The Sony SmartWatch 3 is one of the best performing smartwatches on the market, but unfortunately it isn't the best looking with the default rubber wristband. It features great battery life, an adequate display, and for the first time on a Sony wearable, Android Wear OS.
Smartwatches have come a long way in just a year or so. Phone manufacturers continue to show their support for the future of mobile technology, and Sony is one of those. Sony has already had three smartwatches and counting, most recently with the SmartWatch 3. It is their best effort today to take on the smartwatch market.
The SmartWatch 3 retains Sony’s design identity and their waterproof/dust resistant mantra. The SW3 has a plastic build that is IP68 rated, supports Android 4.3 or higher and sports an upgraded 1.6 inch transflective LCD display with a resolution of 320 x 320 (282 ppi). On top of that, it still features an ambient light sensor and weighs in at a very light 45 grams.
Sony’s SmartWatch 3 is their most refined smartwatch to date as it runs on Android Wear, whereas previous generations ran on Sony’s custom OS. Let’s get right into the review.
The design of the SmartWatch 3 still retains the Sony Xperia identity, which is a square-ish design. While previous iterations featured the Xperia power button, Sony opted for a slim rectangular one for the SW3. What makes this watch so different is that it is very easily separated from its band. The one we got for review is rubber, so it isn’t the most premium look and feel, but it is definitely practical. With the stock wristband, the watch looks more like a sportwatch, something that is meant to be used with physical activity. I would like to see one encased in a metal wristband as it looks quite nice.
Since the device is easily separated from the wristband, that means you won’t be able to use any third-party band, such as other watches. The advantage though, is you are able to swap bands very quickly and with ease. One of the biggest pains with other watches is that you usually need special tools to swap the bands or need to take it to a jeweler. While it doesn’t look the greatest, I will definitely give Sony props for thinking outside the box and making it easy for users to customize their watch experience.
One thing that irked me about the SW3 was that when you had to plug it in to charge it, you need to remove the rubber flap covering the microUSB slot. With a device like a smartwatch, I think wireless charging is a must. It isn’t the end of the world, but it is definitely a hassle. Not only that, but the cable the watch comes with, is only around a foot long, so it needs to be very close to its charging source.
Overall, the design is quite boring. I understand Sony has an identity it wants to stick with, but if they want to be competitive in the wearable market, they need to up their design.
The SmartWatch 3 comes with a transflective LCD display, upgraded from the last model. It features a higher resolution than the SmartWatch 2 which means more pixels per inch. Although the display has been upgraded as far as resolution, it still lacks vivid colors that are seen on other watches. It feels washed out or very gray, but it is still visible, even outdoors.
I am glad that they kept the ambient light sensor on the SW3, as it really helps conserve battery life. It can get bright enough during the day and it seems to get pretty dim. I always use my watches with ambient display, as I like checking the time, and it does a very good job of managing the screen brightness.
The SmartWatch 3 features an ARM A7 clocked at 1.2 GHz backed by 512 MB of RAM and 4 GB of eMMC ROM. The good news is that Sony decided to move to Android Wear, after their first two devices featured Sony’s wearable OS which was seriously lacking. No reason for them to compete against Android Wear and Google, so it was a great move.
Coming for from a Moto 360 as my daily driver, I didn’t know what to expect in the performance category. I was surprised at how well it performed as it never stuttered or lagged, things I see sometimes on my Moto 360, which employs a Texas Instruments OMAP 3 processor.
Everything that I did on the SW3 was buttery smooth, from flipping through my different Google Now cards to opening Google Keep. It didn’t struggle at all. Google Voice was activated nearly instantaneously when I double tapped the screen or said “OK Google”, which is great.
Since there are no customizations allowed from Google to happen to Android Wear, it doesn’t differ throughout watches. If you are worried about Android Wear and its features, you shouldn’t be. Google is all-in with their wearable OS and continue to update it quite regularly.
The latest update, which is rolling out as we speak, brings Wi-Fi, GPS, and offline support to Android Wear. Sony’s SmartWatch 3 is Wi-Fi and GPS ready, so it will receive new features from Android Wear 5.1. At the time of this review, the update was not available to me yet.
The battery life is something that is highly criticized on smartwatches, as people don’t want to charge them every night. I honestly have no problem with that whatsoever. Would it be nice if my smartwatch lasted a week? Of course it would, but I charge my phone every night, so why not plug in my smartwatch as well?
I expected better than average battery life on the SmartWatch 3 as that is one of Sony’s trademarks, and it didn’t disappoint. The SW3 features a 420 mAh battery that definitely gets the job done. In a normal days use, which is usually 12-15 hours for me, I would end with anywhere from 50-65% which is great. In comparison, I end a day with 15-30% with my Moto 360.
Like I stated earlier, I always use Android Wear’s ambient display, so my screen is nearly always on. Although the transflective LCD display isn’t the most vivid, it definitely helps out with the battery life. Sometimes you have to sacrifice features for practicality, and I do not fault Sony at all for going that route.
If I really wanted, I could definitely get two days use out of the SmartWatch 3, and if I really pushed it, I’m almost positive I could get nearly three full days. If I disabled ambient display it is definitely feasible. The battery life is one of the top features of this watch, per usual with Sony.
The Sony SmartWatch 3 is Sony’s most refined take on a wearable to date, as it should be. Sony finally moved to Android Wear, which was a great move. This watch is very quick and performs well throughout daily use. With nearly all smartwatches shipping with Android Wear, the only thing that really differentiates them is their appearance.
If you are an active person, the SmartWatch 3 is a great choice for you. It comes with all the features but in an ‘active’ package. There are a few different options as far as the wristbands go, so you have the option to customize it a bit.
If the SmartWatch 3 looked as well as it performed, we’d definitely have a top-of-the-line smartwatch on our hands, but that isn’t the case. The design definitely holds this device back and I’m sure it doesn’t help in the sales category either. If Sony can up their design on their next smartwatch, they will be on to something. Sony’s pride in performance and battery life needs to be brought over to their design. Until then, the SmartWatch 3 is a great watch with an average appearance.