Sony Smart Watch 3 Review
TLDR? Quick version here.
First Impressions: A small plain little box, clear plastic and the rather plain looking watch. It’s all quite an non-fancy affair, simple and nondescript. The watch is just like the box, plain and simple looking. Actually I like it in the flesh more than in photos, the matte black strap with the silver clasp and the black face. Mind you in photos the metal silver one looks considerably more fancy. I’ve seen it said that you should be able to buy the silver strap and transfer the watch face into it. That is something I certainly fancy the idea of.
Specifications: OS Android Wear, Display Resolution 320 x 320, Colors 16 bit, Diagonal Size 1.6″, Transflective TFT LCD, Dimensions 36mm x 10mm x 51mm, Weight Watch Module 38g, Sport armband 36g, Battery 420mAh, Processor 1.2 GHz, Quad-core ARM® Cortex™ A7, Water and Dust Resistance IP68, Memory 4GB eMMC with 512 MB RAM, Ports & Connectors Micro USB, Connectivity Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi ready, Sensors Ambient Light, Accelerometer, Magnetometer, Gyro, GPS, Vibration Motor, Microphone
Okay that’s a lot of spec’s. so what bits of it matter? Well it’s pretty similar to most Android Wear watches. The RAM, the CPU, the storage space, the screen size and resolution are pretty much all the some as every other one. So why did I buy this one? Well that’s easy but unless you know about screen technologies you won’t have picked up what makes the Sony Smartwatch 3 different.
Accessories: Well the 3 comes in an assortment of coloured strap options. It also can come in metal and personally I think the metal one one looks freekin’ awesome. Sony did once say they were going to make the metal band available……… yeah they still haven’t and at this point I don’t see it coming. You can buy the rubber straps, they do black, white, luminous yellow or bright pink. Yet those straps seem to go for over £30. Errr no. Ebay also seems largely bereft of things, other than screen protectors. They also curiously do a universal holder thing. You put the watch facing into a rather unattractive black plastic holder and that then attaches to standard fitting watch straps. If it was metal and not black plastic I’d be all over that but as it stands, na, it’s pretty ugly.
Fit/Comfort: Excellent on both accounts. Now for charging the snap shut strap band thingy may be a pain in that it doesn’t separate but for use on the arm? Great stuff. Set to the size I wanted, hand goes in, snap the thing closed and voilà. I’m normally not wild about plastic/rubber straps as I find it traps sweat and you can get a bit of skin irritation. Though its easily cleaned and because the strap comes away from the electronic bit you can stick it under a running tap.
Screen: Some Android wear watches use AMOLED which only consumes power as it lights up individual pixels. So a mostly black screen will use relatively little power, a mostly white and it’ll eat much more. Then there is a normal LCD display. They work by shining a light behind the screen then the screen blocks out colours to make a picture. The whole screen is powered up no matter if you show a mostly black face or mostly white. The key similarity with both technologies is that they need to consume power to light up in order to be visible.
The Sony watch uses a transflective screen. If you don’t know what that means I’ll explain. An AMOLED screen is emissive, each pixel emits its own light. A normal LCD is a transmisive screen, allowing light to pass through the screen and it has to be bright enough to be visible, which is why LCD screens are pretty rubbish in the sunshine. A transflective is different. Transflective screens have a backlight just like a normal LCD but it also is reflective. That means with the back light (the power hungry backlight) is off you can still see what’s on the screen by utilising the ambient light of where you are. This makes is possible to permanently have the time showing on the display! Something that is kinda handy for a watch. It also means that in the brightest sunshine you can still read the screen too, in fact the brighter the environment the more light there is for it to reflect, just like an e-ink screen would. A feature I for one think rather useful in a watch.
Simply put this screen is what makes it a viable device to use in real, normal life.
UI: The user interface is the standard Android Wear one. Everything is a sequence of up/down to get to new cards. Then scrolling left to progressively go into that cards details. So the weather one, first card tells you the weather right now. The next card to the right tells the weather for the next series of hours then the next one gives you the option to open the app on your phone. The cards you have available changes based on what Google Now cards Google thinks are appropriate. Oh and of course any notifications you have outstanding. Personally I’d like the weather card to be always available. So I have to not sweep it away and sometimes you just do it without thinking.
It is actually a bit complex when you start adding in all the different notifications and different apps that add cards, you can over load yourself. You can fill it up and make it practically as complex to use as your phone is. Add in your own app drawer and everything, Wear Mini Launcher is so freekin’ awesome!!! Sure it’s not for everyone but if you want complexity and having every imaginable option in the world available to you then it’s just fantastic. I personally love it and the interface to all my apps it provides. However in many ways it’s not what you want for a watch and I understand that. It’s not for everyone and as is shown by the Iphone popularity, mind numbingly locked down and limited is a boon to many.
In short the UI can be as complicated as you like, though it can still be fairly simple if you want it that way but it require you to remember what commands you have available to you so it may not be for everyone.
Features: Erm anything and everything just about. In terms of what’s common in a smart watch the things it doesn’t have is Qi charging and more oddly, no heart Rate monitor function. Now given I have things that can do that, I’m aware just how not super useful that functionality is, they don’t monitor you continuously because it would destroy the battery so it’s only read when you tell it to. Sony for some reason, in might I add its very sporty looking watch, did not include it. The trade-off it seems is that it has built in GPS rather than simply relying on the phone (which may be in a pocket or at home) so the watch can chart your outdoors run itself. Yeah I live in Edinburgh and don’t run so it’s not such a boon to me.
The other lacking item, no Qi means that you have an awkwardly placed micro USB slot to charge it underneath a rubber flap. This is so awkward to use, I immediately hit up old ebay and got a right angle adapter for the damn thing. Seriously Sony what the F were you thinking? I know it does have a better water proof rating, IP68, which has been said is thanks to the rubber flap but I don’t see how Qi would have made that worse?
The thing also has not just Bluetooth but Wi-Fi too so….. what that means is you can use the watch without a phone. Stream Google Music directly to your Bluetooth headphones while on your run outside that the built in GPS can track for you. You can leave your gigantic phone at home. Though where you’re getting Wi-fi that you wouldn’t be wanting your phone with you anyway, yeah I don’t know. A gym that bans phones maybe?
Frankly, far and away the best “feature” on the 3 is that transflective screen. Words can’t express how useful it is over the highly pretty but battery destroying AMOLED on the 360. Personally having used both, I don’t think I’d buy a non transflective screened watch. Well e-ink maybe.
Build Quality: Very good. I have mixed thoughts on the rubbery strap, that may be because Sony swore the Silvery metal one would be coming separately and it yet has to. Still it’s nice so ignore my bitter grumble. Its everything you would just expect from something Sony stamped on it.
Usability: Well its really up to you. If you want it nice and simple you can keep it pretty simple. If you don’t then you can add it full of everything and have it tell you whatever you like. It really was a joy to use, I vastly preferred it over my Moto 360 and its retarded circularish screen. While the almost round screen looks great and watch like but the fact is square is more functionally useful. It just is better to use. Seriously, everything is made squareish, try imaging what a round monitor, round TV or round book would be to use. Square make it so easy to just swipe in or out across the screen. Round is awkward and frustrating. I really cannot emphasis enough how nice to use the Smart Watch 3 is. It’s so pleasant and easy, straight forward and really what I would hope all Android Wear things to be.
Battery: When it’s behaving, 2 days and maybe into a third depending on how much you use the thing. That’s what it’s like on a good days however, since the last update it got, I think that turned on the Wi-Fi direct thing the battery sometimes seem to just tear through the battery. I mean in half a day its gone. I don’t know what causes this battery abuse and thus I don’t have any way to avoid the circumstances that cause the battery destruction. Its entirely unpredictable and thus when it happens the first you may know of it is when you go to use the thing and it’s just dead. Very frustrating, VERY VERY VERY, get it fixed Sony, Google whoever is to blame.
N.B. So of course just after writing there was an update, seemingly it has cured the random battery drain issue so it’s back to being great. Still I’m not giving it weeks to time to test and confirm it’s cured so that’s why I’m leaving this as is.
Connectivity: It has Bluetooth® 4.0, NFC, Micro USB and Wi-Fi. It doesn’t specify the WiFi so I have taken it to be 802.11G. NFC doesn’t seem to do much but assist in pairing super easily. Though I suppose that if Google Pay is less utterly useless than Google Wallet was then maybe one day you might be able to pay for things with it. I however, would certainly not hold my breath on that one. (Frowny face at Google.) Otherwise Bluetooth worked just perfectly and without the faintest whiff of an issue. Paired easy, stayed connected, always reconnected easily and range was great.
Value: The metal one is currently going for about £185ish which is roughly what the Rubberbanded ones started at. They however have since plummeted to about £110. I look at the Smart Watch 3, at the £60 odd fit bit and my god, the 3 is vastly, vastly, vastly better and more feature filled. If you want it to be just a pedometer it’ll do that and act as a watch should and tell you the time. That’s already double what the Flex can. The other reason why this is super good value is that transflective screen. There is no way you can quite grasp how important that screen is. It stays visible not just in the blazing sunshine but it can be always on with negligible power consumption. You can glance at your arm and see the time!!!! Trust me these sound so stupid and trivial and they are too. They are right up until you use an Android Wear watch that has a normal type of emissive display. Just trust me on this.
Conclusion: The Smart Watch 3 isn’t a faultless device. That wonky battery issue is the most glaring thing but it’s only a software issue as it didn’t do it before. At present it seems cured however. The lack of Qi, well with the right angled adapter I bought it’s not so bad anymore and the rubber cover flap thing, well I’ve just gotten used to it. The positives waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more than make up for it. That screen. That tranflective screen is the star feature of the 3. Sure when you first see it, it won’t wow you. It does look a little washed out in comparison to the stunning OLED one of the 360. It looks so lacking in colour and mildly greyed out. Ahhh but then you walk outside. You can see the 3 perfectly, it is perfectly clear somewhat like those of e-ink screens. The 360 in comparison may as well be a mirror attached to your arm.
So what about indoors then? It not like Edinburgh is blessed with endless days of brilliant sunshine. So the watch, on your arm, you flick it ever so slightly and glance down. With the 3 you can read the display and see the time, all the time. In theory the 360 can light up with a wrist flick but it’s not a subtle wrist flick or you can have it always, dimly lit. That destroys the battery like you would not believe. The transflective one on the 3 is the screen type that ALL Android Wear watched ought to use. Google needs to mandate its use. Yes it really is that good over normal display types.
The rest, well that’s really a question of if you want an Android Wear watch. I’d say you do if you have bothered to read this. It’s not something you will ever need but it’s so convenient glancing at your wrist rather than pulling out your ginganto phone just to see the time or to see who it was that just texted you. The little vibration on the wrist I found super helpful in actually noticing notifications too. That and telling the time was worth it for me. You? Well only you can answer that but if you have read this far, you clearly want one and the Smart Watch 3 is no question, THE Android Wear watch to get.