Now, it's not common for me to do a review I genuinely find difficult. I have done reviews of the Gear s before and got a fair amount of praise for it. This time however we wander back into Android Wear territory as opposed to the (vastly) superior Tizen OS.
Yes that's correct, I still stand by my comment that Tizen is far better suited to wearable tech than Android wear, it just feels more refined, more in touch and more suited to fast access to the information you want. Unfortunately tho, Samsung in their wisdom decided the Gear S will only be supported on Galaxy devices. This move is one I do not agree with as the Gear s is so far advanced when compared to any Android wear, all Samsung did was deny themselves sales.
Specs. (as always taken from sonymobile.co.uk)
In the field of Android wear, the SmartWatch 3 is one of the higher end devices, which is strange when you consider it was £89 on a special offer from O2. One of very few devices to have full GPS tracking, the SmartWatch 3 is used by many in the sports field for providing location tracking as well as synching to apps such as Sony Life log. It's sturdy rubberised strap keeps the watch in place and more importantly, is comfy to wear for long periods, something that many wearable manufacturers find hard.
You can get a choice of straps, from coloured rubber, leather and metal options too. Whatever your style, there's a look to match it.
Setting up Android wear can be a bit of a pain in the..... but rolling back to different versions of Wear sorts out one major annoyance. Once your phone has been turned on it asks you to verify the correct pin on the phone then starts the installation from phone to watch. During this time you are treated to some information screens and some hints on how to use the watch.
After a few minutes you are then taken to the Android Wear home page where you can go into your watch settings and customise the face.
Some of these faces allow customisation to a certain level but for true freedom you have to go to the play store where you can get free or paid faces or even apps that allow you to make a face. I downloaded this one.
Just cuz really...
The home page also shows you a bunch of recommended apps for you to install on your watch, with 4GB of storage you have plenty of room.
The watch also allows use as a passthrough for your music, either stored on your phone or from cloud services such as Google play music, the apps give you the option of syncing your music to the watch, where you can stream the music to your Bluetooth headphones or speakers. Great for if you want to go out sans phone and want access to your music.
You also have the option of connecting to your WiFi allowing notifications if away from your phone, I'm sure this cloud connection is useful to some but I found no use for it, however the WiFi connection allowed much quicker Connectivity than Bluetooth so at least I got some use out of it.
This is the one thing I really can't get on with, with Android wear... Bloody cards you swipe in directions to do certain things. This is where the Tizen OS walks all over Android. If I get a text or email, I don't want to have to scroll up, tap then swipe it away or the other direction for options, I want it like Tizen, I get a text, it pops up, I tap it. Job done! Why Google keep ramming this "card system" down our throats I will never know. It's cumbersome and not user friendly, especially when Google chooses what it thinks you want to know.
Ok Google works like a charm on these wear devices, I'm not sure what magic beans Google sow in their yard, but the voice recognition in Android wear is spot on, allowing replies to texts, emails, Web searches, and a range of other uses, the system works really really well.
As well as telling you the time, the watch can do pretty much as much as an app will allow it.
GPS tracking, remote camera operation, browser, remote music player, health monitor, yada yada yada. Basically, anything the others can do, Android wear can too.
I found the watch to be quite fast and responsive, it's ARM A7 Quad core processor easily handled any task thrown at it and along with 512mb ram, it's well specced to handle most future updates and applications. The battery easily lasted a full day and a half of heavy use, considering I charge all my devices overnight, this wasn't ever an issue. However, using WiFi and GPS will reduce this life by a fair chunk, if you don't need it, don't use it.
I'd love nothing more than to say this SmartWatch wow'd me as much as the Gear S, but it just didn't. For all its positives I just feel that the installed Wear OS is lacking the finesse of Tizen, and still feels "beta". Don't get me wrong, I do like it, and bang for buck it far exceeds the Gear, but in the world of Smartwear if you're gonna release one device a year, make it count. There's nothing wrong with the SmartWatch 3, nothing at all. It just feels less in touch with what I want from a SmartWatch than the Gear.
However,... Bear in mind, one of them was £219, one was £89
Taking that on board, it's exceptional quality and you'll get no buyers remorse for taking the plunge.
Nice review as always @viridis.
Interesting to hear the difference between the Gear and the Sony - would be worth a comparison in more depth as to what they both do (and how) and what each does the other doesn't.
I am considering getting some form of smartwatch, but was put off by the price of some devices (considering you can get some for less than £20 on Amazon). Would you say this is worth the extra?
Battery life is (as per the norm) the one area that is a big concern. Would be better if it lasted 3-4 days per charge, but considering how much it does there is a trade off.
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