Sony SmartWatch 4: what we want to see

Update: Sony has revealed that while it’s still looking at the smartwatch space it has no plans to launch a new one until it can bring something genuinely compelling to the market, so don’t expect to see a SmartWatch 4 any time soon.

Years after launch, the Sony SmartWatch 3 remains a competent Android Wear smartwatch.

That’s because it’s stuffed with useful, future-proof features that, even today, are only just starting to become commonplace, like built-in GPS, waterproofing, NFC and Wi-Fi capabilities.

But, as the world of wearables keeps advancing and, in doing so, producing some truly innovative and gorgeous timepieces, there’s never been a better time for the Sony SmartWatch 4 to share the same stage.

That said, it looks like Sony has put its wearable ambitions on hold, telling us that: “there’s still not a sufficient solution for the end user from a technological point of view. With the watch you have to charge it every day, which is unnatural for a watch.

“Until we find a good, technological solution – or a form factor solution – to make these things feel natural to wear, we’ll keep looking at [the wearables sector].”

So it sounds like a SmartWatch 4 may come one day, but not until Sony can make something really worthwhile. With that in mind, we’ve set our sights on the future and come up with a wishlist of what we hope to see in Sony’s next smartwatch.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? The next Android Wear smartwatch from Sony
  • When is it out? Possibly never
  • What will it cost? Upwards of $299/£210/AU$420 – if it ever launches

Sony SmartWatch 4

A gym and office-friendly design

The Sony SmartWatch 3 is a slick looking wearable, but most would agree that it was crafted more with the sporty type in mind. The rubbery strap that comes included is minimalistic and offers an understated fashion statement, if that’s what you’re going for. But, it can’t compete with today’s classier competitors, like the Apple Watch 2, Huawei Watch 2 Classic and LG Watch Style.

Sure, owners with a little more cash can splurge on the stainless steel strap and frame to elevate it to Pebble Time-levels of style. But then the cost also shoots way up.

For the Sony SmartWatch 4, we’d like to see a more attractive blend of both sporty and regal looks. And if that means that we need to shell out an extra US$50 (£34, AU$70) on a more refined, universally-appealing design, that’s fine by us.

More accurate and efficient GPS

During our testing of the SmartWatch 3, we loved leaving our phones behind and taking advantage of its built-in GPS. But, on the flipside of this cool feature are a few serious downsides: the sensor’s accuracy and its impact on the wearable’s battery.

We found that the distance tracked via GPS tended to differ quite a bit with what our phones would report, sometimes to the point that we didn’t know which one to believe.

Hopefully, the SmartWatch 4 receives the hardware improvements necessary to ensure a more accurate tracking experience. Additionally, here’s to hoping that Android Wear continues to improve along with it.

The other downside of built-in GPS, in this case, is the big hit it makes on battery life. Our tests showed that the battery dropped as much as 10% in 24 minutes of GPS use.

If exercise is a big part of your life, we’re alongside you in hoping that the minds behind Sony’s next iteration have improved the battery efficiency of the built-in GPS feature to bring us more like a 20% drop in three hours’ use – like ‘proper’ running watches.

Android Pay

Android Pay support

Having NFC built into a smartwatch is, even to this day, a feature that can really help it stick out against its competitors. Sony was forward-thinking to implement this feature into the SmartWatch 3, but unfortunately, it’s been sorely under-utilized.

The introduction of Android Pay alongside Android Marshmallow saw many SmartWatch 3 owners excited to finally be able to make wireless “tap” payments. But, alas, we’re yet to see Android Pay arrive on this wearable.

We’ll have to wait and see if it makes it to the Sony SmartWatch 4, if and when such a device launches.

Built-in speaker

Google added support for audio feedback in Android Wear v1.4, which means that wearables with speakers can make noise. Imagine how convenient it would be to listen to music or take a call straight from your wrist (fellow passengers on the commute’s feelings aside)?

So far, few Android Wear watches come with a speaker built into the timepiece, but we’d love to see one in the next Sony SmartWatch.

Sony SmartWatch 4

An awesome-r battery

The 420mAh battery packed inside the SmartWatch 3 is more juice than you’ll find in the similarly old Huawei Watch, or the LG Watch Urbane. In addition to having a higher battery capacity than its competitors, it can also last longer: up to two days, depending on how you use it.

Ideally, a smartwatch is something that you should make a habit out of wearing, not charging. This is, by far, the weakest link of many of the best smartwatches, but wasn’t as much of an issue here (except when using GPS). We’re hoping that Sony continues to push the bar high with what it has coming next.

More sensors

The SmartWatch 3 is a smartwatch, through and through. But there was a time when it also made our list of the best fitness trackers out there, too, a balance that many smart wearables struggle with.

The built-in GPS, gyroscope, and accelerometer allow for fairly in-depth tracking, but we’d love to see Sony push even more sensors inside the SmartWatch 4. Noticeably lacking is the optical heart rate sensor and the altimeter, which can track your heart rate, and your altitude, respectively.

This would give it the complete set of abilities we’re looking for from today’s smartwatches – let’s hope Sony takes note.

Sony SmartWatch 4

Go cellular

An Android Wear device with Wi-Fi capabilities is like a bird with unclipped wings that’s still locked in a cage. Adding cellular access to the SmartWatch 4 will allow it to operate over a cellular signal while untethered from your smartphone.

Plus, it might not be practical, or even necessary for some users, but we’ll always take more features over fewer if it improves the smartwatch experience.

Better charging method

Smartwatches are built to be as appealing as possible, but making an intuitive charging port continues to be an area that only a few hardware engineers can get right.

If wireless charging is the way of the future, then Sony’s SmartWatch 3 is stuck in the past. The micro USB port requires too much effort to hook up and it just feels cumbersome, as it lacks any magnetic guides to make the process easier.

Sony SmartWatch 4

Fixing this could be an easy win for the SmartWatch 4 and make it look much cooler than some rivals.

iOS-compatible fitness app

Many Android Wear smartwatches now have a certain amount of iOS compatibility.

But determining which Android Wear smartwatches offer compatibility with the iPhone out-of-the-box is totally up to Google, not Sony. So, with that, there is no guarantee that it will actually happen.

With that in mind, we’d love it if Sony would at least create an iOS app that can automagically transfer fitness data from the SmartWatch 4 onto an iPhone 7, or iPad Pro. It’s hard to say exactly how Sony would go about recording then converting its fitness data into something that Apple Health can digest, but we’re hopeful that it’ll figure it out.

Sony SmartWatch 4

It’s hip to be a square

Some might feel differently, but we think the SmartWatch 4 should hang onto the square design. Come on. It’s rather charming, don’t you think?

OK, it’s a little tough to defend the form factor, especially when the gorgeous Huawei Watch 2 has a seamless, circular display without the maligned flat tire found on the Moto 360. But, if anything, keeping the square design will help it stand out against the others.


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This article and images was originally posted on TechRadar 






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