Review: Sony Smartwatch 3

The Sony SmartWatch 3 isn’t exactly a head turner, but I have to give it props as the most functional smart watch for the sports enthusiast. Yes, even more than the recently available in Singapore Apple Watch. It’s truly a sport watch first, smart watch second.

Basic Design – But You Wouldn’t Mind If You Are Into Running

While it’s the first Sony Smartwatch to feature Android Wear, it’s the sport features that really stand out and personally, I think that’s the desired target audience for Sony. The Sony Smartwatch 3 looks more sporty than fashionable, and if you want to be harsh, just about as boring as any other rubber watch. The basic black strap comes is really rubbery and does attract lint and dirt from time to time, but can be easily wiped off. The clasp adds a little character to an otherwise dull look, and features an easy-to-use adjustable clasp. It sports the Sony logo printed on a brushed metal piece to give it some character. However, there are additional accessory straps to jazz up the design. There’s also a stainless steel bracelet and a brown leather strap options for a more fashion forward design. Changing straps are easy, you can simply pop the smartwatch module in and out to mix and match straps.

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Honestly, the rubber strap is a great combination to a sport watch. I can easily pop out the watch unit and give the strap a thorough cleaning especially after a run. Every little bit of convenience helps.

One of the feature on the Smartwatch 3 I was looking forward to was the micro USB plug for charging. I thought it was a great design choice since I didn’t need to use a proprietary charger and can charge the smart watch 3 as long as I have a micro USB cable, which is just above everywhere now. However, in actual use, it wasn’t that great. It was a hassle fiddling with the little rubber flap that covers the micro USB port and I often struggled to orientate the watch and cable to ensure it stays connected. Instead, on the G Watch R or the Moto 360, charging is as simple as just lying the watch on the charging cradle.

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GPS! The One and Only Android Wear Watch with GPS

The unique selling point for the Sony Smartwatch 3 is GPS, which other smartwatches don’t offer. That’s quite useful from a sports watch perspective. You can now accurately track your runs without lugging your smartphone around. It works with quite a number of popular apps, such as Runkeeper, Runtastic, and you can also keep music stored on the watch itself, which essentially means a one stop device for all your exercise needs. Oh wait, there’s no heartbeat sensor, but it supports pairing via bluetooth with common heart rate monitoring strap accessories for e.g those from Polar. There are other smartwatches with heart rate monitors, but it largely seems to be inaccurate and takes a long time to detect a reading, which isn’t what you want when going for a run.

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I had no trouble pairing it with my bluetooth earphones or even to a full bluetooth speaker such as the Logitech Megaboom. It all works seamlessly too, turn on my bluetooth earphones, issue a “Ok Google – Play Playlist Workout” followed by “Ok Google – Start my run”, and off I go. When I’m back, the watch syncs back to my phone and upload the run details to Runkeeper.

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The SW3 ups the ante when it comes to waterproofing. All the other Android Wear models, aside from the Asus ZenWatch (which is only IP55), are IP67 rated – meaning they can last 30 minutes in water at a depth of 1m. Sony’s effort has an IP68 rating – which in Sony case, means you can take the smartwatch up to a depth of 1.5m of water and for up to 30 minutes.

Good Display – If You are Outdoors Often

The display is a 1.6-inch, 320 x 320, transflective LCD, which helps visibility greatly when under the sun, but indoors, I noticed that the colour richness and viewing angles lag behind the AMOLED tech found on say, the LG G Watch R. It’s a bummer as the screen difference is really noticeable, especially as we are spoilt by the high quality screens on our mobile phones, my friends easily noticed that the Smartwatch 3 screen just wasn’t as bright or vibrant as they would expect it to be.

On a more positive note, the smartwatch 3 sports an auto brightness sensor and generally works well in adapting to various lighting conditions.

Standard Android Wear Experience

The other elements of the hardware are pretty standard. 4GB of storage space, which there isn’t much purpose other than storing music at the moment. The processor is the standard 1.2 quad-core Snapdragon, which is more than adequate for today’s applications. The battery life is rated at two days and generally, it’s good for a 1 and a half, unless I encounter the software bug below.

When it comes to the software experience, it is pretty much consistent across all the Android Wear devices. Interestingly, Google has kept the manufacturers on a tight leash on software customisability and the experience across all is largely the same, bearing a few application differences. Android Wear was recently upgraded to 5.1, and it is available on the Sony Smartwatch 3. The overall experience on Android Wear is largely similar to our previous coverage, useful, great for notifications, but nothing much else in term of functionality. This brings new features like Wi-Fi support, Emoji support, gesture controls etc, but on the Sony Smartwatch 3, it also introduced some new bugs to the battery life. Battery life would deplete randomly and the watch would heat up. This happened on random. It can be working great, sipping away on battery life and then all of a sudden, it starts to heat up, and the battery life just dives down. Only a reboot seems to fix it. This was not present on earlier versions and should hopefully be fixed soon. For a temporary fix to Sony Smartwatch 3 battery woes, the Google+ pages recommends to disable Google Fit.

Verdict

If you are looking for a sports tracker, the Sony Smartwatch 3 is really the number 1 choice, even when compared to other more traditional sport trackers from Garmin. It has GPS tracking, waterproof capability, and the additional bluetooth music playback capability and heart rate monitor support, means it can be the central piece to control all your sporting needs. When it comes to Android Wear, I don’t see much other options for the avid runners. However, if you are less sports inclined, then the Sony Smartwatch 3 doesn’t exactly stand out. But that’s what Android Wear is all about, different strokes for different folks.

Sean

Sean is a tech geek and star wars fan. He loves playing with new gadgets, writing little code snippets in Python, JS, and dabbling with Android programming from time to time, while keeping a lookout for the next biggest happening in the world of tech!

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