Fitbit and Jawbone dominate the fitness tracker market right now, but Sony hopes to change that with its SmartBand wristband. Like many fitness bands, Sony’s gadget can track how many steps you take, the number of calories you burn each day, and how well you sleep.
Although the SmartBand looks a lot like its competitors, Sony has taken a slightly different approach in both the band’s design and its accompanying app. Rather than simply spitting out stats and data charts, Sony’s LifeLog app organizes your daily activity into a colourful, visual timeline of your day that you can play back. The band itself is easily interchangeable, meaning you’ll be able to switch out your plain black band for a wide variety of colours and designs.
The Sony SmartBand is now available in the US for $US99 (or for a little cheaper through Amazon). Sony’s first attempt at a fitness tracker is well-equipped to rival the likes of Fitbit and Jawbone, but it doesn’t offer anything more than either of those devices.
How It Works
The Sony SmartBand is powered by a tiny module Sony calls the Core. This Core includes all the sensors the band uses to collect information about you.
The tiny module fits securely into the band, but can also be popped out very easily and placed in a different wrist strap.
The SmartBand is available in black and lime green as a special for the World Cup, but Sony also sells coloured bands separately in packs of three for $US24.99.
Colours that are currently available include orange, navy blue, light pink, hot pink, yellow, purple, and white. At CES and Mobile World Congress, Sony showed off dozens of attractive designs with different colours and patterns too.
The SmartBand syncs with your Android phone to provide a handful of stats, such as how many steps you took that day, what your sleeping patterns are like, how many calories you’ve burned, and more.
The SmartBand doesn’t have a tiny screen on it like some other fitness trackers, so you’ll have to check your phone to keep track of your progress and the time. It can, however, buzz your wrist to alert you when there’s an incoming phone call, which proved quite useful.
Since the SmartBand is designed to be swapped out easily, the band itself is pretty flexible which makes it comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
For a period of about two weeks, I wore the fitness tracker comfortably throughout the workday and while sleeping. After about a day, I could barely tell the device was there.
Setting up the SmartBand is easy too. I used NFC to pair the Core with my Galaxy S5, but it can also sync via Bluetooth if you’re not using a phone that supports NFC. The Core buzzes to alert you that it’s properly paired.
The band’s design is minimalistic and simple. There’s only one button on it that’s used to control all of the band’s functions.
The real brains behind Sony’s SmartBand is its LifeLog app. The app does exactly what its name implies — it keeps track of almost everything you do. This means it not only logs your burned calories and how many steps you’ve taken, but it also tracks photos you’ve taken, games you’ve played, and books you’ve read.
You can also add Life Bookmarks by either tapping the symbol within the LifeLog app or pressing the button on the band twice. This creates a bookmark in your LifeLog timeline. So, for example, you could take a photo at an event and record the date and time, add notes, and store it in your timeline.
The app packages all of this information in a colourful interface that breaks down data into different categories and presents it in a timeline. Pressing the play button will play back a visual representation of your day, from when you woke up straight until the end of your evening.
Since there’s only one button on the SmartBand, however, it can get a little confusing if you plan to manually switch between day and night mode or capture bookmarks. Luckily, you can set the band to automatically switch into night mode by going into the app’s settings. Night mode tells the SmartBand that you’re sleeping so that it can prepare to monitor your sleep activity rather than your steps.
The SmartBand’s battery life proved to be fantastic however. During a two-week period, I barely had to charge the Core.
The Sony SmartBand is a comfortable, customisable fitness tracker for Android devices. I really like the idea of being able to put the Core in different bands as I please, but in general some of the information it provides isn’t very useful.
The LifeLog app is colourful and exciting, but it doesn’t really offer much of interest beyond its appearance.
The fact that I took a photo or played a mobile game on my phone didn’t really provide much value for me overall. I’d much rather see Sony focus more of its efforts on building more fitness functionality into the Core. For example, other fitness trackers such as the FitBit are able to keep track of how many flights of stairs you’ve climbed throughout the day.
That being said, I definitely found the SmartBand useful as a sleep tracker. The LifeLog app easily outlines information such as the amount of time I spent in deep sleep rather than light sleep throughout the night, and presents it in an easy to read graph.
But you can still do this with other fitness trackers on the market. There are really only two things that make the SmartBand different than its competitors: the fact that you can easily switch out the bands and the timeline within the LifeLog app. Some people may enjoy these features, but for me it’s not necessarily enough to choose Sony over the competition.
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