As the categories of smartwatches and fitness trackers converge, the big electronics companies are scrambling to find the right mix of features for tech-savvy fitness buffs. The new Sony SmartWatch 3 is a GPS-enabled smartwatch that pairs with Android smartphones and offers some very basic cycling features.
Unlike some smartwatches that are basically just remote screens for paired smartphones, the SmartWatch 3 has its own GPS sensor, and when using the iFit Outside Android Wear app, offers basic ride-tracking information without a smartphone in your jersey pocket. However, the depth of data available on this device pales in comparison to the performance of a dedicated GPS cycling computer or multisport watch. With iFit Outside, you just get simple distance, speed, time and route information, which can be uploaded to various sites.
You can also use the SmartWatch 3 as a remote for apps on your Android phone, paired on Bluetooth 4.0. We tested Strava on the SmartWatch 3. It is easy to navigate to the start screen on the touchscreen, then start, stop and upload the ride — while the paired Android phone is doing all the work. The information shown on the SmartWatch screen is limited to time and speed. So why not just use the app on the phone by itself?
The SmartWatch 3 largely acts as a remote for a paired Android smartphone
The SmartWatch 3 can be set to display all sorts of notifications from your phone: text, email, calendar, social media, etc. And you can activate it with voice and touch.
The resolution is good at 320x320 pixels on the 1.6in color touchscreen. The battery lasts about two days on a one-hour charge
The SmartWatch 3 is water resistant, but the performance in the rain is fairly comical, as water plays havoc on the sensitive touchscreen.
There are a few players in the competitive landscape, with most of the fitness features pointed at running instead of cycling. The Magellan Echo pairs with iPhones and has more of a running-watch look, feel and performance. The Apple Watch does not have GPS, and instead relies on having a paired iPhone for GPS and other connectivity. The FitBit Surge is similar to the SmartWatch 3, as a smartwatch with some running-centric fitness options and built-in GPS, plus a built-in heart-rate monitor. Tangentially to smartwatches but perhaps more to the point for cyclists, the Wahoo RLFKT is a handlebar-mounted 'reflector' for those who want to use their iPhone as their cycling computer while keeping it in the jersey pocket.
In the long run, smartwatches could develop enough features to appeal to riders. But for now, those looking for cycling data on the fly are better off using dedicated devices — or just using the smartphone by itself.
The iFit Outside app uses the build-in GPS and functions without a smartphone, but only offers basic information