The Smartwatch 3 is Sony’s third attempt at a smartwatch, an attempt which first started back in 2010 with the Liveview. The series didn’t get off to a good start with the original smart timepiece being dubbed “maybe the worst thing Sony has ever made” by Gizmodo. The Smartwatch 2 was released in 2013, a waterproof Android watch with support for more than just Sony’s smartphones. It was a decent attempt, but lacked polish.
Now Sony is back with its latest effort, the Sony SmartWatch 3, which comes with Google’s Android Wear, in-built GPS, waterproof rating and a relatively affordable price tag. Here is WT VOX review of the Sony Smartwatch 3.
Sony Smartwatch 3 Review: Design And Features
When it comes to design, Sony decided to go for a slightly different route compared to other OEMs, opting for a square watch face and two main configurations. The first is the “sporty edition” which comes with a black or luminous green rubber strap (other straps can be bought separately) which doesn’t feel cheap and is comfortable to wear on your wrist. The strap is easily adjustable but despite its sporty looks, I found playing football with it was not a good idea as it continually came loose. For this review we had the “sporty edition” on our hands.
The second is the steel version which comes with a link system which looks much more like a traditional watch. It is obviously slightly heavier but nonetheless still comparatively lightweight. You will need to take the steel version to jewellers however, as there is no tool included to easily add or remove the links to make it fit comfortably.
Unlike the circular and rectangular-shaped displays prevalent on most smartwatches, the Sony SmartWatch 3’s LCD display is a 1.6-inch square (320 x 320 pixels). The square shape gives it more of a sporty look — much more so than the circular LG G Watch R and the Moto 360— but this is okay considering, for the most part, Sony SmartWatch 3 is a fitness wearable more than anything else.
The wrist straps are made out of silicone, that can be connected using an adjustable metal clasp, that makes this device very easy to put on. The metal clasp is a nice touch and the silicone band is very soft and comfortable on the wrist. As is the case with many silicone products, the straps are a dust and lint magnet though, making it quite difficult to keep clean.
The face of the watch, or the “core” as Sony calls it, comes with a similar implementation to the Sony Smartband that was released earlier this year. It is removable, but there isn’t a lot of reasons why you’d want to take it out, other than to replace the wristband. This also means that wrist strap options will be limited to only what Sony has to offer for now, until any third party manufacturers get into the game.
Sony has ported its ability to waterproof electronics from its Xperia smartphones and tablets to Sony SmartWatch 3, with the device getting an IP68 rating which means it can stay underwater (up to 2m) for up to an hour which will make it more appealing to swimmers. However don’t think you can count your steps while frolicking among the waves at the beach this summer, as Sony says the SmartWatch 3 is not certified for salt water.
Sony’s big selling point for the Sony SmartWatch 3 is the fact that it has GPS built-in. What this means is that you can track your runs without having to bring your smartphone with you. Using an app such as Google’s own MyTracks or the popular RunKeeper, you can leave you phone at home and when you return your route will be tracked. The system works really well, with my tests showing accurate results every time.
While the process worked seamlessly during our testing, one thing was clearly missed: There’s no heart-rate monitor. For a device that is so specifically targeted toward fitness, the omission is strange.
Sony SmartWatch 3 also comes with a built-in standalone music player that pairs with a Bluetooth headset. Any regular runner will be grateful to cut down on the amount of gear — and wires — they need to take when leaving the house.
Sony Smartwatch 3 Review: Specs And Performance
Sony Smartwatch 3 comes with a 1.2 GHz quad-core processor and 512 MB of RAM, which is standard fare with regards to smartwatch specifications. As expected, the performance is fast and responsive and there are no instances of lag, stutter, or dropped frames, leaving you with a fast and enjoyable experience.
Sony has made only small changes to Android Wear, with only three unique watch faces and nothing in the way of new built-in apps. Everything works as it should – voice searches and swipes are snappy, animations are smooth and the connection to an Android smartphone via Bluetooth is solid.
Sony’s LifeLog application, which tracks activity but also logs which tracks a user was listening to and other life events, works well with the smartwatch.
The screen is one of Sony Smartwatch 3’s biggest advantages over its competitors. It is a 1.6in square LCD, which is just as sharp as any of the others, but instead of constantly relying on a backlight it is transflective. That means it can be seen using ambient light without a backlight, a bit like the e-paper display on the Pebble.
When the watch is raised, the screen will light up and adjust the brightness automatically, but the transflective display is perfectly readable at a glance without the backlight. That makes the Sony Smartwatch 3 one of the best smartwatches at actually being a watch and telling the time.
The latest update to Android Wear introduced GPS functionality and offline music storage and Sony Smartwatch 3 is the first device that can take advantage of both these features. Despite the omission of a heart rate monitor, fitness is a focus of this device and with the built-in GPS, you can keep a track of your walk or run independently of your phone.
You can now also store music directly on the 4 GB of internal storage available on the smartwatch, but the only application that is currently supported is Google Play Music. Songs can be transferred via Bluetooth and since the watch itself doesn’t come with a headset jack, you will also need a bluetooth headset to take advantage of this feature.
Sony Smartwatch 3 Review: Battery Life And Price
One of our biggest qualms with most smartwatches is the dire battery life. Powered by a 420mAh Li-ion battery the Sony Smartwatch 3 does little to change our opinion. Connected to our smartphone 24/7 and used throughout the day, Sony Smartwatch 3 generally lasted between one and a half to two days before requiring a top-up charge. This sounds about right for a smartphone, but having to constantly charge your watch every couple of days still feels like an unnecessary chore.
The good thing about the Sony Smartwatch 3 is that it doesn’t require a proprietary dock or charger and can be charged with any microUSB charger. It isn’t the most elegant solution when it comes to charging a smartwatch, but the standard charging method means that you won’t find yourself having to remember to carry around a specific charging apparatus, which is definitely a benefit.
Sony SmartWatch 3 is officially priced at £190 by Sony but it is currently available for £112 on Amazon, which makes it a much more tempting offer – while the Steel model is available from £199 online with an official price of £230.
Looking at the competition, the Moto 360 is currently available for £165, the Asus ZenWatch is £179.99, while Apple’s lowest-priced wearable – the Watch Sport – is priced at £299.
Sony Smartwatch 3 Review: Conclusion And Verdict
Sony Smartwatch 3 is a solid smartwatch with good battery life. It lacks a heart rate sensor, but has an attractive, understated design and a comfortable strap. It has good specifications, which means it won’t quickly be out-paced by newer, faster smartwatches that also run on Android Wear and that also offers potential for a lot more as the software evolves.
Whether people need a smartwatch is still debatable, but the Smartwatch 3 is the best square smartwatch on the market at the moment.
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