Living with the Sony SmartWatch 3

Review

This week we asked one of our reviewers to ditch their Moto 360, and spend a week with Sony’s SmartWatch 3…
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Living with the Sony SmartWatch 3

Day 1 – Time for a change

Having used the Moto 360 for the best part of six months, it’s taking a bit of readjustment to get used to the new face shape. Other than the square design however, there are a lot of similarities, right down to the artificial crown’s position, which acts as a power button. It’s not as prominent as the 360’s, which makes it a bit harder to press and access, but it’s not something I have to use all that often.

The Sony SmartWatch 3 runs on the Android Wear operating system, just like my 360, so on the software front everything is pretty familiar. I can tap to wake the watch, or twist it towards me so the face automatically displays the time. You can set the screen to remain on at all times if you like, but it almost certainly won’t make it through the day - you’re looking at about four to five hours, tops.

Unlike my 360, the SW3’s display can be detached from the rubber band. This makes it much easier to customise, and it’s also quite handy when charging. To do this, you simply plug a normal Android charger into the back. I did this over night, but it doesn’t take very long to charge.

Day 2 – Leave the smartphone at home

Today I want to find out how much the watch can do while its not being mollycoddled by my Sony Xperia Z3. There’s no heart rate monitor on board, which seems really weird for a watch that is so heavily marketed as a fitness wearable, but there is an inbuilt GPS tracker.

This means I can review how far I’ve run/walked/swum/downhill mountain biked, how long it took me, and how many calories I’ve burned doing so, all while the smartphone stays at home. Ask any runner, and I’m sure they’ll be turned on by the prospect of not having to take as much stuff with them.

What I didn’t realise until after my first run with the SW3, was that you have to download an app called My Tracks by Google for this to work. Install it on your phone, and re-sync the watch so it appears on the app list. You must then hit record before you head off. But that’s not all.

You can also enjoy music on the go, providing you have a set of Bluetooth headphones – which I do. You canuse Google Music to save tunes to the watch - this means it can be played without the smartphone. The SW3 has 4GB of internal storage, which will be plentiful for most – depending on the average length of your workout, of course.

Day 3 – You’re the voice

In the interest of research, I’ve decided that today is going to be all about operating the SW3 entirely with voice commands. This is something I’ve never really taken advantage of when using the Moto 360, but vocal instruction is available with all Android Wear devices.

Throughout the day, I detected numerous funny looks coming in my direction when speaking to my wrist. Frankly, it’s not normal, and people don’t like it. This could be an indicator towards the swift demise of Google Glass – talking to a computer strapped to your face makes you look mental. Alas, I persevered...

Searching the web or requesting weather updates are fine. The struggle came when I wanted to send messages that I wouldn’t usually share with my fellow bus travellers, colleagues or local shopkeep. I found myself seeking out private places just to talk to my watch – the whole experience was quickly becoming quite surreal. You can’t take phone calls on the watch, which I was a bit disappointed with.

You can swipe across the screen to answer or decline incoming calls, and your caller will be able to hear you if you speak into the watch. You won’t be able to hear them, however, without a smartphone to your ear.

Day 4 – Logging your jogging

By the fourth day I was getting pretty used to the SW3. It feels comfortable on my wrist, with enough weight in the display unit to prove its premium build. I’ve also been using Sony’s life-logging app, which is coincidentally called, Lifelog. The app tracks everything you do with both the phone and watch, including steps, social network interaction, what music you listen to, where you go… the list goes on.

You can review your activity at the end of the day or as you go – the more you use it, the more you get out of it. This can of course be disabled, so if you need to do some top-secret undercover detective work (and don’t want to end up being compromised by your smartphone), just turn it off.

Day 5 – Coming to terms with fame

If you’re in the market for a smartwatch, you need to be aware that it’s going to be more than your new timepiece - it’s your new conversation piece. I can, with a reasonable degree of certainty, guarantee some gawking and poking if you head down to the local with it.

When people see you swiping across the screen, clearing tweets or dismissing weather updates, it’s like you’re from the future. This may sound melodramatic, but smartwatches are still pretty new and exciting. Be prepared to explain what it does.

The Sony SmartWatch 3 is a great example of how a wearable can work as both a notification centre and an activity tracker. I was disappointed by the lack of heart rate monitor, but I’m sure it’s something we can expect from Sony in the near future.

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