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Sony SmartWatch 3 review: Still worth your time in 2018?

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
90
inc VAT

We strap on Sony's third generation smartwatch again, but is it still as impressive as we remember?

Pros 
Cheap
Screen you can read in sunlight
Cons 
Out of date
Better, newer alternatives
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Update: Released in 2014, the Sony Smartwatch 3 is so old now that'd we'd find it very difficult to recommend. Apart from anything else, you'd be hard pushed to find anywhere selling it now, but it's also seriously out of date. It might have built-in GPS and IP68 water- and dust resistance, but the Smartwatch 3 still runs an early version of Google's wearables operating system and it lacks  features such as an optical heart rate sensor and NFC for making contactless payments.

If you're in the market for a cheap WearOS watch, the Mobvoi Ticwatch E and S both come highly recommended. Both watches have built-in GPS, IP67 water resistance and 4GB of storage for music and apps. There is also both a speaker and a microphone, which let you use Google Assistant and take calls from your watch. Unfortunately, NFC isn't supported though. For that you'll need the Huawei Watch 2.

Alternatively, if you're seriously into fitness, and want a watch that lets you swim as well as tracking runs and bike rides, then the Garmin Vivoactive 3 (£230) is a great choice. It'll not only let you track practically any sport you can think of, but also gives you fascinating insights into your current fitness levels.

Original review continues:

I look fondly at Sony’s SmartWatch 3. It may be a tad ancient now, but way back in 2014 it was cutting edge, paving the way for wearables as we see them today. Sony’s first (and only) wearable was among the first Android Wear devices in shops, after all and, you can still buy one. But should you?

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It’s 2017 - and Sony’s wearable is almost three years old - but is the SmartWatch 3 still worth your hard-earned cash in a world dominated by Fitbits, Misfits and all those other its? Read on to find out.

The quick take: Who should buy the Sony SmartWatch 3?

Sony’s SmartWatch 3 is cheap. Typically wavering around the £90 mark these days, it’s a far more attractive purchase than the likes of Moto’s 360 and - don’t forget - that stonkingly expensive Apple Watch. If money’s tight, Sony’s SmartWatch 3 should be a no-brainer. 

But its cheap price comes with a couple caveats. For one - and you might have guessed it by this point - the SmartWatch 3 is drastically out of date. We’ve just seen Android Wear 2 make an appearance you see, but it’s a no-show on Sony’s third-gen SmartWatch. 

That, and it’s hardly the most feature-packed of devices these days. It may be IP68 rated and have its own GPS sensor, but since launch we’ve seen plenty of feature rich devices pop up; from the Garmin Vivosmart HR+’s heart rate monitor, to the Moto 360’s Android Pay.

It’s also a trifle rough around the edges, too. It’s hardly the most attractive wearable you’ll have laid your eyes on: with chunky bezels and an ungainly rubber strap that sticks to your skin when you get a tad sweaty. It’s also got this awkwardly square display too, but it does still have its strengths, mind.

So, buy the Sony SmartWatch 3 if…

  • You’re on a tight budget
  • You want an Android Wear smartwatch
  • Being up to date doesn’t bother you

Don’t buy the Sony SmartWatch 3 if…

  • You’re an Apple fan
  • You want the biggest and the best
  • You don’t care about saving money

In depth: Sony SmartWatch 3 review

Sony was one of the first manufacturers to launch a smartwatch, choosing to use its own customised version of Google's Android operating system for the firm’s Smartwatch and Smartwatch 2 while its then rival Samsung pursued Tizen. But, this Smartwatch 3 makes the switch to the more widely accepted Android Wear, and I’ve put it on my wrist again.

Sony SmartWatch 3 review: Design

Sticking with a square display, rather than experiment with a circular screen like the others, the Smartwatch 3 is a safe, if slightly plain-looking wearable. The stainless steel rear is a nice premium touch, but it's a shame it's covered by the rubberised plastic strap, which surrounds the watchface entirely - and picks up grime like no tomorrow. 

It's a shame, since Sony opted for a metal clasp which looks rather sleek, but sat side by side with the smartwatches of today, I can't help but think it looks awfully cheap. At least it's ideally suited for getting wet, with that IP68 water resistance proving you won't have to take it off when getting in the shower or going for a swim.

Sony SmartWatch 3 review: Display and battery life

The 1.6in transflexive LCD display is all but the same as the one on the front of the SmartWatch 2. It's designed to be legible even in bright sunlight, and it’ll turn off when you’re not looking at it. If you’re after a modern day equivalent with the same (but better) tech - I’d recommend the Moto 360 Sport.

It’s still perfectly legible inside under bright lights, and the 320x320 resolution is ideally suited to Android Wear's short and simple notifications. A button on the side enables and disables the screen, which should help reduce battery consumption when you aren't looking at it.

And it shows too, with the 420mAh battery still squeezing around three days worth of juice on a single charge, even when powering that LCD display and the 1.2GHz quad-core processor.

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And that’s another thing, Android Wear still holds up to this day; it feels perfectly smooth, with screens swiping without too much stuttering and notifications dismissing as soon as we swiped them away. It might not be as responsive as its Android Wear 2.0 cousins, like the Huawei Watch 2 and Moto 360, but it’s decent enough nonetheless.

Sony SmartWatch 3 review: Android Wear and features

Sony’s SmartWatch 3 does have its own GPS sensor - something other Android Wear devices originally lacked - but they’re all sporting that these days. It used to be a reason to buy one other the others, but that’s not the case anymore.

There's also 4GB of on-board flash memory to contend with, which enables you to store MP3 files or offline playback. It’s a neat little extra that doesn’t have you relying on online listening, and there’s NFC too.

Another noteworthy feature is that micro-USB charging port on the back. While this means of charging is getting a trifle out of date these days, it’s still far more common than having to fumble to find some dodgy proprietary charger other smartwatches use. Standardisation is key to success - and Sony nailed it here.

Android Wear is what you make it; with the ability to add apps, customise watch faces and come up with novel uses for a screen strapped to your wrist, it has loads of potential, but without these tweaks the Smartwatch 3 felt all but identical to all those other smartwatches.

Sony SmartWatch 3 review: Verdict

Sony’s SmartWatch 3 is a decent enough wearable. Back in the day, it was hailed as one of the best; with GPS and a screen you can read in sunlight, but it’s fallen on the wayside somewhat in recent years. 

It’s far more sensibly priced these days, though. For around £90 it’s still a decent enough smartwatch, and should serve you well so long as you don’t mind its vast outdated-ness. Get a SmartWatch 3 if you have your heart set on it, but perhaps pick up a Pebble Time if you’re after a wearable that doesn’t break the bank and is a touch more up to date.

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