IRL: Sony SmartWatch, Otterbox Universal Defender case and a Blendtec blender

Welcome to IRL, an ongoing feature where we talk about the gadgets, apps and toys we're using in real life and take a second look at products that already got the formal review treatment.

IRL Sony SmartWatch, Otterbox Universal Defender case and a Blendtec blender

At last! A story where it's actually appropriate to write "Will it blend?" in the comments! In this week's IRL, our very own Darren Murph takes a slightly different tack than usual, gushing about his new $400 fruit crusher. On an equally rough-and-tumble note, Brian brings his trusty Otterbox iPhone case into a Nevada sandstorm with 50 mile-per-hour winds, while Sharif tests out Sony's SmartWatch -- from the comfort of his London neighborhood, of course.

Sony SmartWatch


I'll start by admitting I don't wear a watch. Sometimes I loiter in front of a Tag Heuer window display in the mall and think, "Hey, maybe wearing one of those would make people take me seriously." But then I trip over my laces and move right along to the Sony Store. Except here's the thing: your local Sony Store will also start selling watches any day now. Android-powered Sony SmartWatches to be precise, which will be priced at $149 and pair with compatible smartphones via Bluetooth.

I was lucky enough to try one out for a week and, although it has a couple of imperfections on the software front (all of which should be easily remedied) it was joy to have it on my wrist. For a start, it put an end to missed calls. I have a hearing defect inherited from my father, which means that when my wife calls I hardly ever hear the ring or feel the vibration, and then I usually miss the 'missed call' notification too. It's only when I come to plug my phone into a charger that I see the distraught SMS asking where I've been for the past three days. So long as you set up all its mini-apps just right, the SmartWatch vibrates and displays key content for incoming calls, missed calls, text messages, calendar appointments and emails (the contents of Gmails notwithstanding). The total effect is that it makes it much harder to let life pass you by.

The strap is comfy and I was able to wear the watch all day long while still keeping enough juice in my paired Xperia S to reach nightfall. Beyond these practicalities, my particular favorite feature is the fact that the SmartWatch doesn't tell the time. Well, it does, but only if you double-tap the screen, at which point it displays the time and date, and allows you to pinch-zoom out to a main menu. For most of the day, however, the SmartWatch's panel retains a lovely mysterious blankness, leaving just the funky-looking rubber strap and evergreen Sony logo to add to your gravitas. To sum it up, the SmartWatch is a promising take on the kind of watch you may have dreamed of as a kid, and kudos goes to Sony's mobile division (formerly Sony Ericsson) for becoming exciting all of a sudden. Obvious next step: Skype and a front-facing camera.

-- Sharif Sakr

Blendtec Total Blender


Did I really end up with a blender in my house that costs more than a subsidized iPhone 4S? Yes, yes I did. My wife convinced me to spring for the very same blender that we've watched tear things up for years courtesy of Will It Blend?, and while I was as skeptical as they come about blowing $400 on something that creates smoothies, I might as well be enlisted as Blendtec's newest product evangelist.

The goal here was to get a fast, reliable, powerful machine that would make smoothies more accessible. I'm aiming to eat healthier, you know? Turns out, I end up wanting every single meal to come from this thing. Just throw some whatevers (fruits and veggies that you want masked, too) in there, hit a button, and a few seconds later it's done. And it's not just "done," it's done crafting the most elegantly smooth and textured liquid meal known to man.

I can't really explain how it makes the end result so smooth, but it does. And it's magical. The clean-up is also wildly easy, and if you're looking to splurge, the milkshakes from here -- fruit and all -- are intensely delicious. It's actually one of the few gadgets I now force every single house guest to watch in action.

-- Darren Murph

Otterbox Universal Defender case


Last week Otterbox saved my life -- well, my phone's life, but it's a fine line these days, really. I've been through a number of bulky cases to compensate for my gadget paranoia, at one point lugging around the tank-like AGF Ballistic case, which garnered all manner of sideways glances when I pulled it out of my pocket, with people genuinely shocked that there was an iPhone inside all of that plastic. I finally settled on Otterbox's Universal Defender, a silicone skin wrapped around hard plastic that manages to be extremely rugged without looking entirely ridiculous.

Naturally, I had the case on me last week, when Tim and I traveled to the desert to shoot a segment for the most recent Engadget Show. And yes, against the advice of our tour guides, I kept it in the pocket of my jeans as we set out through 50mph winds in the windowless Polaris RZR all-terrain vehicles -- winds so strong, mind you, that they grounded all flights out of McCarren airport for the better part of the day. The sand -- and perhaps more appropriately, a fine desert dust -- went everywhere: through the masks, through the goggles. The only place it didn't manage to get inside of was the iPhone.

When I finally peeled the Defender off at the end of the day, it was clear a bit of sand had managed to make its way through, though not into any place where it could do any real damage. A quick blast of canned air shooed away any lingering dirt, and the phone was no worse for the wear. Of course, I still don't recommend taking your phone into a Nevada sandstorm -- but if you do, at least make sure you bring protection.

-- Brian Heater