Review: Sony SmartBand 2 (SWR12)

Lifelog is the better way of viewing what you’re doing, providing an animated representation of yourself as you walk, run, and sit in vehicles in your regular daily life. This is a fairly slick app that is reminiscent of folded paper and lets you drag back through your time to see what you were doing with animations.

The app integrates with everything you’re doing on the device, so if you stop to play a game, it will count it with an app icon, and if you stop to take a picture, it will show that with an icon, too.

That means this is an update of the original Lifelog, which did much the same thing.


Aside for the cute animations — which have been refreshed from the original and are now even easier on the eyes — you’ll be able to dig into you’re stats a little more, finding how you’ve been walking, running, how far you’ve gone, and how you’ve slept.


It doesn’t always feel ironclad, though, and we found our sleeping patterns weren’t always accurate, with the time blown out on some of the tracking by several hours. One night, we knew we had slept for only five or six hours, but eight was the time Sony had tracked, making us wonder if it had picked up on the slight movement and changes to heart-rate when we had woken up.


At least the notifications are consistent, because if you dive into the SmartBand 2 app, you’ll find options to get notifications from calls, messages, and any app you choose.

That’s a neat inclusion, because it means you can tailor your constantly vibrating wrist to a not-quite-as vibrating wrist.

One thing that does confuse us is the set of three LEDs on the side, with the button next to it. The button is pretty easy, and can tell the SmartBand 2 when you’re in and out of sleep depending on how long you hold it for. It used to be the way you switched the SmartBand into sleep mode, but now that’s automatic, so that’s fine.

But the LEDs seem to suggest they’re a battery meter, counting up to three with small pauses, and yet it in no way reflects the battery meter. If you have 60 percent or 20 percent of your battery left, it will always count up to three. And sure, it looks like a battery meter, but it definitely isn’t which is rather curious.


Battery life

Surprisingly, there’s one thing Sony has nailed in guessing, and that’s the battery life. In the original product information, Sony suggested a runtime of “two days”, which we thought might have been conservative when Sony mentioned it, but it turns out it’s a spot-on estimation.

Unfortunately, that’s not a good thing.

Unless we’re talking about a smartwatch, two days is not a good life for a wearable, and we even expect more out of a smartwatch.

For a wearable without a screen to make two days down from five in the original, we take issue, and that’s one of the major problems with the Sony SmartBand 2.

Simply put, its battery life is a joke, with the heart-rate sensor working so often that the five day battery life of the original gets cut in half. A little more than half, actually.

Strangely, you can get the same five days as the last generation, but you have to turn Sony’s battery-saving Stamina mode on with the SmartBand 2, and that just switches off the heart-rate sensor, turning the SmartBand 2 into the SmartBand 1.

Seriously, we’re not even going to talk about that point, especially when the new model cost $40 more than the original.

At least charging is easy.
At least charging is easy.


And that leads us to what you get for your money, and the truth of the matter is not a whole lot.

Simply put, your smartphone has much of the technology inside, and if it were our dollar, we’d probably opt for a better fitness gadget either for a little more money or made from another fitness gadget maker because the value on a Fitbit or Jawbone or even a smartwatch is going to be so much better.

At $199, it’s hard to make a case for Sony’s SmartBand 2 because it doesn’t bring much of anything to the table that should make up that price.

In fact the first SmartBand has been out for long enough that you could probably find it for far less, and if you exclude the heart-rate sensor — which doesn’t do a whole lot — it’s basically the same thing.

What needs work

Despite the issues with battery life and value, we can see what Sony is trying to do with the SmartBand 2, building upon the simplicity of the original version from a couple of years ago (2014) and adding to it.

Unfortunately for Sony, however, these updates aren’t enough. Not nearly.

In fact, the updates are minor and don’t help the second-generation SmartBand in any real way, outside of telling you what your heart rate is, which may well be ramped up if you’re a Sony executive reading this review.


Here’s the thing: in the two years since the first Sony SmartBand turned up, we’ve seen some pretty interesting gadgets in the fitness wearable space, and while Sony’s is still one of the smallest, it is bringing absolutely nothing unique to the table.

Small size? Fitbit has it. Heart-rate tracking? Nearly every brand offers the same technology in some way or another, be it through green lights, chest bands, or galvanic skin sensors. Water resistance? Not new either.

A core that can be removed from the band and shifted to another wrist band? Nope again.

And these are just some of the problems with the Sony SmartBand 2, as it brings nothing majorly new to the table for $40 more than the original unit.

The one positive thing? You can stick the new SmartBand 2 core into the old and easier to wear SmartBand strap.
The one positive thing? You can stick the new SmartBand 2 core into the old and easier to wear SmartBand strap.

Ok, sure, it technically brings a new heart rate sensor that the original didn’t have — that’s true — and there’s some waterproofing here the original didn’t have thanks to that work Sony has with the waterproof microUSB ports on the Xperia handsets, but that’s it.

You even get a more complicated and slightly clunkier band. Thankfully, the new unit is the exact same size as the original, so if you have one, you can use that far more simple strap.

So what needs work on the Sony SmartBand 2?

Pretty much everything, because while it’s not terrible, it’s also not special. It’s just meh with a deep sigh. There’s no reason to pick this over another fitness gadget.

Not for this price. If it were under a hundred, it might make more sense, but this just feels like Sony isn’t even trying, and given how aggressive the competition is in this space, it probably should be.



With little that separates it from the crowd, there isn’t much of a reason to pick Sony’s SmartBand 2 over the rest of the fitness gadgets, except maybe if you loved the original so much and wanted a little more information about yourself.

Even with that reason, though, you’re exchanging battery life for a feature that isn’t a huge leap, and we’re not sure that’s worth it.

Frankly, we’d stick with the original if you have one, because almost a week of life with no heart-rate tracking is better than two days of life with some at all. Factor that in with an app that looks better but doesn’t track as well and the idea that this model somehow costs more and you have very little reason to update.

Seriously, stick with the old model if you have it, because Sony sure has, with little to no work to make its SmartBand better. This is just an update to more of the same, and two years on, it’s not impressing anyone.

Value for money
Ease of Use
Reader Rating0 Votes
Tiny; Waterproof USB port; Compatible with iOS and Android; You no longer specifically need the Lifelog app to make it work; Includes a heart-rate sensor; Gives you notifications of calls and messages;
Nothing remarkable or unique about the SmartBand 2; Terrible battery life for a fitness band only; More clunky wrist strap; If you don’t use the Lifelog app, your stats are fairly simple; Sleep tracking isn’t always accurate; Power lights seem like they should be a battery check… and yet aren’t; Seems overpriced for its lack of individuality;