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Sony SmartWatch 3 Hands-on

Sony is taking another crack at the wearables space and has even jumped on-board the Android Wear bandwagon with its latest effort, the Sony SmartWatch 3.

Having achieved moderate success with its own bespoke UI on past smartwatch efforts, the Sony SmartWatch 3 is now tackling the already crowded Android Wear space. It will go head-to-head with the likes of the LG G Watch and Samsung Gear Live.

Can it set itself out from the crowd or do we have another anonymous wearable effort on the way. We went hands-on with the new device at IFA 2014 to find out.

Sony SmartWatch 3

Sony SmartWatch 3 Design

Cheap and charmless are the two easiest ways to describe the Sony SmartWatch 3 design. Having attempted to tackle the fashion market with its latest wearable effort, the Japanese manufacturer has fallen sadly short.

Whereas the Motorola Moto 360 and LG G Watch R ooze class, the SmartWatch 3 looks juvenile. The silicon rubber straps are oversized and style-less. They look cheap and childish. As such it is hard to see many who can afford such a device (€229) making the jump into the wearables space for the SmartWatch 3.

While the black and white straps look a little understated and underwhelming, the other colours – pink and green – are over-the-top and tasteless.

Sony SmartWatch 3

Although Sony is tipping it as a design plus that the screen easily pops from the strap for easy customisation, we’re not convinced. During our hands-on time with the device, we found the display almost fell from the strap on multiple occasions, calling into question its design qualities. We must stress, however, that this was a pre-production model and so we will have to wait until we’ve got our hands on a full review sample before passing final judgement.

One thing that the SmartWatch 3 design does have going for it, is its IP68 dust and waterproof coating. Although you might not be able to take the watch into the swimming pool, dunks in the washing up bowl or shower shouldn’t damage it.

With a relatively svelte heart let down by oversized straps, the SmartWatch 3’s steel backed core measures in at just 10mm thick and 38g in weight.

Sony SmartWatch 3

Sony SmartWatch 3 Features and Performance

Negativity aside, the Sony SmartWatch 3 does have some redeeming qualities. Listening to longstanding user demands, Sony has bestowed the watch with its own internal storage – 4GB of it to be precise.

The result is a standalone device not wholly reliant on the coupled smartphone – at least for some functions. Able to act as a dedicated music player, the SmartWatch 3 can store thousands of tracks. During our early play we found the watch’s music player to be easy to navigate and control.

Pairing these musical abilities with an inbuilt GPS sensor and the SmartWatch 3 is all of a sudden looking like a half-decent fitness companion. Although unable to put it through its paces during our hands-on, this feature partnership means the watch can log your runs while keeping you musically motivated – all without the need to take your phone out.

Sony SmartWatch 3

These fitness credentials are enhanced further. Sony has introduced a new LifeLog app to its latest phones, and this works with the SmartWatch 3 too. LifeLog is essentially a one-stop fitness tracking app. From distances and calorie burn to steps and sleep patterns, the HealthKit rival tracks the lot. We found this app to be elegantly designed and sufficiently detailed for the more enthusiastic athlete.

Beyond this, however, the Sony SmartWatch 3 specs sheet is a very familiar affair. The 1.6-inch square display echoes that of the Samsung Gear 2 with its 320 x 320 pixel resolution. Although ample and perfectly satisfactory, this screen sees the SmartWatch fail to set itself out from the throng of competition. We found the screen bright – even in direct sunlight – and highly responsive.

Sony SmartWatch 3

These speedy response rates are helped by what’s under the hood. On the power side of things, the SmartWatch 3 runs a 1.2GHz quad-core ARM A7 processor and 512MB of RAM. This is the standard for such a device.

Sadly, battery takes us back to the downsides. According to Sony the watch’s 420mAh Lithium-Polymer battery will offer 2 days ‘typical usage’ on a single charge. Given these best-case figures are often a little on the generous side, this means almost daily trips to the charging port are going to be likely.

We were unable to put these battery usage times to the test during our hands-on with the Sony SmartWatch 3. A full test will be carried out during our full review of the product in the near future.

Sony SmartWatch 3

First Impressions

The Sony SmartWatch 3 is a device which highlights the confused, directionless nature of the current smartwatch space. With a low-rent design, an already all too familiar interface and a lack of must-have features, the wearable is the epitome of the struggles the wearables space is currently facing. It is an all-round underwhelming device which, after first use, has left us disappointed.

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