Hands-on: Sony SmartWatch 3 review

Sony has officially announced its third generation of SmartWatch during its press conference at consumer electronics show IFA 2014, currently taking place in Berlin.

The SmartWatch 3 will be Sony's first wearable to sport Google's Android Wear platform, meaning wide compatability with Android devices.

Good design

The SmartWatch 3 falls into the square camp when it comes to design, meaning it joins the LG G Watch and Samsung Gear Live smartwatches, rather than the much-anticipated Motorola Moto 360 that will come with a round face.

The design is good and it looks nice. The combination of rubber, plastic and metal work well together and the final product offers a premium appeal that has a little more going on than the LG G Watch.

The face itself is slim so it doesn't look too bulky and its flat design helps it complement Sony's Xperia range nicely. There isn't much bezel on the sides of the display which creates a design that looks sleek on the wrist.

When it comes to the strap, the SmartWatch 3 has a gap running through it which perhaps makes it look a little wider than it is. The material is nice though and the pink colour we spent some time with looked striking but not overpowering.

The fastening is very similar to the Samsung Gear Neo and Gear 2 smartwatches, and while it is certainly secure, it means the watch strap is a lot bulkier than the face. That said, the introduction of metal here helps give the watch that premium edge and the subtle Sony branding is a nice touch.

There is a 420mAh battery on board that claims to offer a 2-day life, 4GB of internal memory and as we now expect from Sony devices, the SmartWatch 3 is IP68 rated so it is waterproof.

Unlike the LG G Watch and Samsung Gear Live, the Sony SmartWatch 3 comes with a button on the right-hand side of the display that will wake up the screen. It is also finished in metal, helping to link everything together. It's a good looking device and we liked it.

Nice display

The SmartWatch 3 features a 1.6-inch 320 x 320 pixel resolution display and on first impressions, it looks good. There wasn't really anything on the demo watch that could help us test the screen, but it seemed crisp and the colours were good.

It is also touchscreen - unlike the Sony SmartBand Talk - and when we were flicking through the Google Now cards, the watch reacted quickly with no lag.

Sony has introduced a transflective display to the new smartwatch to help you see it in bright sunlight but as we were inside, we weren't able to see how good this was.

We would have liked to have seen Sony do a round face rather than square, but Sony said the square display, which can be removed, carried more flexibility than a round one.

The display is the main feature of the front of the watch and the thin bezel on the sides that we mentioned earlier, ensures it a slim, sleek overall look.

No smartphone needed

The Sony SmartWatch 3 runs on the Android Wear ecosystem and marks the first Sony wearable to run on the platform. It means you'll be able to command it to do different things by saying "Ok Google" followed by your request and it will work in the same way the LG G Watch and Samsung Gear Live function.

Android Wear also means you will get a series of cards that will deliver useful information to you such as your next calendar appointment, or the flight status of an upcoming flight for example.

However Sony has taken it one step further with the SmartWatch 3 by offering standalone music capability with its Sony Walkman app, meaning you won't need your smartphone to listen to your music and track a run.

The watch will come with GPS built-in so it will be able to tell where you are, but Sony wouldn't elaborate on what other sensors the watch will come with at the time of writing.

We couldn't test the music app during our time with it, but we look forward to reviewing a smartwatch that can do a few things on its own without needing a smartphone as a side kick. Being able to track a run and listen to music using just the SmartWatch 3 and some Bluetooth headphones is an exciting prospect.

Other features

Sony wouldn't tell us much else about what features the SmartWatch 3 would come with, but we did learn that the watch will be able to tell you what programme will be next on your TV and it will have the ability to act as a TV remote if you want to change the channel.

The company has also added camera capability to the smartwatch, again turning it into a remote control for taking pictures. This control will work for both your smartphone and the company's smart lenses that launched at IFA last year.

Additionally, the SmartWatch 3 will support Sony's Lifelog, which means it will not only monitor your steps and fitness but it will know what music you have listened to that day, what pictures you have taken, where you have been and how long you have slept for. 

Again, we weren't able to test any of these features but we will definitely be doing so in our full review to see what this new wearable brings over the ones already available.

First impressions

The Sony SmartWatch 3 is a good-looking device that feature a nice, premium design, along with a good screen and some fun features.

We like the idea of being able to listen to music and track our runs without a smartphone and it's great to see Sony hop on the Android Wear bandwagon.

A round face would have been a bit more exciting to offer something a little different from the other Android Wear smartwatches already on the market, but we like the SmartWatch 3 none the less.

As we couldn't test many of the features, it's difficult to pass judgement on it, but so far we like what we see and we're looking forward to putting it and all its functions through its paces in our full review.