Android Wear is becoming the de rigeur thing to have for any respectable smartphone manufacturer (well, apart from Nokia and Apple, obviously) but I never thought Sony would join the party, given its spent so long developing its own system.
Well, with the Smartwatch 3, it’s done just that: bringing all the wrist-based experience it’s gleaned over the many years it’s been active in the world of timepieces to the Android Wear party.
And it’s made a pretty good effort of it off the bat, with one of the most powerful, easy to charge and complete devices I’ve seen running Google’s wearable platform.
Of course, this is still ostensibly the same device as seen on the LG G Watch or Samsung Gear Live, as there’s not a lot that manufacturers can do to change Android Wear at this time.
However, Sony’s put a lot of effort into the hardware and come up with some innovative ideas. For instance, it’s one of the only smartwatches to allow charging through a microUSB port, meaning if you lose the charging case you won’t need to worry about how long the battery will last.
Sony’s being pretty bullish about that spec too, claiming the SmartWatch 3 can last between 2-5 days on a single charge, which seems a bit ambitious when most can’t go over a day without needing to be tethered to the wall.
Still, that could be partly down to the 320 x 320 resolution 1.6-inch transflective display, which should be kinder on battery power and give good daylight visibility.
The other big win here is the addition of GPS. As a runner, this small spec is the difference between making the watch a sports accessory and a novelty device to be put on now and again – and it’s far too expensive to be the latter.
But with GPS, you can now imagine a world where Android Wear apps quickly come in to take advantage of the feature, meaning you can shed the smartphone to pop off on a quick jaunt around the park and get a much more accurate account of what you just did.
The Smartwatch 3 has an interesting feature: the actual device is just a square block that you pop in and out of watch straps, rather than being put in with the standard watch pins. Sony tells me this is because it could be used in other devices, although declined to say what these might be.
It’s hard to see what you’d need it for, but with a quad-core CPU at the heart with 512MB of RAM, it’s a powerful watch indeed, and could feasibly be used to control an in car entertainment system or add something extra to normal white goods.
Although, if you’re buying a watch, you don’t really want to leave it plugged into the fridge.
The Sony Smartwatch 3 isn’t cheap at €229 (around £185, US$300, AU$325) but isn’t so expensive that it should be dropped from consideration altogether. It’s a good looking device, with the additional GPS making it an interesting choice (as long as you can get apps to make use of the tech).
The LifeLogging ability, which Sony believes will take off in a big way when users start telling their phone everything they’re doing, is another neat feature and one I’m looking forward to trying more regularly. Although it would be nice if between now and Autumn (the Sony SmartWatch 3 release date) the brand could update the interface with more customisation, that would be brilliant.
It should be noted that Sony has included the Walkman app and the ability to control TV using an IR blaster within the watch, which are key additions – and it’s joined the rest of the gang by putting 4GB of storage in there for music when out running.
It can even be used to control a smartphone camera to take better group shots – but being the person that does this with a group of friends might mean that you don’t have that many for that long afterwards. Your choice.
The Sony Smartwatch 3 is a good device that fits well into the burgeoning Android Wear party, and comes with some nifty features that make it possibly quite a good option to buy.
I’m still waiting for the final price and a proper release date to play with, but with its attractive display and additional features, Sony could have quietly leapt to the head of the Android Wear game.
If only it was round…