For a few weeks I have been wearing the Sony Smartwatch3, an Android Wear-based smartwatch device. Like any upcoming technology smartwatches promise new use cases and like in any upcoming technology it can deliver well in some scenarios - and not so much in others.
The model I have here is the stainless steel bracelet one, yet to be available in New Zealand. Like all stainless steel wristwatches you will probably need to stop by a jeweler or watch repair shop to have a few links added or removed so it fits well on your wrist. In my case I had two links removed and the watch st perfectly on my wrist - comparable to my Omega Seamaster. So good points there.
The main function works well - it shows the time. And this is where you will feel most at home with smartwatches: the ability to change the watch face to your preferences, by selecting one of many faces that come built-in with the platform, or using an app to download or create your own. I spent the first couple of days looking at different apps and finally settled on a couple that provided some good information at a glance - time, weather forecast, battery.
It can be a mission here - some apps are designed for round faces only (think Moto 360), others are designed with specific screen size in mind. Not to worry though as nothing you do here will stop your smartwatch working.
After the initial rush to find a nice watch face, I started investigating the apps. Some of the apps you already use have their Android Wear-compatible mini apps already there. Amazon, PayPal, Bing Torque all have apps. Google Fit is ther and so on. If you install these apps on smartphone then your smartwatch will download the companion app soon.
The Sony Smartwatch3 has a nice bright touch screen. Operation itself is responsive, except when the watch decides to freeze. This happened about three or four times over a month. The watch would be completely unresponsive and the only way out was to wait until the battery discharged completely. Lucky this is something you don't have to wait long for as it seems one specific app was causing this - and perhaps even consuming CPU cycles because the battery seemed to run down in a couple of hours, instead of the normal two days.
Removed the offending app (an app launcher, which seems is no longer required with Android Wear 5.1) and the watch behaved well after that.
Now the main idea of a smartwatch is to have notifications and enough of apps loaded that you don't have to get your smartphone all the time, thus saving time and smartphone battery. In reality, the Sony Smartwatch3 had a couple of days battery life at best conditions (not too much use, no new apps installed, GPS off) meaning you had something else to recharge overnight, every night. Compare this to my already mentioned Omega Seamaster, which is now 20 years old and only had five or six battery changes and you see how it can become a bit irritating. Or compare it to a basic tracker with smarts, the Fitbit Surge, which can achieve up to five days battery life with activity tracking and basic notifications (SMS and calls).
The Sony Smartwatch3 comes with 4GB RAM so you have some limited space available after installing apps - you can load music on your watch by simply opening Google Play Music and wirelessly transferring select files to your watch. Again, make sure you do this while it's plugged in or risk the battery running down quickly.
The Sony Smartwatch arrived running Android Wear 4 and out of the box I got a notification to install Android Wear 5.01. That immediately enabled smarter watch faces but was short of the hardware potential. The Sony Smartwatch3 comes with bult-in WiFi, which when used allows you to have notifications sent to the watch even if there's no direct connection between the watch and your smartphone.
This WiFi feature is enabled with Android Wear 5.1, which was just released. Unfortunately I didn't have a chance to use it because regardless of many resets the watch never offered the update. I suspect this is being released in batches, depending on serial number or some such, because other users on Geekzone reported receiving this update. I would be particularly interested to see if using WiFi to connect to the smartphone would use even more battery than Bluetooth. I will leave this for someone else to confirm or not.
You can easily remove the Sony Smartwatch3 from the stainless steel bracelet - which interestingly enough is not 100% stainless steel, with the watch itself insterted into a a painted plastic case. This allows you to quickly swap it to a plastic wrist strap for use while exercising.
Despite the short battery life (max of two days) the watch recharges very quickly, with almost 100% charge after 3/4 of hour.
The Sony Smartwatch is IP68 rated, meaning you can take it to no deeper than 1.5m of water for a max of 30 minutes - and no salt water, please. In reality, I wouldn't think of even having a shower with this (or any other smartwatch for that matter).
The watch tracks your activities by running Google Fit and synchronising the data recorded with your smartphone. Apparently there were some sync issues in previous Google Fit versions where the watch data conflicted with the smartphone data - remember most of the times you will be carrying both. In my experience the data was accurate and I didn't see those sync problems. What I've noticed (wearing my Fitbit on the other wrist) is that Google Fit was reporting almost 25% more steps than my Fitbit device. This is not really a big deal - the important thing is not an exact number but a way for you to make sre you can consistently count your steps on a day-to-day basis. The Sony Smartwatch3 doesn't have heart beat monitoring.
So now this smartwatch is boxed and ready to go back to Sony. And at the end of the day I don't feel particularly sad. I don't feel wearing it reduced the number of times I grabbed the smartphone out of the pocket, and I did feel annoyed on having to put it on the charger almost every night.
Note that this is not a reflection on the Sony Smartwatch3 itself. It's a beautifuly executed piece of engineering, but the Google Wear is still some time away from being that platform that makes me think "right I don't need my smartphone out of the bag all the time."