We trial the new Sony SmartWatch 3.
By Todd Cole.
With all the hoopla about Apple’s soon-to-be released smart watch, you could be forgiven for thinking Apple came up the idea of the smart watch. Not so. Some companies have been tirelessly refining smart watch technology for a considerable time. Sony is one such company. As the iteration implies, Sony have released three watches prior to this latest offering. This one, however, is pretty impressive primarily because it boasts an inbuilt GPS, has a mini-USB charging port, good battery life, is powered by Android Wear and can be taken in the pool. This makes it a smart choice for people into fitness.
Here’s an example why: lets say you want to go on a run and get accurate data. Open the watch, start a training app, Runkeeper for example, then take off, leaving your phone behind. When you return, your watch automatically syncs with the phone and your run’s data is displayed. No need to lug a phone around on your arm. And what about music on the run, you ask smugly? Simple, you can download music to your SmartWatch 3 from your phone or tablet and listen to the music using a connected Bluetooth headset.
What’s smarter still, is while you’re hitting the shower with your watch on (yes it waterproof to a couple of metres), you can scroll through your emails, check and send a text and even send an email with voice commands only. Notifications from social media, congratulating you on a great PB on the run, appear on the watch as you’re making a cuppa. With milk running low, you tap the face of Sony’s SmartWatch 3 and take a verbal note: “Take note, buy milk.” Then ask it for a weather report. It displays the weather forecast.
You got to admit, that’s pretty clever.
This is why there is little doubt among pundits that smart watches will be the next big thing in consumer electronics. As phones get bigger displays and turn into phone-cum-tablets (phablets), your watch will become the never-take-off device that connects you to your phone and subsequently, you to the Internet.
The Back Story
Last year Google rolled out Android Wear, and operating system for wearable technology, and a host of companies jumped on the bandwagon, notably LG and Samsung and Asus. In a nutshell, Android Wear is an intuitive operating system that recognizes voice commands and finger swipes. (In the first iterations of its smart watch, Sony used a propriety OS. Thankfully, they’ve ditched this in favour of Android Wear for the SmartWatch 3.) Android Wear is developing rapidly as developers discover a myriad of ways to exploit the power of the Internet on your wrist. It doesn’t take a genius to see that the potential is massive, but it’s still in its infancy and developers are scrambling to find ways to monetize this. This may explain why Sony included NFC (Near Field Communication) and Wi-Fi into the SmartWatch 3’s feature set. While there aren’t many apps that really utilize these functions now, you can bet your bottom dollar there will be soon.
Looks and Features
Aesthetically, the SmartWatch 3 is very good looking, and the ability to choose from a variety of digital watch faces is pretty cool. The 4cm square screen boasts a 320×320 pixel display, making it very bright and easy to read. It has an inbuilt pedometer as well as an accelerometer, a gyroscope and a compass. Naturally it also has Bluetooth, which you can use to pair with your phone, or connect to a set of headphones, speakers or a Bluetooth LE heart rate monitor, like Wahoo. (I paired a Suunto Smart Sensor.)
The SmartWatch 3 employs a 1.2GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 processor along with 512MB of RAM, plus a whopping 4GB of built-in storage so that you can load it with apps and music. It has a mini-USB port for charging, which can be a bit fiddly, but stands head and shoulders above other smart watches need a special (and often lost or misplaced) charging port. This is a big plus.
While other smart watches have different features, the inclusion of a GPS has put Sony’s SmartWatch 3 at the front of the pack, especially for fitness nuts. The use of Android Wear means it fits in with the in-crowd and the considerable technological grunt means Sony’s SmartWatch is ready for the future, whatever that may bring.