Sony SmartBand SWR10 review
A jack of all trades, a master of none
- Great design
- Attractive application
- Detailed analystics
- Poor exercise companion
Sony's SmartBand is another wearable unsure of its focus. It fails as an exercise companion because of its limited support, while its diligent approach to phone monitoring is an answer to a question no one has asked. This wearable could benefit from doing fewer things, but doing them well.
Price$ 159.00 (AUD)
Sony’s SmartBand looks like one integrated wristband from afar, but the wearable is actually made of three separate components. There’s a supple rubber band, a bespoke Sony badge and a white pellet nestling in its underside for all of the computing. Peel the arms of the band back and the little pellet easily pops out.
The tiny pellet houses an accelerometer, a near field communications chip, Bluetooth 4.0, a battery and a vibrating motor. It’ll last five days before needing a charge and it only takes half an hour to charge from flat to full.
Sony’s design efforts go a long way in making the SmartBand invisible
Bordering the pellet’s body are three LED indicators, a microUSB charging port and a multi-purpose button. A combination of presses boots the band into different modes: holding it down initiates Night Mode; tapping it twice will ‘Bookmark’ an event; and in music mode it adopts a whole other lingo to work as a remote during playback.
The aim is to wear the SmartBand all hours of the day for an overview on your phone, walking and sleeping habits. Sleeping with the SmartBand isn’t much of a hindrance due to its comfortable design and small footprint. The wearable tipped our digital scales at 19 grams and its rubber body gives more than Jawbone’s UP24 and LG’s LifeBand Touch. Sony’s design efforts go a long way in making the SmartBand an invisible part of everyday life.
Working with your smartphone
Sony recommends the SmartBand be used with its smartphones; however, it is compatible with any Android smartphone. Pairing the SmartBand is easily done over Bluetooth, while smartphones compatible with NFC can tap-to-pair.
More than one application should be installed for the SmartBand to work best with non-Sony smartphones. Sony’s Smart Connect application automates some of the functions of the SmartBand, such as resuming a Bluetooth connection with a smartphone. Requiring its installation is Sony’s way of giving customers a small taste of Sony's flavour in the hope the company will be a contender come upgrade time.
We tested the SmartBand with a Sony Xperia Z2 and an HTC One (M7). It worked fine with the HTC, provided Smart Connect too was installed. The only other shortfall non-Sony users might face is the SmartBand's inability to recognise third-part applications, such as the HTC music player. One way to get around this is to use Google’s native music player.
What does it do?
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Partnering with the band is Sony’s Lifelog application; an interface that pulls together all of the logged information for overview. The application divides the screen real-estate in two, with the bottom half acting as informative tiles, while the top is occupied by a graphical representation of the day’s tasks.
Insights are better displayed on the Sony SmartBand
Some wearables focus on your health and wellbeing by recording how much you exercise, sleep and eat, such as Jawbone’s UP24. Sony’s differs by offering analytics on how much time you spend using the internet or multimedia on your smartphone. This includes: listening to music, watching movies, surfing the web, browsing social networks, reading ebooks, gaming and logging how many photos you have taken.
This multimedia focus is then joined by analytics on your activity levels, including stats on how much time you’ve spent walking or running, how many calories you've burned and information on your sleeping patterns.
Garnered insights are better displayed on the Sony SmartBand because it collates your data over short and long periods of time. You can take a look at your sleeping patterns over the last night or over the last year, and this gives the SmartBand a leg up over less detailed rivals.
Room for improvement
The SmartBand's health focus is undermined by no support for food logging and a weak range of exercises. Exercise enthusiasts will be pained by its rigid approach to healthy living. It’s just not good enough to cater to parts of a need.
It should conform to people’s habits and lifestyles
The SmartBand is IP58 certified, that is certification freshwater 1.5 metres deep for thirty minutes and resistance to dust. Sony should add a swimming mode to the band, in addition to its pledged support for cycling. The band should conform to people’s habits and lifestyles; it shouldn’t be the other way around. Not all hope is lost provided Sony delivers value-adding software updates.
Read more: Sony Xperia T2 Ultra review
"Sony Mobile will collect detailed data about your location, physical activities, app usage, content consumed and your Sony Entertainment Network profile to provide this service." — Sony Mobile's terms and conditions for the Lifelog app
Sony’s approach to logging what you use your smartphone for is far more comprehensive, and we fear its because the company has a vested interest in knowing how you use your smartphone. LifeLog will jot down when you take a photo, how long you spend listening to music or whenever you bookmark a noteworthy event in your life. This is all dandy, but we can’t evade the feeling the SmartBand here is collecting information we don’t need. Perhaps a minority will appreciate these insights in an effort to wean their smartphone usage, but up until now discipline has served humanity well.
Sony’s SmartBand achieves great things in design. It’s one of the most comfortable to wear and the corresponding interface is as functional as it is beautiful. There is a lot to like.
Unfortunately, this is another wearable unsure of its focus. It fails as an exercise companion because of its limited support, while its diligent approach to phone monitoring is an answer to a question no one has asked. Its ability to monitor sleeping patterns is one we revere, but Sony’s SmartBand is one of many capable of discerning deep sleep from light. Sony’s SmartBand is a Jack of all trades, but it is a master of none.
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