In the past few months, there’s been a sudden wave of fitness-focussed smartwatches and smartbands. Jumping on to the bandwagon, Sony also launched its new SmartBand SWR10, which comes bundled for free with the Z2. The company hasn’t limited its use to only Sony phones, and any Android device running 4.4 KitKat and supports Bluetooth LE and NFC can use it. Sony has also ensured that the device stays within your reach and priced it at Rs 5,990, but don't expect a Samsung Gear-like smartwatch at that price.
It appears to be more like the FitBit, rather than the Gear series. It is basically an activity tracker for fitness freaks, and not a mainstream smartwatch that is looking to bring a smartphone experience to your wrist. After living a couple of weeks with the device and using it with the Xperia Z2, here’s what we have to say.
Design and build
Sony’s Smartband is quite simple looking. We got our hands on the black-coloured band that appeared to be a bit dull, but discrete enough to go unnoticed. You will get a slew of other colour options too, like bright pink, orange and yellow, to name a few. But if you plan to make a style statement using the band, then the Nike Fuelband or Jawbone are definitly be more stylish.
The bracelet or strap is built of silicone rubber and is highly flexible. The belt is adjustable and should fit all sizes. Moreover, it is IP58-certified and can withstand submersion up to up to 5-feet of water for up to 30 minutes. It did survive a 10-minute drizzle, when we used it. However, the band does attract dust to a certain extent, making it look old quickly.
This strap is simply the housing for what Sony calls the ‘core’ - a small rectangular plasticky device that is housed inside the strap. It features just one button with three minute LED indicators. On the side, one will find the USB charging dock.
While the SmartBand won’t score high when it comes to the design, but the most notable thing is how light it is. One can almost forget that you're wearing it all day and night. The core weighs a mere 6 g and together with the strap, the SmartBand weighs barely 20 grams.
Features and Performance
To begin with, the Sony Smartband is similar to the Fitbit and doesn’t feature a display. So, you will need a smartphone to view all the data. Though one can use it with any compatible Android smartphone, it will require Sony’s ‘LifeLog’ app. LifeLog is the brain of the device that works in tandem with the core. The core captures all the data and transmits it to the app, but not in real time. Besides, you will also need the SmartBand app that lets you pair the device and tweak the settings of the band. Setting up the device was hassle free using NFC and Bluetooth.
The LifeLog app comes with a neat interface that is divided into two parts. The upper section displays a colourful visual timeline that shows your daily activities like sleeping, walking, running, travelling, and even the weather condition is displayed in the background.
Just below the timeline, you will find several a grid of colours, each box pertaining to a certain activity. Here users can check how many hours they were engaged in a particular activity. This also includes non-exercise activities as the device is also capable of tracking the time you spent on the web, social networks, gaming or listening to music. You can set a goal for each of the activity. For instance, we set 30 minutes of cycling goal. So, once you tap on cycling, you can view how long you’ve cycled and if you’ve achieved the goal. You can check the cycling history for over a week and even a month, to gauge your performance. It offers a neat graphical representation too.
Besides tracking steps, calories, running, walking and digital activities, you can also a new activity or even delete an activity you don’t want tracked. This way the app looks clutter-free, allowing you to view information that is important for you. Apart from your day activities, it also tracks your sleeping patterns like how many hours you’ve slept, how many hours the sleep was deep or light.
The single core button offers several shortcuts, trying to make up for the lack of the display. The button can also be used to control a few functions on the smartphone such as call and message alerts and also serves as music control. The button can also be used with apps like camera and Find Phone location service. You need to enable these options using the Smartband app.
Smartband lets you automatically set the day or night modes, depending upon what time you sleep. It can also be changed manually by long pressing the button on the core. To check the mode at any time, users can also press the button once, if the three LEDs blink in succession then it’s day mode, and if alternately then it's in night mode.
Another notable fact is that the device is a standalone tracker, and doesn’t need to be around your phone all the time. For instance, you can go for a run and come and then sync the device with your phone. Then there’s the bookmark option that allows users to bookmark a location, date and time by double pressing the button.
It accurately detected our digital activity, like how many photos we clicked, when we used social networks or mobile web and so on. The UI is very slick, and you can go back to check what you were doing at any particular moment. It is a great way of tracking the sleeping pattern, and improving your wake-up times.
It is pretty decent at tracking activities, but that doesn’t mean it is flawless. It tracked our steps all the time, but the problem arises when you take up activities other than running or walking. For instance, one of the days, it detected we were cycling, but we were in another mode of transport. It couldn’t really differentiate our time in an auto rickshaw from our cycling. This is where the software needs to work, as the device needs to accurately gauge the difference between slow-moving vehicles and a bicycle. On a full charge, the battery lasted a little over three days.
Verdict and pricing
Firstly, the band is extremely comfortable to wear. Within a couple of hours, we almost forget that we are wearing one. The subtle black colour and simple design kept it away from inquisitive eyes. While the Sony SmartBand has ticked most of the boxes right, it still has its flaw when it comes to accuracy. This seems to be a common problem with tracking activity wearables, and Sony could probably work at making the tracking software more accurate through firmware updates.
Though we didn’t really miss the display, given the price of the device, there were several moments when we seriously did miss it. For instance, when we left the phone home while on a run or submitted it at the counter before entering the gym. In these cases, a display, even a small one, would have been handy.
In a nutshell, the SmartBand is great for those looking for an activity tracker alone, and want to track their daily exercise routine better. It does allow you to do a little more, but it's scope is limited by its fitness features.
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