/>
X

First impressions of the Sony SmartWatch 3: Capable of hitting the road alone

Most Android Wear devices only show the time after separating from an Android phone. The new Sony SmartWatch 3 includes integrated GPS, NFC, and Wi-Fi, as well as offline music playback.
img0851.jpg
1 of 7 Matthew Miller/ZDNET

Sony SmartWatch 3 arrived

There are plenty of wearables to consider this holiday season and I personally find myself trying to figure out an Android Wear device for my daily usage. I just purchased a Sony SmartWatch 3 thanks in part to my MoTR podcast co-host Kevin Tofel.

One key function that is not yet available on other Android Wear devices is integrated GPS. Back in 2012, I discovered the MOTOACTV watch that let me track my runs with GPS, stream music to my Bluetooth earbuds, and provide coaching. The latest Android Wear devices allow you to stream music from the phones to Bluetooth headsets.

Initial hardware impressions

The Sony SmartWatch 3 is the first Sony device to run Android Wear. Many improvements in the hardware have also been made since the SmartWatch 2.

The SmartWatch 3 is a modular device that fits into various color watchbands. Black is the only current color available and lint really clings to the rubber material. Other color bands should be available soon. There is a well-designed clasp on the back and the SmartWatch 3 feels very comfortable on my wrist.

The device itself has a 320x320 pixels square 1.6-inch transreflective display with a 420 mAh battery, 1.2 GHz quad-core processor, 4GB internal storage, 512MB RAM, and full IP68 water and dust resistance.

The display looks good, but the fonts still look better on the Moto 360. I will spend at least another week with it to put it through its paces before deciding if I am going to keep it or not.

There is a physical button on the right side for toggling the screen on and off. All other watch interaction takes place on the touchscreen.

Sony uses a standard microUSB to charge up the SmartWatch 3. It is covered up with a small door that I find a real pain to mess around with, but I sincerely appreciate being able to pack along a standard cable for all my travels.

Initial software impressions

The more I use my Sony Xperia Z3 rather than the iPhone 6 Plus, the more I am enjoying the Android Wear experience. Sony provides a barebones Android Wear experience with rather plain watchfaces, with no conduit app on the phone to customize the user experience. I did purchase Facer and am using that to test out other watchfaces.

Two of the reasons I went with this Android Wear device were GPS for running and offline music. While there are a few fitness apps in the Android Wear store, these are designed to work in conjunction with your phone and are not stand-alone apps. One that Android Central recommended is called Google My Tracks and this will actually use the GPS in the watch.

I dressed warmly and then headed out. After launching the My Tracks app, you simply tap the red record button to turn it one and start running. There is no status of the GPS signal quality and whether or not the app is ready to go. It is also a bit tough to read the display while running.

I need RunKeeper to launch a version supporting Android Wear GPS; if that happened then it would push me towards keeping the device. Word is that RunKeeper version 5.1 will provide this support. The run data is captured in Google's My Tracks app and then synced to your Google Drive account. Using this handy website tool, you can convert the given .KMZ file into GPX for Runkeeper.

Music playback works on several new Android Wear devices, but the process is pretty complicated. Android Central has a tutorial on installing and listening to your music on Android Wear. I ended up looping Michael Buble's Christmas album since that is all that was transferred over. Google needs to add playlists or some other flag for better music management.

The music played loud and clear so if I could just find a better way to manage songs on the watch, then we would have a winner here.

Is the Sony SmartWatch 3 a keeper?

To be honest, I have to spend the next week exclusively with the Sony SmartWatch 3. While I appreciate the GPS capability and music playback, neither is a wonderful experience and I'm not yet convinced it's worth nearly $300 (includes tax and shipping).

The fonts actually bug me quite a bit, especially when compared to the Moto 360. Both devices have about the same resolution and size, but text just looks better on the Moto 360.

The Sony SmartWatch 3 looks to be future-proof with Wi-Fi, NFC, and integrated GPS, but we need to see apps and services launch to support this capability. The loss of a heart rate monitor is a bit of a bummer, but I just used the data for some trends so it isn't a crucial specification for me.

imgp2495.jpg
2 of 7 Matthew Miller/ZDNET

The SmartWatch 3 is quite a bit thinner than the MOTOACTV

imgp2496.jpg
3 of 7 Matthew Miller/ZDNET

MOTOACTV and Sony SmartWatch 3, both with core modules removed

imgp2497.jpg
4 of 7 Matthew Miller/ZDNET

Metal back of Sony SmartWatch 3

imgp2499.jpg
5 of 7 Matthew Miller/ZDNET

Moto 360 and SmartWatch 3

imgp2504.jpg
6 of 7 Matthew Miller/ZDNET

Removing the microUSB cover

imgp2505.jpg
7 of 7 Matthew Miller/ZDNET

Charging up the smartwatch

Related Galleries

Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6: Electric vehicle extravaganza
img-8825

Related Galleries

Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6: Electric vehicle extravaganza

26 Photos
A weekend with Google's Chrome OS Flex
img-9792-2

Related Galleries

A weekend with Google's Chrome OS Flex

22 Photos
Cybersecurity flaws, customer experiences, smartphone losses, and more: ZDNet's research roundup
shutterstock-1024665187.jpg

Related Galleries

Cybersecurity flaws, customer experiences, smartphone losses, and more: ZDNet's research roundup

8 Photos
Inside a fake $20 '16TB external M.2 SSD'
Full of promises!

Related Galleries

Inside a fake $20 '16TB external M.2 SSD'

8 Photos
Hybrid working, touchscreen MacBook hopes, cybersecurity concerns, and more: ZDNet's tech research roundup
Asian woman working at a desk in front of a computer and calculator

Related Galleries

Hybrid working, touchscreen MacBook hopes, cybersecurity concerns, and more: ZDNet's tech research roundup

8 Photos
Developer trends, zero-day risks, 5G speeds, and more: Tech research roundup
Person seated at a booth in a cafe looks at their phone and laptop.

Related Galleries

Developer trends, zero-day risks, 5G speeds, and more: Tech research roundup

10 Photos
Drive Electric Day: A dizzying array of EVs in sunny Florida
ca3b4019-26c5-4ce0-a844-5aac39e2c34b.jpg

Related Galleries

Drive Electric Day: A dizzying array of EVs in sunny Florida

16 Photos