A great start: Sony’s Smartband reviewed

You might struggle to work out why anyone would want that, but the reason we come to is this: if a wearable can tell you how much of your day is procrastination compared to things that are relevant and useful, you can change your patterns and improve your life, finding time used for something like gaming or web surfing and choosing to use it for something else.

There is also a neat little animation showing what you’re doing through the course of a day in a way that is actually fun to look at.

Basically, it will show you walking, running, or sleeping throughout the day, as the weather changes — sun, clouds, and rain — with circles above your head at different times to highlight what you’ve been doing. If you played a lot of music, you’ll see a big music icon, and if you did a little social networking, a small icon for that.

You can even play this back as an animation, and see where you were on a map, adding to the fun of it all.

All of this helps to make the Sony Smartband an intriguing concept, and one we haven’t seen any fitness band maker get behind quite in the same way, but it does come with some interesting issues.

For starters, not every application is tracked.

You’ll notice this especially with new games or when things are running in the background. As an example, the new Android game “Hitman Go” was ignored by Sony’s Lifelog system, and playing music back through Google Play over Bluetooth earphones with the screen off didn’t register as music playback at all, beyond the initial loading of the playlist, that is.

Information can’t be easily shared, either, with no real connection to a social network.

You might feel you want to share your sleep with the world, or how many steps you completed yesterday, but for the moment, Sony appears to be forcing you to keep this to yourself, with no connections to either Twitter or Facebook.

That’s an interesting omission, too, as a membership to Sony’s Entertainment Network — the one used for the PlayStation systems and the Music Unlimited services — seems to be required for the Smartband, so it can obviously connect to a service, just that it doesn’t have the capability to work on anything more than Sony’s network just yet.

The Smartband’s reliance on a piece of software isn’t unusual either, but it’s release on only one platform is, with Google’s Android being the requirement at the present time.

At least it’s a better approach than Samsung’s “you must own a Samsung phone in order to use our fitness band” logic, as the required Lifelog application only requires Android and not a Sony Xperia phone, but it’s still surprising that Sony hasn’t developed a version for iOS, one of the most populat mobile operating systems around, next to Android, of course.

Past these issues, though, the Smartband is a pretty impressive little device, and it has a few other things going for it against other wearables.

One is that it does more than just track, and can even be used for smartphone notifications. There’s no screen on the device, so don’t expect caller ID to pop-up when you’re getting a call, but there is a haptic motor, so you will get vibrations.

As such, you can set the Smartband to buzz when you get phone calls, buzz when the phone is out of range of the Smartband (say you’ve left it somewhere), and buzz when an alarm is going off or when it should wake you up, with the latter able to be run based on your light sleeping patterns for different times on weekdays and weekends.

An automatic night mode is a possibility too, something we’ve been hoping for with other wearable fitness bands for when you accidentally forget to switch the band into its sleep mode. This last one doesn’t always get it right, mind you, and there’s a day missing in our test from when the auto mode didn’t seem to log anything.

The sleep charting also has a minor glitch in that if you switch into this mode and then still walk around or are awake, it logs this as light sleep, even while you’re awake.

Battery life for the Smartband isn’t bad, with around five days of life for the little gadget that is stored in the rubber band. Charging is simple too, with a microUSB port on the gadget and a battery metre on the app to tell you how much life is left.

The aesthetics of the band are also a little different from other bands, and seemed to attract the least amount of attention when we wore it. There’s no LCD screen at all, with only a couple of dots that light up on the side to tell you what mode you’re in.

Comfort is also great, and we found we could fit the Smartband to any wrist thanks to the band’s ability to tighten, though if you have smaller wrists, a smaller band is also included in the box.

You’ll even find a touch of water resistance here, with IP58 rating telling us that the Smartband is reasonably dust resistant, with a metre of water resistance in this device, too. That should be enough for washing your hands and splashing the Smartband, but we wouldn’t take it in the shower or on a swim.

It's daylight whenever you see the lights count one, two, three.

Conclusion

Sony’s take on the wearable fitness tracker is a little different from everything else we’ve seen thus far, and actually a nice diversion, which some interesting possibilities.

We quite like the idea of finding out how much time we’re wasting away over the months, and look forward to seeing more ways of reinvesting that time into something else, perhaps even our fitness. And Sony’s charming animations help with this, showing most of what you do, and relating it in a way you can understand if you bother to look.

It’s not quite as interactive and suggestive a system as say Jawbone’s, and it won’t offer tips or extended goals to help you get better, but if you’re at all curious how you’re doing in general, not just when you’re moving or sleeping, the Smartband is totally worth checking out.

It’s a great first effort, it really is.

Overall
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Reader Rating0 Votes
A fitness band that's about more than just fitness: it logs more than just your steps, calorie loss, and sleep patterns, with information stored about what you're doing through the course of a day and where you do it; Can be set to automatically switch into night time mode; Comfortable; Relatively stylish thanks to how basic it looks; Fairly water resistant; Sends some of the alerts from your phone to your wrist band as vibrating notifications;
No app for iOS or Windows Phone (we can excuse Windows Phone, but this should be available on both Android and iOS, since they're the major mobile operating systems); Not waterproof enough for a swim; Information can't be shared on social networks; Not all apps are logged or tracked when used; Sleep mode can't separate excess movement from being awake and going through light sleep;
4.6

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  1. The Smartband isn’t really that smart – it doesn’t know weekdays from weekends. When the alarm is set to wake you on weekdays only, you will be woken Tuesday to Saturday and no alarm on Sunday and Monday. This could be a great device if they can sync it with the calendar. There is also no option to set individual days of the week; some people who work different schedules than the weekdays do not have the ability to only wake on 2 or 3 days of the week.Hopefully the weekday problem with the device will be sorted soon or it will be come another dust gatherer. The Fitbit alarm is much more reliable.

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