Sony SmartWatch 3 review
UPDATED: Now with added steel, we revisit Sony's sporty Android Wear debutant
The Sony SmartWatch 3 may not be the hottest Android Wear device on paper, but with built-in GPS and a slick new all-metal design, it's one of the most complete smartwatches we've reviewed.
With the new stylish looking stainless steel version hitting the stores, we thought it only right that we updated our comprehensive SmartWatch 3 review….
Sony SmartWatch 3: Design and display
The Sony SmartWatch 3 isn't exactly breaking any new ground with its aesthetics.It takes its design cues from the rubber-strapped GPS running watch brigade and unsurprisingly looks more sporty than fashionable.The rubber strap, black or yellow as standard but with additional accessory straps available, features a nice adjustable clasp – allowing you to get a perfect fit – and you can simply pop the smartwatch module in and out to mix and match straps.
It's a comfortable, lightweight design if a little bland. It's a smartwatch that suits a pair of joggers and trainers more than it does your smartest chinos and loafers.
Essential reading: The world's best smartwatches
One thing that we did notice about that strap – it seemed to collect dust and grime like no watch we've ever seen before, as if it's some kind of fluff magnet. You'll see what we mean in the hands-on pics.
The stainless steel version adds a bit of style to the mix and people who like the weighty assurance of luxury metal watches won't be disappointed by the feel.
This version uses the traditional link system, so you can adjust it to get a comfortable fit. It's probably best to let a watch shop do this though, as it's not easy and you could damage the straps trying to get the pins out.
The display is a 1.6-inch, 320 x 320, LCD affair, which lags behind the AMOLED tech found on the latest Samsung and Asus smartwatches. And it's a deficiency that's really noticeable with the screen offering very little vibrancy, and appearing pale and faded.
Viewing angles also aren't great and, even with the brightness turned up full whack, you're not going to be blown away. Let's hope the next Sony SmartWatch follows the lead of the Xperia smartphone line by tapping into the tech giant's years of display heritage.
Sony SmartWatch 3: GPS tracking
The biggest selling point of the Sony SmartWatch 3 is that it packs in GPS connectivity. That's obviously a massive plus for anyone who wants to accurately track their runs without having to lug their smartphone around with them.
Since Google introduced GPS support for Android Wear in the platform's first big update, the major players in the run tracking app game have been slow to got their acts together. The RunKeeper app was recently updated to include GPS support for Android Wear devices though, and the other option for smartphone-free GPS tracking is Google's own MyTracks app.
Must download: Best Sony SmartWatch 3 apps
Using MyTracks, which is fairly basic, we found that the GPS tracking on the Sony SmartWatch 3 was actually impressive. We did a few runs with it strapped on and the distances tallied with our regular minutes per mile pace. We also compared it with the Adidas miCoach Smart Run running watch and found that, over a 10km run, the SmartWatch 3 was within 20m after the 10,000m run – a great result.
Sony SmartWatch 3: HardwareThe Sony SmartWatch 3 is not only the first Android Wear device to pack GPS skills, it's also got NFC and Wi-Fi connectivity built in – although there aren't yet any features taking advantage of this hardware yet. However, there's a good chance that future Android Wear updates will add functions that make use of this connectivity – Google Wallet would be nice – so the SW3 is fairly future proof.
The SmartWatch 3 has 4GB of storage space – pretty standard for an Android Wear smartwatch – and is powered by a quad-core 1.2GHz Arm A7 processor, which seems a bit like overkill in the early days of Android's newest ecosystem.
You won't find an app that makes the SmartWatch 3 stutter – although that's also the case with other Android Wear devices with much less powerful processors.
One thing the Sony SmartWatch 3 lacks, compared to some of its OS brethren, is an optical heart rate sensor but, given the inaccurate bpm info we've seen recorded from the likes of the Gear Live and the Moto 360, that's no great loss.
Sony SmartWatch 3: Android Wear features
When it comes to Android Wear smartwatches, there's very little differentiation in features, and the experience is fairly standard across the current spectrum. The beauty of Android Wear is that it's a vanilla experience – it's more or less the same on every device running Google's smartwatch OS.
For a full breakdown of Android Wear check out our comprehensive Android Wear guide.
As we've stated in previous Android Wear device reviews, such as the LG G Watch R and the Moto 360, the platform is very much still a work in progress.
At times the platform works a treat – glancing at your smartwatch to see that it's a boring text from your boss and not an important group WhatsApp message making your phone buzz, for example, is incredibly handy. As is getting updates on traffic delays to the location of your afternoon meeting.
At other times it's just infuriating and annoying; swiping through unwanted Google Now-style cards just to get a clean watch face, for example, or wishing you could scroll through recent notifications from a specific app.
Essential reading: LG G Watch R review
Music playback with a Bluetooth speaker or some Bluetooth headphones is a feature that is available on all Android Wear watches now, but it definitely feels the most useful on the Smartwatch 3 – there really is no need to take your smartphone out running anymore with Sony's latest wearable on your wrist.
We had no trouble pairing the SW3 to our Monster iSport running cans or our Cambridge Audio office speaker – although the music syncing options through Google Play music is still a basic setup (all or nothing, essentially). Again, that's an Android Wear issue though and not one specific to the SmartWatch 3.
The latest Android Wear update adds customisable watch faces to download with ease, so the amount of ones originally on offer with any device is kind of irrelevant now. It's 15 with the Sony, in case you were wondering though – each one as mundane as the last.
Our advice is to get yourself over to Google Play, quickfast, and download some more exciting options.
Sony SmartWatch 3: Battery life and extras
Great news - there's a 420mAh battery inside the SmartWatch 3 – which is the biggest we've seen on an Android Wear smartwatch to date, and you should have no bother achieving the quoted life of two days.It's also great that Sony's newest smartwatch charges via Micro USB as there's no need to carry around a separate charging accessory. With the stainless steel version, it is incredibly awkward to get the charger in though, as there's not much room to move at the back with the sealed strap.
The SW3 ups the ante when it comes to waterproofing. All the other Android Wear models, aside from the Asus ZenWatch (which can only manage an IP55 rating), are IP67 rated – meaning they can last 30 minutes in water at a depth of 1m. Sony's effort has an IP68 rating, so you can go double the depth for double the time without damage, which will hopefully enable swimming features in the future.