BERLIN: WHILE OTHERS like Asus unveiled their first smartwatches at IFA this week, Sony was busy launching the third iteration of its wrist wearable, the Sony Smartwatch 3, or SW3.
Running Google's Android Wear operating system (OS) for wearables, the Smartwatch 3 offers significant steps up from the Smartwatch 2, including a higher resolution screen and a sleeker, more streamedlined design.
Sony has given the Smartwatch 3 a minimalist design with a simple square clock face set within a stainless steel back panel. It has an all-black or all-yellow colour scheme and features just one physical power button on the right hand side, giving the clock face premium appeal while also feeling rather sturdy.
Like most other Sony gadgets, the Smartwatch 3 is of course waterproof, with an IP68 certification rating, and charges via a standard microUSB port. It also has voice recognition functionality. Though we weren't able to test these features out in our short hands-on time, we are looking forward to seeing how well these compare to Samsung's smartwatch wearables.
What we also liked about the Smartwatch 3 was the silicon strap. The benefit here is that it is more comfortable as it stretches with your wrist movements, making it more ergonomically friendly. The wristband has seven holes to accommodate slender to large-sized wrists. However, its most interesting feature is that the actual device is just a square block that you pop in and out of watch strap, rather than being put in with the standard watch pins. Here Sony hints that this could accommodate different future devices, but hasn't elaborated on that potential.
Overall we were pleased with the Smartwatch 3's design, mainly due to its comfortable nature. Its light weight of 45g, which is about half the weight of its predecessor, makes it feel very natural to wear while being compact enough not to draw too much attention.
Boasting a 1.6in 320x320 TFT LCD "Transflective" display, the Smartwatch 3 is a step up from Sony's last wearable by having what the firm says is a brighter screen, which means it is more viewable in bright sunlight. Though our hand-on tests didn't take place outdoors in bright sunlight, we can confirm the screen seemed very bright and vibrant, with text appearing very clear under the lights of the display booth.
Like the Smartwatch 2 before it, the Smartwatch 3 essentially acts as a middleman between your hand and your pocket using Bluetooth, and if you want to respond to a message without voice commands you'll have to get out your phone anyway. However, Sony has been keen to mention that the Smartwatch 3 doesn't rely on an internet connection in order to function and claims it is "an accessory with impressive standalone functionality" due to its built-in microphone, accelerometer, compass, gyroscope and GPS sensor technologies, which make for more accurate and powerful "lifelogging." This refers to Sony's Lifelog health tracking application, which Android users can get at the Google Play store.
The watch is powered by an ARM A7 1.2Ghz processor with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of eMMC storage onboard, making it a rather impressively powerful smartwatch compared to the Smartwatch 2, and it shows. Running Android Wear we found that all operations were very fluid with no lag, which was much less frustrating than we have found rival Samsung wearable devices.
With a 420mA battery, the SmartWatch 3 can last between two to five days on a single charge, Sony claims, which seems a bit ambitious when most devices can't go more than a day without needing to be charged again. We can imagine, though, that this depends on the type of usage, so users can probably get more battery life out of it if they limit the number of notifications they demand from it, while keeping the brightness down and use of the torch app to a minimum.
We obviously didn't get a chance to test this theory out from the IFA showfloor, but check back soon for a for a full review of the Smartwatch 3 when we will know more.
Pricing is yet to be announced, but Sony said that it will launch the Smartwatch 3 in the UK later this autumn. µ
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