Sony SmartWatch 3 v Samsung Gear S

We pitch Sony's new smartwatch against Samsung's flagship timepiece
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The Sony SmartWatch 3 and Samsung Gear S are set to go head-to-head this Christmas, as both brand new smartwatches hit the stores nearly simultaneously.

Sony has been in the smartwatch game for a while now, and the Japanese brand's latest wrist worn wearable, the Sony SmartWatch 3, is about to hit shelves and it has the makings of one impressive device. Meanwhile Samsung has been pumping out Gear branded watches, with six being released in just one year.

Essential reading: Samsung Gear S2 review

With more and more Android Wear devices hitting the market, it's looking like the perfect time to jump on board. But, Android Wear isn't the only new operating system looking to take pride of place on your wrist.

Tizen is the OS of choice for the majority of Samsung's wearables, which is headlined by the all singing, all dancing Gear S, along with the slightly more subdued Gear 2 Neo.

So, is it the Sony SmartWatch 3 or Samsung Gear S that deserves your hard-earned wearable cash? Let's take a look.

Sony vs Samsung: Apps and OS


The Sony SmartWatch 3 runs Android Wear and it's the first time Sony has ditched its proprietary software for a smartwatch. Was it a choice well made? Definitely. Don't get us wrong, Android Wear is far from perfect, but Google looks like they'll be giving us regular software updates and lots of new features, and they don't seem to be leaving any devices behind.

If you classed Android Wear as an extension of your phone's OS, then Tizen software that runs on the Samsung is more like a full blown operating system in itself. Tizen lets you read full emails, reply - using a comically tiny keyboard - and there's even a web-browser being built especially for the little device. Android Wear isn't quite as fully featured, it's there for you to glance at incoming emails, rather than creating new ones.

Wareable verdict: Samsung Gear S review

While Tizen is certainly much more feature-rich than Android Wear, you'll need a Samsung device running Android 4.3 to get going, which severely limits its appeal.

There are around 1,000 fully-featured apps for Tizen watches, including big hitters like Endomondo and Facebook, so it's not really lacking in that department. Android Wear also has a growing selection of apps and a more vibrant developer community, so we'll call it evens in the apps department for now at least.

Sony vs Samsung: Health


Sony's Smartwatch 3 is one of the first Android Wear watches to come packing a GPS sensor, making it infinitely better for runners because of increased accuracy and step counting.

Most Wear watches so far have packed a basic pedometer, but we've often found them to be anything but accurate. The latest update will also let you store music tunes on the internal storage of the watch offline, so in theory you could leave your phone at home and just take your watch out running – something that the Samsung Gear S also enjoys.

Must download: Best Sony SmartWatch 3 apps

Fitness features are also highly touted on the Gear S and it boasts an array of sensors, again including GPS. Everything is tied to the S Health app, which is fully featured on the watch and lets you check your daily stats, map your runs and even keep a track of your heart rate. All of this can then be synced back to S Health app on your Samsung phone. The Gear Neo also boasts a heart rate sensor and pedometer, so you can ditch that fitness band.

Sony v Samsung: Hardware


When it comes to comparing hardware, there's only really one part that matters: the screen. With a 2-inch curved AMOLED display, the Samsung Gear S not only prevails over the Sony, but every smartwatch out there.

The Sony's lack of AMOLED hurts the visuals, and could impact on battery life – and it's certainly underwhelming against many of its Android Wear cohort.

We could talk processor size, RAM and so on...but it's not really all that important in the smartwatch world for now.

Sony v Samsung: Notifications


Smartwatches are all about giving you glanceable information on your wrist, letting your smartphone stay tucked away in your pocket unless there's something vital that needs your attention.

Android Wear on the Sony SmartWatch 3 alerts you to incoming calls, texts, emails and any of the notifications that ping your phone countless times throughout the day. You can't really do much with these, apart from swiping them away and opening them up on your phone and you can't search through old notifications after the fact, once they're dismissed, they're gone.

Tizen does notifications a bit more conventionally and if you use the native Samsung text and email apps on your phone, you can reply to messages right from your watch with the built in keyboard. You can also answer and make calls directly from the watch, Dick Tracy style. What sets the Gear S apart from the Gear Neo is the SIM slot, letting you make calls even when you're not connected to a phone. However, you need a SIM card to make it work, so this will mean two data plans in the UK at least, and a separate phone number – not ideal.

Sony v Samsung: Price


Both these devices are at the top end of the smartwatch spectrum, with the Sony SmartWatch 3 one of the priciest Android Wear devices yet. The inclusion of GPS has pushed the cost up and it'll set you back £185.

However, that price is much lower than the Gear S, which due to its large, curved screen and SIM slot has a RRP of £329, a price much more inline with what we expect to see from Apple's Watch when it launches early next year. If you're looking for a cheaper Tizen-toting smartwatch, the Gear 2 Neo can be had for £160.

Sony v Samsung: Verdict

Android Wear vs Tizen is likely to be a big deciding factor on whether you plump for the Gear S or the Sony SmartWatch 3. The Samsung Gear S certainly packs the pick of the tech, but the need for a Samsung handset and a separate SIM card slot will seriously limit its adoption.

With Google doubling down on new features for its own OS, the Sony SmartWatch 3 and its built-in GPS and storage for music certainly looks a strong contender – even if the screen leaves a lot to be desired.

More Android Wear guides...

How to set up and connect Android Wear

Android Wear hidden secrets, tips and tricks

Best apps for Android Wear

How to install and use apps on Android Wear

How we test


Max Parker is an experienced technology journalist. He's the editor of Trusted Reviews, and has worked for Wareable, T3 and more.

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