and now we get to find out whether or not my initial impressions, which were quite glowing, remain the same.

    First things first, I must say that I genuinely love my little LiveView; some things haven't changed since the day I bought it. As a pre-notifier of a text it is brilliant; I am a textaholic (not many people annoy Orange so much they complain about the 'significant amount' over the fair usage policy I went, by the way not something I'm proud of) but when you receive a text, when paired with my Samsung Galaxy S2 at least, the LiveView vibrates significantly ahead of my phones' notifier and I can have my phone out ready to read my message because of the LiveView. It is also worth noting that the LiveView makes it socially acceptable to read your messages, or have a cheeky glance at your RSS feeds in public, people don't know that your 'watch' is connected to your phone.

    Which leads me on quite nicely to my second point; above anything this device could simply be a watch, if that is all you need, all you want, then you have a solid watch for £15. It does need charging every day (if you use it heavily) but it's great as just that. But, the device promises so much more, which is the reason why I believe people are disappointed. You have the ability to download and install 'plug-ins' something Sony encourages you to do straight away, if you're the type who delve into the user manual. But, this is the downfall; I have had a play with the Twitter and Facebook readers and they really are quite useless, you can keep up with statuses and tweets but on such a diddy screen you have to scroll down after you have read the first five words, something which becomes quite arduous after a while. It is simply easier to unlock your phone and go to the dedicated app which has considerably more functionality than the simple reader on the LiveView.

   This is where Sony missed the point. The device should not have gone that far; it should display incoming calls and messages as well as functioning as a remote for music control and playback. The other plug-ins offer a less than satisfactory experience. They tackle aspects of your smartphone which don't even need to be on an accessory, the LiveView is an overview device, not a smartphone replacement. It is a nice concept but it just doesn't need to be done and isn't practical on this particular device.

   Here I feel I should pause and just reiterate that I love the LiveView, it is fantastic, it just frustrates me that Sony has tried to push the boundaries and has failed, whereas they could have stuck within them and been hugely successful. Which is why the simplicity of the music controls on the LiveView are spectacularly good. You simply have to hold down the button top right, it will connect to the phone, open the music player and push the same button once more and boom, we have music playback. It just works every single time and the four capacitive buttons have a dedicated task each; left- skip track back, right- skip track forward, up- volume up and down is volume down. So simple, so brilliant and it genuinely wows people. My friends are happy to sit there and watch my phone sitting on a table and me wirelessly controlling the music, it's great. There is also endless fun that can be had simply laying my phone on the kitchen table and then when one of my unsuspecting flatmates sitting next to it, I start a song at full volume next to them, it is hilarious. But, aside from practical jokes, it is just a useful thing to be able to do when you're out and about and you fancy a change from streaming Kiss FM, it removes the step of you retrieving your phone from your pocket to skip that annoying Mika track you forget to delete.

   I do, however, have one major gripe with the device and  a second which is comparably minor. The major gripe is time after time, after time, after time..... the Bluetooth connection will drop when the phone is in your pocket and you will literally have to turn Bluetooth on and off, the LiveView on and off, the nearest lightbulb on and off and close and open the curtains (you get the idea) just to get the LiveView to reconnect, it's a pain and a very large one at that. I literally have tried everything to find a simple solution but I'm not sure one exists. I have noticed that sometimes the disconnections are because the LiveView app has 'Force closed' on my phone and so the app has to be restarted and the LiveView reconnected and everything will be good again, but sometimes it just does not want to work. I have had issues when I had the phone in my right trouser pocket and have been walking around a shop, gone to pick something up off a shelf and the device goes out of range. For some reason this isn't an issue when the phone is on my desk and I pop into my flatmates room, a good five metres away, perhaps it is something to do with the way Bluetooth technology works, all I know is that it's annoying, because you then have the reconnection issues I described earlier. There is no obvious way around this but perhaps Sony could have used the battery on the LiveView to increase the receiver strength, but then I suppose you have to trade battery life for constant connection and I don't know which is best.

   The second issue is the battery indicator. By that I literally mean the little indicator that shows you how long the battery has left and not the battery life. The device will comfortably get you through a day if you use it every ten minutes or so, but if you are very easy on the device and remember to power it off at night(!!!!) then you will get a solid two, three or maybe four days usage. But, the indicator has no idea how much battery the device has left in it, your guess is literally the best guess. If you use it a lot you'll be running out by the end of the say and if you haven't used it much you'll be alright for a few days. The only way to actually know your battery is beginning to run out is when the device shows that it has come off of full battery, then you know it's beginning to run out of juice. It's annoying that it can't just work, but it's by no means a deal breaker, I think it's just a case of using your common sense.

   Plug-ins are another options but for the reasons I've explained earlier I really have no use for them and they seem to become a burden, to me at least.

   The accessories which come with the LiveView also need consideration; inside the box is a noticeably cheap looking wrist strap. Although, despite it's outward appearance it does it's job and you just clip the LiveView into it and the hold is strong and it won't fall out on you. So much so in fact that the only way I have found to get the LiveView out is by pushing my pen-knife into the gap to prise the device loose when it needs charging. The second accessory is a little clip; Sony suggests the idea is to clip it onto your work folder so that you can see notifications as they arrive, but I can't see most people using the device in that way, the wrist strap seems to make a lot more sense. For those of you who are interested, the box also contains a charger, which is a nice, solid and good quality charger actually, none of this here is a USB and a plug, make your own, as well as 2 user manuals/guides.   

   I must admit, had I paid £70 for the device I would be a bit peeved, I would have expected the LiveView to be perfect in every way, but I didn't which is perhaps why I have a much more favourable opinion. £15 for an accessory which genuinely is useful, is fun and is actually surprisingly cool and futuristic is a fair price given the couple of drawbacks I have highlighted above. The thing is if you go into using the device expecting the world to peacefully coexist on your wrist, you have another thing coming and you will be disappointed, but of you simply use it as a watch, message reader and call alert you will be pleasantly surprised. I know now that it's not just a toy which is going back in it's box, I will wear it on it's cheap strap until it doesn't work and if you think you can live with the downsides head to your shopping destination of choice and give it a chance, you might be surprised too.


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