Having suggested that it wouldn’t utilise Google’s Android Wear technology for its wearables range, Sony has gone ahead and done just that.
Despite the on-going development of its own smartwatch platform, the use of the Google operating system (OS) represents a happy collaboration that has produced a commendable result in the form of the Sony Smartwatch 3.
Available for around £150 (opens in new tab), this is certainly something well-worth considering when exploring the smartwatch market.
Many have been critical of Sony’s decision to use a rectangular case rather than the circular approach favoured by rivals such as LG and Samsung.
While for me this is down to personal preference, I actually prefer the familiarity of a rectangular touchscreen.
The shape doesn’t affect the aesthetic appeal. Yes it looks less like your everyday wristwatch than some of its competitors, but I don’t necessarily perceive this as a bad thing.
Personally, I’d prefer my tech to look more edgy and the modern dynamic of this watch, which I find stylish, delivers in this regard.
Away from fashion and into function, the Smartwatch 3 attempts to transcend the prevailing boundary between smartwatch and fitness tracker.
This move is readily apparent within the Smartwatch 3’s excellent construction. Highly durable, the smartwatch boasts a peerless IP68 rating which determines the Smartwatch 3 to be “totally dust-proof” and able to withstand the “prolonged effects of immersion under pressure.”
On the other hand, one part of the design that lets the Smartwatch 3 down is the micro-USB charging point. This is simply because it’s difficult to access due to the dust and water resistant cover. This is a minor, but still pertinent, annoyance.
Concluding and enhancing the robust construction are the silicon rubber strap and deployment clasp. Both of these components contribute to a smooth and comfortable fit and it’s also extremely easy to adjust the strap; making the Smartwatch 3 a near seamless everyday companion.
Granted, the Smartwatch 3’s capabilities far outweigh that of your average activity tracker. But you’ll inevitably use it as a sports watch and will find it a chunkier exercise companion than most trackers.
This is because, in keeping with most other smartwatches, the Smartwatch 3 displays a sizeable screen- at 1.6”. But this does allow it to afford highly legible, concurrent readings of multiple stats whilst you’re exercising or using any of its multiple functions.
From a technical point of view, the Smartwatch 3 displays a 320 x 320 resolution and whilst the viewing angles aren’t spectacular, I didn’t have a problem with legibility inside or out- or during exercise.
The auto brightness feature also does a decent job of regulating the screen but you can always crank up the intensity if you’re struggling to view it.
Performance & Software
If you’re au-fait with smartwatches the likelihood is that you’ve stumbled across Android Wear plenty of times as it’s used in most of the top models.
Therefore, the OS isn’t a great area of contention in discerning the differing quality of smartwatches.
This said, Google’s OS is showcased in its most current form on the Smartwatch 3 and thus comes with Google’s latest innovations including GPS and offline music playback.
Android Wear isn’t perfect, but it’s easy to see why Sony didn’t take a risk and cut from the pack to pursue its own OS at this stage.
Indeed there’s a lot to appreciate about Android Wear. The voice control worked well when used in conjunction with simple phrasing and it continued to do so in public and nosier spaces.
Despite this, in some scenarios I was left with the familiar feeling that I could have expedited the process myself using my phone.
Whilst there are touch controls readily available on the Smartwatch 3, once you’ve selected the application you need, it’s still a question of orally dictating your message to the watch.
In hindsight, the difference between phone and watch speed was perhaps more negligible than my impatient self imagined, but it’s still a factor.
A nice touch is the watches functionality when disconnected from your phone. It is still able to monitor your exercise via GPS and provide access to your music while offline; which marks a pleasant progression on other models.
Android Wear also grants you access to a host of additional apps and functionality, such as Google Now, that Sony undoubtedly wouldn’t have been able to match with their own system.
With 4GB of space this isn’t a wasted opportunity either, as you can fill the watch with music and apps of your choice.
Fortunately, this doesn’t affect navigation speed either. I enjoyed using the Smartwatch 3 greatly and thanks to its 1.2 GHz quad-core processor and 512MB of RAM it is pretty seamless to use.
One of the questions that many posed regarding the Smartwatch 3, and this applies to any other smartwatch, is whether the constant stream of text, call and email updates from your wrist is an annoyance.
With this particular device, it certainly wasn’t and it does ensure you won’t miss a notification.
The gentle vibrations offer a rather therapeutic contrast to the hive of virtual communications that are inevitably received during the week; mainly from my Mother…
The Smartwatch 3 boasts an impressive 420mAh battery, putting it up there among the smartwatch elite in this regard. Sony suggest this will give you two days use and this would be the case with minimal activity.
But if you’re going to take advantage of the aforementioned ability to use offline music and GPS services then you’ll spot the Smartwatch 3’s vulnerability.
A solid 60 minutes of exercise with GPS enabled for instance, will burn an unwelcome 40 per cent hole in the battery.
So it might be wise to stick to convention and keep your phone handy when running.
Effectively that sums it up. The Sony Smartwatch 3 (opens in new tab) is a progressive innovation in regard to its GPS features, music playback and robust build, but it’s not going to change the fact that we overwhelmingly rely on our smartphones.
For its price, it’s a decent acquisition in the current market and at the moment there is not a lot to separate the top models other than aesthetics; so that part is up to you.