Sony SmartWatch 3 review

UPDATED: Now with added steel, we revisit Sony's sporty Android Wear debutant

The Sony SmartWatch 3 may not be the hottest Android Wear device on paper, but with built-in GPS and a slick new all-metal design, it's one of the most complete smartwatches we've reviewed.

With the new stylish looking stainless steel version hitting the stores, we thought it only right that we updated our comprehensive SmartWatch 3 review….

Sony SmartWatch 3: Design and display

The Sony SmartWatch 3 isn't exactly breaking any new ground with its aesthetics.

It takes its design cues from the rubber-strapped GPS running watch brigade and unsurprisingly looks more sporty than fashionable.

The rubber strap, black or yellow as standard but with additional accessory straps available, features a nice adjustable clasp – allowing you to get a perfect fit – and you can simply pop the smartwatch module in and out to mix and match straps.

Sony Smartwatch 3 review

It's a comfortable, lightweight design if a little bland. It's a smartwatch that suits a pair of joggers and trainers more than it does your smartest chinos and loafers.

Essential reading: The world's best smartwatches

One thing that we did notice about that strap – it seemed to collect dust and grime like no watch we've ever seen before, as if it's some kind of fluff magnet. You'll see what we mean in the hands-on pics.

The stainless steel version adds a bit of style to the mix and people who like the weighty assurance of luxury metal watches won't be disappointed by the feel.

This version uses the traditional link system, so you can adjust it to get a comfortable fit. It's probably best to let a watch shop do this though, as it's not easy and you could damage the straps trying to get the pins out.

The display is a 1.6-inch, 320 x 320, LCD affair, which lags behind the AMOLED tech found on the latest Samsung and Asus smartwatches. And it's a deficiency that's really noticeable with the screen offering very little vibrancy, and appearing pale and faded.

Viewing angles also aren't great and, even with the brightness turned up full whack, you're not going to be blown away. Let's hope the next Sony SmartWatch follows the lead of the Xperia smartphone line by tapping into the tech giant's years of display heritage.

Sony SmartWatch 3: GPS tracking

The biggest selling point of the Sony SmartWatch 3 is that it packs in GPS connectivity. That's obviously a massive plus for anyone who wants to accurately track their runs without having to lug their smartphone around with them.

Since Google introduced GPS support for Android Wear in the platform's first big update, the major players in the run tracking app game have been slow to got their acts together. The RunKeeper app was recently updated to include GPS support for Android Wear devices though, and the other option for smartphone-free GPS tracking is Google's own MyTracks app.

Must download: Best Sony SmartWatch 3 apps

Using MyTracks, which is fairly basic, we found that the GPS tracking on the Sony SmartWatch 3 was actually impressive. We did a few runs with it strapped on and the distances tallied with our regular minutes per mile pace. We also compared it with the Adidas miCoach Smart Run running watch and found that, over a 10km run, the SmartWatch 3 was within 20m after the 10,000m run – a great result.

Sony SmartWatch 3: Hardware

The Sony SmartWatch 3 is not only the first Android Wear device to pack GPS skills, it's also got NFC and Wi-Fi connectivity built in – although there aren't yet any features taking advantage of this hardware yet. However, there's a good chance that future Android Wear updates will add functions that make use of this connectivity – Google Wallet would be nice – so the SW3 is fairly future proof.

The SmartWatch 3 has 4GB of storage space – pretty standard for an Android Wear smartwatch – and is powered by a quad-core 1.2GHz Arm A7 processor, which seems a bit like overkill in the early days of Android's newest ecosystem.

You won't find an app that makes the SmartWatch 3 stutter – although that's also the case with other Android Wear devices with much less powerful processors.

One thing the Sony SmartWatch 3 lacks, compared to some of its OS brethren, is an optical heart rate sensor but, given the inaccurate bpm info we've seen recorded from the likes of the Gear Live and the Moto 360, that's no great loss.

Sony SmartWatch 3: Android Wear features

When it comes to Android Wear smartwatches, there's very little differentiation in features, and the experience is fairly standard across the current spectrum. The beauty of Android Wear is that it's a vanilla experience – it's more or less the same on every device running Google's smartwatch OS.

For a full breakdown of Android Wear check out our comprehensive Android Wear guide.

As we've stated in previous Android Wear device reviews, such as the LG G Watch R and the Moto 360, the platform is very much still a work in progress.

At times the platform works a treat – glancing at your smartwatch to see that it's a boring text from your boss and not an important group WhatsApp message making your phone buzz, for example, is incredibly handy. As is getting updates on traffic delays to the location of your afternoon meeting.

At other times it's just infuriating and annoying; swiping through unwanted Google Now-style cards just to get a clean watch face, for example, or wishing you could scroll through recent notifications from a specific app.

Essential reading: LG G Watch R review

Music playback with a Bluetooth speaker or some Bluetooth headphones is a feature that is available on all Android Wear watches now, but it definitely feels the most useful on the Smartwatch 3 – there really is no need to take your smartphone out running anymore with Sony's latest wearable on your wrist.

We had no trouble pairing the SW3 to our Monster iSport running cans or our Cambridge Audio office speaker – although the music syncing options through Google Play music is still a basic setup (all or nothing, essentially). Again, that's an Android Wear issue though and not one specific to the SmartWatch 3.

The latest Android Wear update adds customisable watch faces to download with ease, so the amount of ones originally on offer with any device is kind of irrelevant now. It's 15 with the Sony, in case you were wondering though – each one as mundane as the last.

Our advice is to get yourself over to Google Play, quickfast, and download some more exciting options.

Sony SmartWatch 3: Battery life and extras

Great news - there's a 420mAh battery inside the SmartWatch 3 – which is the biggest we've seen on an Android Wear smartwatch to date, and you should have no bother achieving the quoted life of two days.

It's also great that Sony's newest smartwatch charges via Micro USB as there's no need to carry around a separate charging accessory. With the stainless steel version, it is incredibly awkward to get the charger in though, as there's not much room to move at the back with the sealed strap.

The SW3 ups the ante when it comes to waterproofing. All the other Android Wear models, aside from the Asus ZenWatch (which can only manage an IP55 rating), are IP67 rated – meaning they can last 30 minutes in water at a depth of 1m. Sony's effort has an IP68 rating, so you can go double the depth for double the time without damage, which will hopefully enable swimming features in the future.

Sony SmartWatch 3
By Sony
The Sony SmartWatch 3 might not be the best-looking Android Wear device so far – that honour belongs to the LG G Watch R – but it’s by far the most useful. Its design may be pretty uninspiring and the display is fairly mediocre but the functionality afforded by the GPS is unrivalled in the Google smartwatch arena and the battery life is far better than we’ve seen on any of the Sony’s rivals. Let’s just hope that app developers spruce up their offerings soon to make the most of the SmartWatch 3’s USP.

  • Freedom with GPS connectivity
  • Decent battery life
  • Easy charging with Micro USB
  • Great waterproof rating
  • Screen is mediocre
  • Rubber strap feels a bit cheap
  • No heart rate monitoring
  • Android Wear still work in progress

What do you think?

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  • burnleynut·

    I have the Sony Smartwatch 3,had a problem syncing my music from Sony m2 mobile from Google play,gave up in the end and after a lot of searching managed with the Walkman app.not straight foreward.Screen could be better,bit awkward charging because not much play with the usb cover on the hub,also will buy silver bracelet when available,everything else great.

  • crj·

    I had the orignal Sony Smartwatch. The clasp on the watch broke within a week, and the closest repair option was nearly 200 miles away. I could send them the watch, and wait 2 weeks (minimum) to get it back. Glad they seem to have fixed that problem. Of course, going by the first picture in this article, the screen is still impossible to read in direct sunlight. Something you just might want to do while your out running. Anyway, bought a Pebble the day the Sony watch broke. Had it a couple years now, with no complaints.

  • Leeriff·

    got my swr50 last week. Love it. Works better than I thought. I can reply to texts and emails via wear messenger, have a sleep monitor via sleep as android, steps counter etc. Some cycle apps need bit more work but they work and are accurate. The Mrs bought one after seeing mine. Battery with lots of use, a full day and night. Charges quick. Comfortable, and big enough. 

  • airox·

    Got my smartwatch SWR50 this week. I already owned a Wahoo Tickr Run heartbeat strap which I previously used with bluetooth 4.0 and my phone. If you install Ghostracer (beta) you have the capability to use this sensor directly with your phone. Even at the same time when my JBL Synchros reflect bluetooth headphones are connected! So... running with only the watch is possible listening to my favourite running music and getting GPS AND heartrate information on my watch. And I guess those straps are also somewhat more accurate in comparison to the wrist based heartrate sensors.

    Love the watch!!

  • rakun·

    I actually have problems with the GPS accuracy. Even in a sunny day it cannot keep a good connection. Generally the tracked route is inaccurate and sometimes connection is entirely lost. Tried with Endomondo and Runkeeper. Definetely a hardware issue. Not impressed.

    • DanielMicallef·

      Have the same issue. Never really able to get a good complete GPS tracking with the watch

  • mindbinder369·




    • jacismyname123·

      No because it doesnt have a heart rate sensor.

      • Conn1e·

        Sleep is tracked by other devices without heart rate, so I don't see why this wouldn't either. It simply notices you're moving infrequently and tracks that as sleep.

    • jacismyname123·

      No because it does not have a heart rate sensor.

  • gdongg·

    Recently got the Sony Smartwatch 3 and I wanted sync some songd to the watch but i dont have "Download to Android Wear" option on my phone GOogle Play. Is there any thing I need to do. Im using a OnePlusOne. Thanks

    • djplowma·

      I do not know sorry but how is the watch working with your opo cause I am thinking of buying the watch and I to have an opo.

  • RemusN·

    Can a Bluetooth 4.0 heart rate monitor be used with it while running ? Also can it record Strava activities with the internal GPS?

  • johnd·

    You should revise your article. It is not an " All Metal" Band. The portion the watch fits in is actually painted plastic! Too much money for plastic!

  • lucadv·

    Hi guys, I’m interested to know your expirience with this beauty under water. I want to use it for swimming. I do a lot of swimm, like half an hour a day. Have you used it when swimming?

  • Brentf77·

    Got the sony smartwatch 3 mainly for the standalone gps but with endomondo once away from my phone wouldn't connect at all. Then tried mytracks and after running 7 miles only said I went 1.7. Any help would be great. 

    Also only some text/phone calls come through, why is that? 

    • JH02·

      I never had any issues with texts / calls, but can tell you that there is a design flaw with the watch that causes the GPS to freak out when exposed to moisture (think sweat or washing your hands). Sony has commented that they will be putting out an updated band by the beginning of December that is supposed to correct this. 

      Also, there was / is a battery drain bug that was introduced in the May (Android 5.1.1) update that was supposed to have been fixed in the Aug 20 update. I'm seeing some feedback on various forums that it is still broken and would recommend keeping an eye on it; the symptoms are the watch will get warm and suddenly drain from full battery over the period of 1-4 hours. 

      I ended up returning my Smartwatch 3 but will be considering buying another when I'm confident all the issues have been ironed out. Unfortunately, my confidence is a resolution was shaken when I went all summer with a smartwatch that was only halfway functional. 

      Hope this helps. 

    • JH02·

      The GPS issue is a hardware defect; moisture will interfere with the GPS accuracy. Sony has said that they will have an updated wristband by December (week 49). 

      • JH02·

        Also, there was / is a battery drain bug that was introduced in the May (Android 5.1.1) update that was supposed to have been fixed in the Aug 20 update. I'm seeing some feedback on various forums that it is still broken and would recommend keeping an eye on it; the symptoms are the watch will get warm and suddenly drain from full battery over the period of 1-4 hours.

  • tate_furman·

    can i pair this with my lg g3??

    • Yakkity·

      Yes, pairs with my LG G3 just fine.

      BTW, it's a great smartwatch but am very interested to see what Sony will bring out in the SW4.

      The wrist strap holder kit seems to be MIA (was due out Q1 or Q2 this year)

  • fleagala·

    Cons: Too large for an average woman. 

  • Kostas·

    can i see photos of my phone on sony smartwatch 3??? ( i have sony xperia E3 )

  • Sidney·

    how is it for swimming and while this, listen to music?

  • Slowride·

    I am looking for a watch that I can wear that can store music and track my runs. I bought the FitBit Surge and I couldn't listen to music (unless I had my phone with me). I now have the TomTom Spark Cardio + Music and it seems okay. You would think for $250 it would at least have color. My question for y'all is with the Sony Smartwatch 3 can I leave my phone at home and go for a run and listen to my music? Or do I have to be paired with my phone in order for it to track my run? I don't really care about it giving me phone notifications and such, I really just want to track my runs and listen to music. The heartrate monitor that comes with the TomTom really isn't a must either.

  • dulgirlrunner·

    I'm trying to find this watch with the metal band but have only found it as International.  The two sites - Newegg and Ebay states it's shipped from Hong Kong.  Why can't I find it to purchase here in the US?  Unfortunately, the shipping reviews for Newegg are awful and the details from Ebay states it's packaged in non-retail packaging which makes me leary.  Any insight on why I can't find it in the US?


  • rojawble·

    Great watch, having lots of connectivity issues with my Xperia - later researched and found many are having these issues and that LG works just fine. Discarding my Xperia and going with LG now ! (This is for those of you who thought Sony devices will talk just fine !)

  • Riahgriffin4· watch was stolen how can I get my gps to find it? 

  • ljwalsh·

    does then sw3 work well with facebook as the softwear on the sw2 has changed and is no longer taking FB notifications

  • Datalux·

    Interesting the Sony Smartwatch 3 is the top pick because it has GPS, but sports a similar form square factor, has a big big bezel, and same 1.6" screen, and 320x320 resolution as the Asus Zenwatch 2 which appears to get lower marks in their reviews.  3 vs. 4 stars.

    The Zenwatch 2 uses industry standard 18 & 22mm watch bands, has an AMOLED screen, built in speaker and is $100-$150 less than the Sony 3 even with the metal watch band.  I don't own either....yet, so I'm just sayin.

  • Aksharma·

    Does the watch work with apple products?

    • interestedinSW3·

      yes it does. Download android wear from the Appstore. 

  • Tlahoty·

    would these watches be cheaper if I bought them in Hong Kong

  • dmsw·

    Along the thread of tracking runs, walks, etc without bringing a phone, is it possible to connect the SW3 directly to a bluetooth heart rate monitor (chest strap, etc)?  I've seen the question come up a few times, but I don't think I see a definitive

    • Madmeekz·

      100% you can! I connect my Polar H7 via ghostracer app whilst playing music to my BT headphones and it always works flawlessly!

  • Exsosus·

    Hi, I wanted to write my own little review for everyone.

    Owned this watch for 3 months now, and its a 4 star rating! I would give 5, except the rubber wrist-band which it comes with wears out at the fastening notch. No matter how much bending that has been done to the metals, the watch simply popps off after a few minutes of pressure against the wrist, once the metal pin becomes worn down. Therefore I recommend the metal wrist strap for better long-term use. For girls, who want the femininie look, there's nothing wrong with ordering a pink colored wrist strap, but order 2 so that when one gets worn down you can replace it.

    Now onto the watch. I'm ordering a metal wrist strap today, and with that said, this watch is a work of art. It integrates 100% with many Android apps, and 90% with all others. So for example when I play Boom Beach and some troops die and I train them up and close the game, the watch buzzes (vibrates) a few minute later stating "Boom Beach: Your troops are now ready!" and when I'm listening to my radio app, which is a specific app for Sweden called Swedish Radio 3 (SR3 App) I have my own volume control on the watch. Wow.  Those two above are examples of 90% integration. Now for 100% integration apps. Check this out! Google maps: I want to navigate to certain store in Stockholm, so I get off the subway train and type in the address in my smartphone. The watch asks 'Go to full screen on naviation?' and I tap 'Go Fullscreen' and voila! Now I navigate from my watch and put my phone into my pocket or backpack. As I come to a turn while walking, the watch buzzes (vibrates) and says 'Turn right in 10 meters' 'Turn right now' and as I walk to right around the corner I am now told by the watch how many more meters before my next turn. It says 'In 110 meters turn right.'. Very nice, very simple. Next Spotify. Do you like Spotify music app? So now with Spotify you can chose your playlist, go forward or backward one song, and chose which Spotify radio station you you want, all from your watch. Pretty awesome right?

    Enjoy. Boys: Get the metal wrist strap.

    Girls: Enjoy your style with a few orders of the rubber one. I'm sorry, it will wear out on you.

    4/5 stars because of the strap. Otherwise this would be a 5.

    • Exsosus·

      Edit: You cannot order the metal arband yet on Sonys accessory website here in Sweden so I'm ordering a set of two new black bands, incase one wears out. Oh well, expensive lifestyle for an athlete, right guys?

  • stefjh·

    Does the SW3 connect to IOS? and will i be able to use the GPS and track runs? i have heard the run tracking apps dont work on IOS?

    • Melanie·

      All Android watches connect to iOS.  (which is more than you can say for the other way around).

  • Madmeekz·

    ***** I've had my SS3 for 6 months and it's the perfect hybrid of smartwatch vs sportswatch. I use my leather strap for work which looks great and keeps me in touch via Andriod Wear. When I go for a run I flip over to my silicone strap, connect my Bluetooth head phones, Bluetooth heartheart rate monitor and it flawlessly tracks and updates to Strava! Best ÂŁ99 I've spent! *****

  • charliecosas·


    I've been using it for 3 months, and I love it, Battery issues doens´t matter for me, I came with a combination of option on/off for some features, And it run fantastic for 3 days. The screen isn't that sharp than others, but offers superb sunligth viewing. Love transflective Capacitive Screen on this watch.

    My used options:

    Gestures on

    Screen always On

    GPS Off (I use the phone gps instead)

    Wifi Off (I use phone data)

    I have a Pacman watchface

    I use regulary :

    Spotify (Browsing and pause/play )

    Endomondo (for keep my bike training updated)

    Google Now for Calling and texting (I have sony bluetooth headphones NWZ-WS613)

    I never used to use watches of any kind, I choose this, beacause I bike daily and need to put away my phone (Sony Z3) beacause my biking clothes doesn´t have room for it.

    So I put it on my bag and get going wireless

    Love my watch!!!

  • PeteD·

    How long does the GPS generally track for before the battery runs flat?

    P.S. Google My Tracks was deprecated some time ago now. Google announced that it will stop working after 30 April 2016.

  • fb_2230186·

    can you use it without hooking it up with a phone. I mainly want it for music.

  • jonfernando·

    Sony watches are now on sale only at SmartwatchOffers;com

  • ankur999·

    can we receive calls on watch and talk ?

  • ankur999·

    can we receive phone calls and revert suitably from watch ?

  • ski·

    does this watch have a call answering option?

    how abt chatting apps like watsapp?

  • PJ54·

    I've never owned a Smart watch.  The description talked about leaving my iphone at home, so does that mean I somehow get calls and music over the watch?

  • aw2xcd·

    No speaker or buzzer. Plugging in the micro usb cable into the socket under the watch is like threading a needle. I haven't had an iWatch but Android wear just seems unpolished and crippled. Won't stay connected to wifi without a phone and when the phone is connected via bluetooth can't connect to anything other than google cloud. And it looks like poo.

  • charlielamb·

    can you listen to music from syncing from iPad 2? And can you make phone calls?

  • Hime·

    its really worthless, it gives nothing better experience than not having a watch, I don't know why I bought it, it helps me with nothing, almost everything that I want to use it's going directly back to my phone, it doesn't have a built-in microphone, and I can't make phone  calls without a Bluetooth, so what's the point? 

    • OnkelPer·

      As a watch it's able to show you the time. It's seem like you didn't know what you was going to do with the watch when you bought it. It does have a built-in microphone, but no speaker.