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Sony Smartwatch 3 review

Wait - is Android Wear getting good?

Sony Smartwatch 3

Once you've grabbed the Android Wear app off Google Play and paired your phone to the Sony SmartWatch 3 you'll be ready to start exploring its apps, not that there's a huge amount to explore.

Any apps that you have on your watch can be accessed either by navigating to the start screen, which is buried at the bottom of a list of voice commands and actions or by actually giving the watch a voice command and asking it to launch an app.

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Out of the box there's not much included and the Android Wear versions of apps are mostly pretty basic, but that's probably for the best given the small size of the screen. For example you can see your agenda for the day but not get a full view of your calendar.

Sony SmartWatch 3 review

Or you can get it to navigate you to an address, complete with a map of the route, but you can't scroll the map.

Playing music from the watch is particularly problematic, as while it has 4GB of storage which you can fill up with songs the only way to actually get your music on there is to upload it to Play Music, then make it available offline on your phone and even once done you can't specify which songs you want to add to your watch, it will just sync all the offline songs, or as many as it can fit.

Given that there's a handy microUSB port it would be nice if you could hook the SmartWatch 3 up to a computer and drag and drop, but no, you have to jump through a perplexing number of hoops.

Sony SmartWatch 3 review

Of course even once you've got the music there you'll need a pair of Bluetooth headphones to listen to it.

You might find that certain apps on your phone are already Android Wear compatible, especially if you're using a Nexus, as many Google apps are optimised for it. If you launch the Android Wear app on your handset you can set the default app for various categories, for example you can ask it to use RunKeeper or My Tracks when you're jogging.

You can also change and download more clock faces from the Android Wear app, adding to the fairly limited selection that Sony packed in.

You can download more Android Wear compatible apps too but right now the selection is limited. For example if you have the Google Camera you can manually control the shutter from your watch, but many other camera apps aren't supported.

Similarly while Hangouts lets you directly reply to text messages from your wrist other SMS apps don't, so you might find that to get the most out of the Sony SmartWatch 3 (or any Android Wear device) you have to change your default apps. Hopefully this will be remedied over time as more apps add full Android Wear support.

Sony SmartWatch 3 review

The good news is that you will at least get notifications from all your apps, even if you can't always respond to them from your wrist and just being able to see what a notification is can be handy, as it's not always going to be something that needs immediate attention anyway.

And if you dig around you should find an ever growing number of Android Wear apps, some of which are pretty useful. For example Sony's own TrackID service is supported, allowing you to use your watch to identify music.

Fitness

The Sony SmartWatch 3 is a more fitness-focused device than most smartwatches, as while it lacks a heart rate monitor it has built in GPS, so you can leave your phone behind when you go on a jog or even take it swimming since it's waterproof.

Sony SmartWatch 3 review

Right now there aren't a huge number of apps that support its GPS function, but there's a growing number including, unsurprisingly, Google's own My Tracks. Simply start it up from your watch and it will tell you the distance and duration of your workout, while once you sync it up with the app on your phone you can see more detailed stats, including speed and the route you took.

There are two potential problems though. Firstly as you might imagine the battery takes a real hit when using GPS. I found that it dropped by 10% in 24 minutes, so a two hour workout would cut its life in half. I'm also concerned about its accuracy, as while at one point the watch claimed I'd travelled 2.01km my phone reckoned the same journey was 1.85km.

Now it could be the phone that was wrong, but it's a route I'm familiar with and have tracked on other devices in the past with results closer to what the phone claimed than the watch.

Other than GPS the Sony SmartWatch 3 has a built in step tracker and if you download Sony's Lifelog to your phone then it can sync with that and give you all sorts of detailed stats from calories burnt to hours slept and also gives non-fitness related information, such as how long you spent listening to music. You can even see what time you did these things.

I'm not entirely sure that much of the information is all that useful, but seeing how long you've spent walking or running and how many steps you've taken can be handy, especially as you can also set daily targets.

But while you can go back and view previous day's activities it doesn't give you a clear breakdown of how your performance has changed over time, so while it might remind you to stay active and give you an idea of how much exercise you've done on a given day you can't easily track your progress.

Sony SmartWatch 3 review

There are other supported services too though, such as Google Fit, which similarly tracks your steps as well as the overall amount of time you've spent being active in a day and like Lifelog it allows you to set targets.

Ultimately I'm not sure the Sony SmartWatch 3 is quite a replacement for a running watch or fitness band, but if you predominantly want a smartwatch yet quite like the idea of being able to occasionally take it for a jog or a ride without your phone then this could be the wearable for you.