We review Sony’s SmartWatch 3 (SWR50), an Android Wear wrist rocket that can play music independently of your phone.
Design: Light and slender
Sony’s SmartWatch 3 might not exactly take a cricket bat to wearable conventions, but it does sport one of the nicer designs we’ve rocked on our wrists. We still prefer the sleek rounded goodness of the LG G Watch R, but the SmartWatch 3 is one of the thinnest wearables we’ve worn and it’s light and unobtrusive enough to be comfortable for all-day use. I had no trouble passing out with it still strapped to my arm either.
Of course, some will prefer the more premium metallic finish of the Samsung Gear Live compared with the rubbery SmartWatch 3. That rubber band is also quite bad at picking up dust and other crap, which cheapens the look.
The SmartWatch 3’s clasp is suitably solid and adjustable, which is great news for sufferers of spindly wrists, such as myself. Sadly the watch face can’t be attached to standard watch straps, like the Samsung Gear Live and many other Android wearables, but you can pop the face out and slip it into a differently coloured SmartWatch 3 band – they come in serious white and black, or funky party time yellow and pink.
And don’t worry if you like getting caught in the rain, as the SmartWatch 3 is fully water resistant with an IP68 rating. You can even go swimming in it if you like, and check your notifications in the shower.
A 1.6-inch 320×320 screen is what you’ll be squinting at, matching the Samsung Gear Live almost perfectly for size and sharpness. Sadly the Gear Live boasts the more attractive display, as the SmartWatch 3’s visuals are rather muted, with yellowy whites and faded colours. Viewing angles aren’t spectacular either, so while we could make out the time when the watch face was pointed away from our face – for instance, with a quick glance while typing this review – notifications and the like were often too dark to read.
Still, at least on top brightness the screen is comfortable to read even under the strongest glare, good news if you’re buggering off to somewhere with actual sunshine this winter. And when you’re simply using the screen for fiddling with apps and occasionally telling the time, it’s perfectly up to the job.
Features: A gentle prod
The SmartWatch 3 is of course an Android Wear device, like the Gear Live and the LG G Watch R before it. Check out our full look at Android Wear if you’d like more info on the features it provides, but in a nutshell you can download dozens of apps (many of which are free) to add extra functionality to your device, as well as check your notifications and bark out Google Now voice commands without yanking out your phone.
Occasionally it can be pretty distracting to have a smartwatch buzzing non-stop on your wrist as notifications roll in, and many wearables vibrate hard enough to give you a real shock when you’re not expecting it. The SmartWatch 3 opts for a more subtle nudge, offering just a light buzz when you get an email or something else that requires attention.
In fact, it’s so subtle that occasionally I didn’t feel the watch vibrate and my notifications went unchecked until I next gazed at the screen, wondering why I was suddenly so unpopular. So if you’re constantly stuck in meetings throughout the day or simply don’t like being disturbed constantly, it’s a solid choice.
The SmartWatch 2 is a little smarter than some of the competition by allowing you to carry music or track your exercise routine when disconnected from your phone. For instance, you can download music playlists from Google Play straight to your watch via the Play Music app, then connect your watch to a Bluetooth headset and enjoy your tracks while you’re taking a run.
It’s not a very intuitive process and you have surprisingly little control over it all (your music is simply copied over in bulk, until the watch runs out of space). However, once you figure it out, there’s no denying that it works really well. And with 4GB of space to work with, you can load up plenty of albums to take with you.
Battery life: Longer lasting pleasure
My favourite part of the SmartWatch 3 is probably the battery life, plus how you actually charge the damn thing.
While most wearables struggle to make it through much more than a day per charge, the SmartWatch 3 fares a wee bit better. After 24 hours of full use, we still had over a third of the battery life remaining. We generally made it through around 40 hours before the watch demanded to be charged again, a fair result considering we had the screen constantly displaying the time.
Of course, if you decide to stream music or play those weird little smartwatch games, you can expect the battery to drain much quicker. And just under two days of use still isn’t exactly ideal; first world problems for sure, but here at Recombu we can’t wait for wearables to actually last a week or so between charges.
When you do feel that little tremble on your arm and see that it’s time to recharge, you’ll probably be glad to hear that you don’t need to wedge the SmartWatch 3 into some stupid little dock, like you do with the Gear Live, Moto 360 and so on. Instead, just plug your micro USB charging cable straight into the port on the back of the watch and it’ll start to juice up. That’s great news if you want to charge up on the go without lugging extra bits around.
Sony’s SmartWatch 3 isn’t cheap at £180, which makes it a real shame that the finish isn’t a bit more premium and the screen isn’t more joyously vibrant. That said, I like the slender design and solid catch, and Sony’s wearable also entices with offline music playback and decent battery life (plus no fiddly dock for charging).