As part of Sony’s latest #ICan campaign launching their new range of products, I was asked to test out the Xperia Z3 and Smartwatch 3. Great, I thought, I love trying out new tech, especially if it has a load of new fitness-based functions. The only problem is that to properly give them a full run-through I’d be using them to prepare myself for something I’m not overly keen on doing. An event I’ve taken part in a few years ago that caused me no menial level of distress.
Most of you have probably already heard of Tough Mudder, an 11ish mile obstacle race that sees participants pitting themselves against some frankly ridiculous challenges. The last time I took part I found myself jumping off heights into pools of dark murky water, clambering through a skip full of ice, scaling walls I couldn’t even reach the top of and, by far the worst of them all, being shocked by electric wires. Bear in mind I’m not fond of heights, water, electric shocks or tight spaces, you can see this wasn’t what you might call a treat.
Unfortunately, I’ve never been one to turn down a challenge, I wish I was, truly I wish I was, but alas I seem to have an inability to say no. So once again I have all this to look forward, only this time I know what I’m letting myself in for – and that makes the sleepless nights so much more worse, trust me.
But that’s enough about Tough Mudder, for now. What about the tech? Well I’ve been using the phone and watch for a few weeks so I’ve got a fairly good grasp on the system and functions. I’ve been an Android user for a couple of years now so learning how to use the interface was completely painless and meant I could begin investigating the features held within straight away.
Perhaps one of the most annoying aspects of moving to a new handset is the transfer of information from your previous device to your new one. If you’re already an Android user then the Xperia Z3 makes this process very easy. The Google login will just migrate all of your existing information across whilst setting it up. After just a few minutes you’re ready to go. For iPhone users it won’t be quite so simple. But you probably guessed that.
This is one of the major selling points of the Z3. Primarily because of it impressive 20.7 megapixel, 1/2.3 inch sensor and a faster lens.The ISO sensitivity is also considerably higher which, to non-camera people, means you can take pretty good pictures in the dark. It’s water resistant as well, so you can take in the rain, or if somebody is squirting you with a water pistol. That sort of thing.
To compliment the fancy new camera there a host of interesting apps to play around. Some, like the 4k video, the timeshift video and the timeshift burst, are pretty damn impressive. Getting to grips with them will leave you with some nice looking images and video. Others, like the AR Fun – where you can introduce dinosaurs or elves to your real life video – and the face in picture functions are largely just daft, but will probably keep you busy if you’re on a long commute, or if you have a bored six-year-old.
The Z3 handset is a sleek piece of kit. Slim, shiny, curvy. It’s a lot nicer than most of the handsets I’ve had. The shape means it slips into the pocket easily, just be careful you don’t drop it as the glassy surface is not the most hard wearing. In fact go and buy a case, that’s a good idea. You’ll definitely thank me.
Design-wise it looks great, I actually prefer it to the Apple watch. However in these early days of wearables the world is still trying to work out exactly what to use them for. It’s relatively easy to set-up with your Android phone and there’s a nice range of apps available. However, for the most part you still need to rely on your phone to do anything actually useful on it. So really it’s just a fancy notification system. Or a nice looking watch with a customisable face.
That said, at £112 on Amazon at the moment, it’s a steal if you’re looking for a fitness tracker, and there are some nice Android wear apps appearing that make it an enjoyable piece of kit. Specifically a few puzzle games I’ve been sat playing on a tube, much to the confusion of the other passengers, probably assuming I was some sort of robot from the future. Perhaps the most useful app, if you’re big on your fitness, is Strava. Yes you may need your phone to use it, but if you’re going out for a run or a cycle you don’t want to keep taking it out of your pocket. The watch acts as a nice easy way to see your mileage, or time, which is quite handy. If you have wireless headphones you can also use the internal storage for music. Which means you can use it as a fancy MP3 player if you don’t want to look your phone around.
As a fitness tracker, it’s far superior to most of the bands on the market at the moment, linking effectively with the Lifelog app on the Xperia to tell you various things like steps, activities and sleep patterns. In fact it works far better for the sort of low-level exercise covered by fitness trackers than if you were to use it for any sort of endurance fitness. Largely because of the fact that you need to keep charging it. If you were planning to use it for, say, an Ironman, you may as well tie a piece of bacon on your wrist.
Are they worth getting?
Yes, mostly. The Xperia Z3 is a great option for those Android users amongst you. It’s a smart handset, it’s powerful and the camera really is a sweet piece of kit. The water resistance has also saved me a few times whilst I’ve been out running in the rain or cycling with a sodden backpack on. As for the Smartwatch 3, you could do a lot worse. It’s pretty much equivalent to the kind of features you’ll get from the Apple Watch, and with the reduced cost at present it’s significantly cheaper. But, like I said, smartwatches are far from perfect at the moment. It’s unlikely to change your life. If you’re in the market for a wearable though it’s one of the best options.
For more on the Sony Xperia Z3 and the Smartwatch 3, head on over to the website here.