Snappy Payments


SnapScan is an award-winning and locally-developed app that allows customers and merchants to complete transactions by scanning a QR code on a customer’s smartphone and confirmed with an SMS sent to the merchant. And yesterday, it was officially launched into the South African market by Standard Bank.

Credit needs to be given to both developers FireID and Standard Bank for making SnapScan as open as possible. Whether you are a consumer or a merchant, you don’t need to be a Standard Bank customer to use the service. SnapScan is also completely free for consumers and the only cost to merchants is a 3% fee on each transaction.

There are no other costs for merchants to register and start using SnapScan which makes it extremely attractive to both formal and informal merchants. In South Africa, this addresses a real problem for smaller merchants who may not be able to afford the cost of setting up a POS machine combined with interrupted or unreliable connectivity.

Signing up as a merchant can be done on the SnapScan website and is quick and easy. Hopefully more and more merchants do so as the success of the service will ultimately depend on whether it catches on with local merchants.

The service has already signed on a number of merchants at local craft markets such as Neighbour Goods. This is great news for merchants as well as customers like me. From personal experience, I always run out of cash at these types of places and spend more time bumbling about like a cash-less idiot than I do enjoying craft beer and Balkan Burgers.

Using SnapScan

FireID has worked hard to make the service and the app as simple and as easy to use as possible. Once you download the app, you add the details of your credit or debit card, enter your name and you are good to go. To make a payment, all you have to do is:

  • Scan a merchant’s QR code at their point of sale
  • Type in the transaction amount
  • Enter your unique SnapScan PIN

I tested the service by paying for some Coffee at Motherland and the whole process took less than 30 seconds. It was weird not paying with actual money or a card but it was one of those magical moments when you feel like you are living in a futuristic science fiction movie.

The app also has a Find Merchant feature that let’s you search for nearby places that use SnapScan. This feature has a lot of potential, especially once more merchants sign on. In addition to being a payment app, it could also help you find new interesting places and provide merchants with an additional way to attract customers.

SnapScan is a well-designed, simple and easy to use service for both consumers and merchants. The service has a lot of potential and the developers have already hinted at some exciting future plans, including being able to use SnapScan for online payments. It’s great to see something like SnapScan developed locally. Let’s hope local merchants and consumers take advantage of it.

What Rocks:

  • Locally developed
  • Great platform for merchants and consumers
  • Use it no matter where you bank
  • Simple, slick and easy to use
  • Makes you feel like you are living in the future

What Sucks:

  • May take some time for more merchants to sign up

8 out of 10

Find out more about SnapScan and / or become a SnapScan merchant at and download the SnapScan app for your smartphone.

googleplay app store blackberryworld
Marvel Unlimited Review

Marvel Unlimited Review

My initial attempt to review the Marvel Unlimited app turned into a rant about the merits of digital comics versus real comics. At the time, the Marvel Unlimited App was poorly designed and extremely buggy. But one year later, I can honestly say that Marvel Unlimited has become one of my favourite and most used apps. And after a recent and major update to the app, I think it’s finally time to do a proper review.

The App:
Marvel Unlimited is an annual subscription-based service that gives you access to roughly 13,000 digital comics that can be read on your smartphone, computer or tablet. It costs $69.99 (R700) a year which could be an incredible deal depending on how many comics you are going to read. For example, digital comics cost between $2 and $4. In the past year, I’ve read about 200 digital comics on the app, which means that I’ve essentially consumed at least $200 worth of comics. So if you like to geek-out hard, this could be the app for you.

When the app first came out, the comic book reading experience was quite clunky, very buggy and would often crash. Thankfully, this has been fixed in the recent update and the reading experience is on par with other comic book apps like ComixOlogy. Another feature that started working after the recent update is offline reading, where you can save up to 12 issues onto your device. This is incredibly handy if you have a Wi-Fi only device or are about to get stuck on a plane…


The Content:
The sheer variety of comics available on the Marvel Unlimited app is still amazing, astonishing, incredible, fantastic and spectacular…It’s still pretty awesome having access to everything from classics from the Golden Age of comics to the latest issues of Marvel Now. No matter what type of Marvel comics you’re into, the app will keep you pretty well covered.

The only downside is that Marvel only loads a comic onto the app 6 months after it has been published. This is not a train smash, but if you like your comics fresh off the press, you will need to make another plan.

Despite this, I cannot overemphasise how many great titles are on the app. There are plenty of great Marvel Now titles including Uncanny Avengers, Brian Michael Bendis’ excellent run on All-New X-Men, Thor: God of Thunder (the most Sandman-like comic since Sandman) and Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye which is my favourite Marvel series ever. It has an entire issue told from the perspective of a one-eyed dog and is just generally fucking incredible. There is also the complete Age of Ultron series which will form the basis for the next Avengers movie (just saying).

There is no shortage of great comics on the Marvel Unlimited app. If you like reading comics, want to catch up with what’s happening in the Marvel Universe or just explore it; download this app and just give Marvel your money. I know it’s quite rare to write a review after spending almost a year using a product or service…but I have loved this service and look forward to spending another year in the Marvel Universe.

What Rocks:

  • The updated app actually works
  • Amazing, astonishing, fantastic and spectacular content
  • Updated weekly with new mix of classic and recent comics
  • Good value for geeks with lots of time on their hands

What Sucks:

  • Newest comics are 6 months old
  • Occasional bugs (although more and more of them are being squashed)

8.5 out of 10

Marvel Unlimited is available for Android and iOS

Everything You Need To Know About A/B Testing Facebook Content (Give or Take)

Everything You Need To Know About A/B Testing Facebook Content (Give or Take)

by Adam Skikne

Social@Ogilvy recently conducted an international study that identified a significant decrease in organic reach for brand pages on Facebook. They found that organic reach for brand pages dropped to about 6% of fans, declining by an average of 49% during the three month study. For pages with more than 500,000 likes, the effect was even worse.

Now, if you’re a brand that has invested in building a presence on Facebook or if you work in social media, producing content for Facebook, you should find the results of this study quite worrying. Facebook wants to charge you to reach your own fans, but even when you pay them for the privilege of doing so, how do you get the most bang for your buck?

The answer could be A/B testing your social media content and adapting your paid media strategy.

Let’s start by looking at how the majority of brands go about creating and posting content on Facebook. Most brands post twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. These brands generally post at “peak times” (essentially when most of the other brands are posting), which probably means that this content is less likely to show up in someone’s newsfeed. In addition to this, most of this content is produced for the sake of producing content and filling up retainer hours. It’s not an ideal setup, but it looks something like this:

Standard Content Planning

An alternative would be to incorporate A/B Testing into the planning, posting and promotion of your social media content. To do this, simply create two versions of the post you want to test. You can look at changing things like the tone of the copy, the call to action, the overall design of your image or even pit two completely different messages against each other.

Share both posts with your fans – both posts will most likely only reach a small percentage of your fanbase. Give the posts an hour or two and see if one post in particular has been more successful. To get the necessary exposure, you may have to put a small bit of paid media behind each post. In most cases, success will be higher levels of engagement (more likes, comments or shares) but this will depend on your objectives for your content. If there is a clear winner, promote that post to the rest of your fanbase or to a specific group based on their interests.

This approach looks something like:

A-B Tested Content Planning

If you want to test the same message with different audiences, post the same message twice but use targeted Facebook advertising to reach different audiences based on age, gender, location or interests, and then compare the results.

Now obviously, the degree that you incorporate A/B testing into the development of your social media content will differ from brand to brand. In an extreme case, a very data-driven client may want every single post to be A/B tested but this is most likely pretty rare. More likely, most brands will usually be open to use A/B testing when:

  • Pre-testing a new designs for social
  • Comparing results with different target audiences (supported by targeted Facebook advertising)
  • Testing what call to actions drive engagement
  • Compare click through rates from social content on your website (this may require tracking different links on each post)
  • Optimising paid media spend

Eventually, you might be able to identify key trends that will allow you to target and engage different segments of your community of Facebook fans more effectively. This will allow you to ensure that the right messages are reaching the right audiences as well as make smarter use of paid media spend.

As I mentioned earlier, our job as social media people is not just to produce content for content’s sake and fill up retainer hours. If you are producing content for a client, explore and experiment with A/B testing in order make sure you are being as smart and strategic as possible when it comes to planning and creating content.

Let’s All Be Bad Magicians

Let’s All Be Bad Magicians

by Adam Skikne

They say that a good magician never reveals their secrets. Well after spending a few years working in social/digital, I say that all the good magicians out there can go fuck themselves. I say that the world needs more bad magicians.

A few years ago I was working at a through the line agency as a copywriter. As the agency’s only copywriter, I wrote about 98% of all the copy that left the agency. But after months of churning out copy for 10 hours a day, I started to feel stuck. A good friend of mine, Mirisa Du Toit, was looking for somebody to join her social media team. It sounded like a good opportunity and I took it.

I was interested in digital and social media. I had a fair amount of knowledge about the various social media platforms but I didn’t have any experience of how to use social media to complete business objectives. From literally the first day I started working with Mirisa, I began an intensive learning experience that covered social media marketing, content planning, community management, digital strategy, paid media, Google Analytics, reporting, ORM and so much more.

wonderific marvelous

It was a small company which meant that it wasn’t only possible to get your hands dirty, it was expected. As much as I learnt from Mirisa, the most important thing was this: If you don’t know something, there is nothing stopping you from teaching yourself. It’s so important to take the initiative and develop an attitude for continual self improvement.

I’ve been lucky in that Mirisa wasn’t the only bad magician I’ve worked with. Over the past year and a half, I’ve been lucky enough to work with people like Corli de Kock, Tiaan de KockDavid Alves, Fareed Mohammed, Nick Bedford and so many more. Most of what I’ve learnt about business and life has come from the various people I work with. The sad truth is that people in this industry move. You have limited time to learn from colleagues so don’t waste it – especially if they are good at being bad magicians…

dance1 dance2

But, in addition to learning from people who know more than me, I’ve also gotten a lot of pleasure from teaching and helping people who actually want to learn. This has come mainly from spending time with the more “junior” members of our team. I hate calling them “junior” because they are so much more than that so I’ll just call them next gen social people.

These next gen social people are young enough to not be jaded by some of the more frustrating elements of working in social or digital. They are passionate, come in early, stay late and work hard. Despite this, they can sometimes still get frustrated. They want to learn and they want to grow, but sometimes they just don’t know how. If you work with a next gen social person that fits this description, take them under your wing and teach them everything they need to succeed. Be a bad magician.

bird1 bird2

As I try to end this post, I can only give any next gen social person who may be reading this the following advice: social media can be an incredibly nuanced discipline. If we aren’t able to differentiate what we do or specialise within a particular area of social media, our industry runs the risk of becoming incredibly vanilla. Social media is not posting twice a day. It’s not creating content that no one will engage with for the sake of creating content. It’s not just about responding to complaints and updating Facebook and Twitter. We need to be smarter and we need to  be better. If you want a fulfilling career in social media, then you need to know what’s even possible. There are a number of areas within social media that you can upskill in or even specialise. Some of them include:

  • Community Management (Building actual communities, not just responding to complaints. You are better than that)
  • Content Creation
  • Social Media for Consumer Brands
  • Social Media for Corporate Brands
  • Social Media for Live Events
  • Reporting
  • Data, Analytics and Insights
  • Influencer Engagement
  • Social and Digital PR
  • Social Media Campaigns
  • Social Media Strategy
  • Social CRM

The above list is not 100% complete but it’s enough to get you started. You can either choose to be an all rounder or you can specialise. But whatever you do, make the conscious decision to take every opportunity to learn and then just be as serious as fuck about continually bettering yourself. Learn from the people you work with. Learn from the people you don’t work with. Teach yourself until you are in the position to teach others. And then you’ll see why it’s awesome being a bad magician.

When Things Start Breaking Bad

When Things Start Breaking Bad

This post is dedicated to everyone who sent messages of support and well wishes after I was diagnosed with cancer. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to properly express how grateful I am, but I will try my best.

What to do when you get bad news

When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I tried my best not to cry but failed. I’ll always be grateful to the amazing team of doctors and medical professionals at the Sunninghill Hospital who diagnosed me as they literally saved my life. As I struggled with my tears, one of the doctors reassured me by saying “if you are going to have cancer, this is the type of cancer that you want to have.”

Despite the bad news, I was extremely fortunate. My cancer is very treatable and we have caught it relatively early. Despite this, I couldn’t help but start crying once again when I got back to casualty. I cried so hard that two nurses came to check up on me because they thought I was in physical pain. The only way I could convince them to go was to lamely mutter that I had just received ‘bad news’.

I stopped crying after about half an hour, and I remembered that the important thing to do in a situation like this is to be positive. As soon as the tears stopped, I knew that I had already hit rock bottom and had begun the process of bouncing back.

In the weeks that have followed, I’ve realised that sometimes we don’t have control over what happens to us. We all know that there is a possibility that we could be diagnosed with a terminal disease or be involved in a fatal accident on any given day. We also know that one day, we will die. Most of the time, these are just abstract concepts but sometimes they can become a very tangible reality. It’s never fun getting bad news. But as bad as any news you receive is, until you hear a doctor say something like “I’m sorry, there is nothing we can do…”, it could always be much worse.

Bad news travels fast. And that’s good…

My first major challenge after getting diagnosed with cancer was calling my family and breaking the news. Within half an hour, my sister and my girlfriend were by my side in hospital and my parents had started a 15 hour drive back from Cape Town to Joburg. I can’t imagine how shitty that drive must have been, but I was never happier to see them than when they walked into my hospital room. This small group has not left my side and have done nothing but look after me. I’ll never be able to thank them for everything they have done and everything they will still have  to do before I’m fully recovered.

When I first told my boss Nick that I was sick, he was shocked but incredibly supportive. I initially asked him to be ‘discreet’ with the news, but after a few days of being MIA, as well as being isolated in hospital, I decided that it might be a good idea to go public and share the news on Facebook.

I didn’t know what to expect but nothing could have prepared me for the overwhelmingly positive response I received. I received nothing but love, support and well wishes. I’m thankful that bad news travels fast because I got so many messages of support and so many good vibes that it made dealing with my situation that much easier.

These messages started three weeks ago, and they just haven’t stopped. My friend Dave started a social media campaign for me called #snapsforadam (you can read more about it here). I still get about 10 snaps a day from work friends who want me to know they are still thinking about me and are waiting for me to get better. It’s been absolutely incredible.

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Some of my other good friends – Fareed, Anne and Kirsty – have written some truly incredible and heartwarming blogs, while my girlfriend Jade has also written about her experiences since I was diagnosed. Even Natalie has gotten involved by opening up the world’s first ever Black Store. You can find links to all these amazing things here:






Whether it was a simple Facebook comment, a snap, an SMS, an offer to pray for me or a phone call to my family, I appreciate everything that everyone has done, said and offered since I was diagnosed. Cancer sucks but it sucks a lot less when you know you are not alone.

The Good News about Good Advice

If nothing else, being diagnosed with cancer puts things in perspective very quickly. It’s a shame that it usually takes having to go through something as horrible as being diagnosed with cancer to get this kind of perspective. But hopefully you will be able to avoid going through something horrible and just take my word on this:

Every piece of good advice you’ve ever heard is 100% true.

People always tell you that life is short. That you should live each day to the fullest. To spend time with friends and family. To wear sunscreen, etc., etc. As simple as they sound, every cliche that you’ve ever heard about what’s really important in life, how to be happy and how to enjoy your life is 100% correct. If you find that you have either time or opportunity, don’t waste it.

Most of the blogs my friends wrote for me ended with a plea to make a difference by supporting a local cancer charity like CHOC or CANSA. Obviously, if you are able to donate, that would be amazing. But if you can’t or don’t feel that this is your particular bag, I have another suggestion:

Just go out there and try do something good. It could be donating money, donating time or just helping someone who is in need. This experience has taught me that bad things happen every day. But so do good things.

All we can hope for is to be one of those good things.

Android Wear: A Platform for Wearable Devices

Android Wear: A Platform for Wearable Devices

by Adam Skikne

2014 is the year of the wearable. Everyone is talking about wearables and every device manufacturer is trying to sell you one. But what should a wearable do? And do we even need them?

These are they types of questions that have floated around the world of tech as we all wait for a company like Google or Apple to step forward and connect the dots for all other consumer electronics companies, showing them the way forward. Well a few weeks ago, Google unveiled a preview of Android Wear, a modified version of Android designed specifically for wearables. The good news: the dots have been connected beautifully. The bad news, at least for Apple, is that Android Wear might have just solved everything wrong with wearable devices.

Here are 5 reasons why Android Wear has positioned itself perfectly to win the war for being the dominant platform for wearable devices:

Usable UI:

Creating a usable UI has been a major problem that smartwatch manufacturers have been trying to solve over the past few years. Most smartwatch manufacturers have made the mistake of trying to shrink down the UI that’s already on your smartphone and just put it on your wrist. This has led to terrible experiences as most smartwatches are not as powerful as modern smartphones and have much smaller screens

Android Wear is powered by Google Now, Google’s contextually aware, card based system. Google has implemented a similar card-based system for Google Glass and it has been praised as an ideal UI for wearables, showcasing that it can work across a number of different form factors. This card-based approach to UI offers the perfect balance between information and interaction, reminding us why the wearable category so compelling.



The other side of including Google Now into Android Wear is context. The promise of wearable devices is the added value that can be created “in the moment” through contextual data. These devices will need to know things like has there been a traffic accident on the way to work? Has my flight been delayed? Am I missing the rugby to take my girlfriend out for our anniversary but still want to know what’s happening in the game?

All of this requires contextual data and no one is doing a better job at collecting and interpreting this data than Google. And while Android is free, Google Now is proprietary software. This means that if you are a wearable device manufacturer and you want context baked into your device, you pretty much need to jump on the Android Wear bandwagon. This is something that should be worrying Apple as they can’t compete with Google in this particular area.

Voice Actions:

If your wearable device has a screen, it will most likely be tiny. Which is fine if all you want your wearable device to do is just give you your latest notifications…but who wants that? That sounds lame. Of course you want to get these super cool contextual updates but you also want to do do something with them without taking out your smartphone.

Android Wear includes all the great work that Google has done with voice controls in Android over the past few years. One of Google’s goals is to create the Star Trek computer, a computer that can be controlled using natural language. It sounds incredibly geeky, but if Google can make talking to our computers seem normal, it will be a huge factor in ensuring wearables have mass market appeal.


Android has an incredible amount of momentum behind it with over a billion Android smartphones and tablets being activated around the world in the past 8 years. Android is the most popular mobile OS in the world today and one of the reasons for all of this success is that it is open.

According to Business Insider’s recent report on the Internet of Things, the number of devices that will make up the internet of things is going to far exceed the number of both smartphones and tablets in the world. Judging from the recent smartphone and tablet wars, open systems will trump closed systems. If you want to build a world where everything can talk to everything, regardless of specs, screen size or manufacturer, Android seems to be the smart platform to use and Android Wear is going to be the thing that makes sure everything can keep on talking.



One of Android’s key selling points over iOS has been cusomisation. But moving forward, we won’t be worried about customising our phone’s wallpapers or widgets. Every part of our lives and all the devices in them will be fully customisable. Starting with what kind of wearible you want and what you actually want it to do.

You want a smartwatch? A fitness tracker? A sleep tracker? A smart thermostat? A mask that measures air quality? Glasses that take videos? Hats that broadcast free wi-fi? A toothbrush that automatically books an appointment with your dentist? Whatever you can think of, someone will build it. And if I’m right about openness and custimisation, people will probably be building it on something like Android Wear.

WhatsApp: WTF?

by Adam Skikne

Earlier this week, Facebook acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion. And while everyone may have their opinion of why Facebook acquired WhatsApp, what they have planned for WhatsApp, or whether or not it was a good or a bad deal for Facebook, no one can definitively know the answer to any of these questions for sure at this moment in time.

Sure, the internet is full of people with opinions and the best way to take an opinion is with a pinch of salt. Having said that, Facebook’s decision to acquire WhatsApp for $19 billion could very well be the single worst decision in the history of business. Ever.

Here’s why:

1. 19 Billion Reasons

The great thing about WhatsApp is that it is incredibly simple and has focused on doing one thing particularly well. WhatsApp doesn’t collect your personal data and it doesn’t depend on advertising for revenue. WhatsApp is basically free for the first year and then charges you $1 a year thereafter.

So did Facebook acquire WhatsApp to collect more data? Did they acquire them to make money. The answer, at least at the moment, is ‘no’ on both accounts. In fact if every one of WhatsApp’s 450 million monthly users paid their $1 subscription, it would take WhatsApp just over 42.2 years to generate $19 billion dollars. This $19 billion would not be pure profit.

It would not be worth the same as $19 billion dollars is worth by today’s standards.

And we will probably not be using WhatsApp 42.2 years from now.

2.  WhatsApp doesn’t automatically give Facebook Access to Millions of “Poor” People in Emerging Markets

Ok, so for many, WhatsApp is the default SMS or messaging app, especially for “poorer” people in emerging markets. But is Facebook’s play really spending $19 billion dollars to get WhatsApp on “poor” people’s smartphones just so that they can get them to use Facebook? That sounds stupid.

But if Facebook acquired WhatsApp to target the next billion people who will be accessing the internet for the first time in emerging markets, they have a big problem. WeChat.

WeChat offers the same functionality as WhatsApp as well as a completely mobile social network that can potentially replace Facebook for many users. And in a recent article by Quartz, while WeChat has 150 million users less than WhatsApp, each WeChat user is worth an estimated $95 each – making WeChat worth around $30 billion.

Not only are WeChat users worth more than WhatsApp users, WeChat is looking to aggressively expand into Western markets. WhatsApp will not only have to fight off WeChat’s superior offering in these markets but they will also struggle to gain traction in China (where WeChat comes from) because of WeChat’s head start and the fact that Facebook is pretty much banned in China.

3. Facebook Fails

I think Facebook has a lot of potential as a company. They have an enormous user base, all our data, tons of money and some super smart people. But they also have a terrible track record of announcing things that should revolutionize social media but fail miserably instead. Some of these Facebook fails include:

  • The effect of changes to the News Feed algorithm for posts from friends
  • The effect of changes to the News Feed algorithm for posts by brands
  • email addresses
  • Facebook Graph Search
  • Facebook Home (despite being a cool product)
  • The HTC First (this was actually quite a cool entry level phone)
  • Facebook Poke (to compete with Snapchat)
  • Facebook’s controversial IPO
  • Not being able to solve advertising on Instagram (although this may change)
  • Instagram Video (to compete with Vine)
  • Instagram Direct (once again to compete with Snapchat)

So even if buying WhatsApp is a good idea and fits perfectly into Facebook’s genius plans…things don’t always go according to plan. Especially for Facebook. After writing this post, I think I realise that the only possible reason Facebook bought WhatsApp wasn’t to increase revenues, get more data or even more users. The acquisition was most likely to prepare for the upcoming battle between with WeChat. Will the $19 billion dollars that Facebook spent on WhatsApp be worth it? We’ll find out as the battle unfolds on the tiny screens in our pockets.


Hatching Twitter

Hatching Twitter

by Adam Skikne

Hatching Twitter by Nick Bilton tells the true story of Twitter’s four co-founders (Ev Williams, Noah Glass, Biz Stone and Jack Dorsey) who transformed a small side project at a failing start up into to a multi-billion dollar company that literally changed the world. Basically, the book is to Twitter what The Accidental Billionaires (the book that The Social Network is based on) is to Facebook.

And it’s awesome (#justsaying).

One of the most interesting things in the book is that the idea for Twitter didn’t just come from one person. Each of Twitter’s co-founders helped shape Twitter in their own way. Jack Dorsey came up with the initial idea about creating a product around status updates. Ev Williams wanted to provide people with a tool to express themselves and used his own money to finance the business. Noah Glass championed the idea and came up with the name for Twitter. And Biz Stone? Well Biz just generally rocked, eventually sticking up for his best friend by telling the Board of Directors at Twitter to go fuck themselves when they fired Ev Williams as CEO of the company.

Like I said, the book really is awesome.

Each of the Twitter co-founders had their own vision for what Twitter should be. This ultimately led to a number of power struggles for the control of the company – mainly between Noah Glass, Ev Williams and Jack Dorsey. These power struggles are really what is at the heart of the book with each one being fueled by Twitter’s staggering growth and the need for the company to become profitable for investors.

In the book, Bilton points out that no one could have predicted Twitter’s success or have had the experience to cope with the chaos that would come along with it. Nevertheless, Hatching Twitter is a fascinating look at how the politics within a business changed the lives of four friends. It’s a book that is not only incredibly well researched but also well written. I would recommend it to anyone interested in business or tech.

Rating: 8/10

Sony SmartWatch 2 Review

Sony SmartWatch 2 Review

by Adam Skikne

Tech experts have predicted that smart watches are going to be the breakout product categories of 2014. The first smart watches are now available to consumers with the next generation being shown off at CES 2014. But what is it like to use a smart watch, what should they do and should you buy one? I was fortunate enough to get my hands on the Sony SmartWatch 2 to review.

Design and Hardware:

The design of the Sony SmartWatch 2 is quite impressive. With its square face, rounded corners and chamfered edges, the Sony SmartWatch 2 is a sleek device with a premium feel. It was definitely noticed when it was on my wrist and the majority of people who saw it became quite curious when they found out that it was a smart watch. So basically you can safely wear it in public without worrying if you look like an idiot.

Perhaps the most important feature of the SmartWatch 2 is its screen. And while the screen is bigger and brighter than the one found in the original Sony SmartWatch, I did wish it had a slightly higher resolution. Despite this, the SmartWatch 2’s screen is usable in most lighting conditions (including outdoors in bright sunlight) and manages to always stay on while conserving battery.

Battery life on the SmartWatch 2 is another plus. When I first unboxed the SmartWatch 2, its battery was about 65% full but still lasted me a good three days before needing to be recharged. The SmartWatch 2 charges via a micro USB cable which is quite convenient. It should be noted that the SmartWatch 2 is also water resistant. So if you ever wanted to check Twitter while you’re in the shower, this is the device for you.

Set Up:

Setting up the SmartWatch 2 is relatively simple as it pairs with any Android phone running Jellybean and above through NFC or Bluetooth. Unfortunately the Smart Watch 2 is not compatible with iOS devices. Once the devices have been paired, you are prompted to download the Sony Smart Connect app on your phone. The app allows you to find, link and control a number of other apps that have been specifically designed for the SmartWatch 2.

Through the Smart Connect app, the SmartWatch 2 can be linked to your phonebook, dialer, music player, SMS messages, Twitter, Facebook and various fitness apps like Endomondo and Runtastic. There are roughly 300 additional apps that you can be downloaded for the SmartWatch 2. The majority of these apps are lightweight and free but there are a few apps that offer very similar functionality. Still, these apps add additional functionality to the SmartWatch 2.

Using the SmartWatch 2:

The experience of using the SmartWatch 2 will vary based on your expectations of what a smart watch should do. Smart watches are set to become an increasingly important product category in the next few years but it is still a product category that needs to be better defined by device manufacturers.

The interface of the SmartWatch 2 should be familiar to anyone who has used an Android phone. You can swipe through installed apps and the SmartWatch 2 even has the standard back, home and options buttons found on most Android devices.

The SmartWatch 2 primarily acts as second screen that allows you to view notifications on your wrist and perform basic tasks like controlling your music without the need for taking your smartphone out of your pocket. The notifications that pop up on your wrist can make it easier to spend less time looking at your phone, which is good. However, it’s very easy to become inundated with notifications depending on which services you link with the SmartWatch 2. Messages and social media updates can be problematic but the settings for these apps can also be tweaked to improve the experience.

There are a few snags. The SmartWatch 2 does well with text based notifications but struggles with updates or emails that are image heavy. Your wrist will ring when you get a phone call but you can’t answer the call or speak into the watch. These are not faults per se but maybe just missed opportunities. I have no doubt that these features and capabilities will be included in either future iterations of the Sony SmartWatch. You can already find them in competing products like the Samsung Galaxy Gear but at a slightly higher price point.

Sony SmartWatch 2

Wrap Up:

The smart watch is a product category that currently doesn’t have mainstream appeal but this is will likely change over the next year or so. If you are an early adopter or love the idea of smart watches, then the Sony SmartWatch 2 is a definite contender. It is well designed, compatible with a wide range of Android phones and is supported by a number of specially designed third party apps.

On the spectrum of available smart watches that are currently available, I would say that the SmartWatch 2 fits in between the Pebble and the Samsung Galaxy Gear in terms of price, battery life, device compatibility, build quality and apps. If you are in the market for a smartwatch, I would recommend that you look into these three products and see which one suits you best based on your individual needs.

Final Score: 6.5 out of 10

I got my Sony SmartWatch 2 review unit from the fine folk at the Orange Online store. They stock the Sony SmartWatch 2 (available from R1995.00) as well as the Pebble Smartwatch and the Samsung Galaxy Gear. If you enjoyed the review or are in the market for a smart watch, feel free to visit them at


Everything you need to know about Snapchat in 10 seconds (give or take)

Everything you need to know about Snapchat in 10 seconds (give or take)

by Adam Skikne

1. What is Snapchat?

Snapchat is an app that allows you to share pictures and short videos that delete themselves after 10 seconds. You can also draw or write on your pictures. It’s more fun than it sounds.

2. That sounds stupid. Why would people use Snapchat?

Young folk are getting tired of the fact that everything you do or say online sticks around forever. Sometimes, you just want to share something and not have it recorded until the end of time.

3. Is this the app everyone uses for sexting?

Apparently but not really. I get a decent amount of snaps from friends everyday. So far, not a single sext. But if you do want to sext (am I using that word correctly?) you can add me: adamskikne

4. Can’t people just screengrab your snaps?

Yes, but it’s cool. Some snaps are just too awesome not to save. Plus you get a notification when someone screengrabs your snap. So you know if you need to start panicking.

5. Why is everyone talking about Snapchat?

Facebook reportedly offered $3 billion to acquire Snapchat. Facebook got turned down.

Google reportedly offered $4 billion to acquire Snapchat. Google got turned down.

6. That’s crazy. How many people are on Snapchat?

It’s tough to say. Snapchat isn’t confirming the total number of active users.

7. Ok…so why the billion dollar offers?

There are more snaps sent each day than the number of photos loaded onto Facebook.

8. Should Facebook be worried?

Facebook shouldn’t be worried about Snapchat per se. Facebook should be worried that young people think that Facebook is boring and aren’t using it as much as they used to.

9. Is Snapchat worth billions of dollars?

Probably not. They haven’t figured out a way to make money and people are very fickle when it comes to the next hot app. Plus a lot of their metrics are very misleading at the moment.

10. Can brands use Snapchat?

Yes and no. Seriously, this is taking way longer than 10 seconds. I guess you could use Snapchat’s relatively new Story feature to create a feed of pictures and videos that live for 24 hours before deleting themself. I’m sure Snapchat is probably looking at new features specifically for brands. To be safe, just stick to Facebook and Twitter and quit trying to look smarter than you really are by trying to find “the next big thing” in social media.


You can get Snapchat on the Google Play Store and the Apple App store.

 *No turtles were harmed in the making of this post