updated 07:54 pm EST, Thu February 27, 2014
Sony enters fitness tracker market with discrete wearable device
Sony initially unveiled its SmartBand wearable tracker at CES in January as the company's first foray into the fitness tracker market. Consisting of a rubberized band and a central and small Core sensor acting as the brain of the device, the tracker in theory performs all of the usual tracking functions of a fitness band, as well as handling other aspects of the wearer's life, such as music, when used with the accompanying Lifelog app. Electronista spent time at Sony's Mobile World Congress booth to try out the SmartBand.
The rubbery band has a fabric-like texture to it, which makes a nice change from other fitness bands. Unlike most of the others on the market, the SmartBand lacks any sort of display, forcing users to check the connected smartphone for any related updates, but also conversely prevents the wearer from constantly checking their wrist for their step count. The Core fits into a cavity that is hidden on the inside of the band, which is a neat visual design choice.
Lacking a screen does not stop the SmartBand from alerting the wearer to items. The band will vibrate when calls and texts are received, as an alarm clock, whenever notifications for specific apps are generated, and when the band and the connected phone or tablet are too far apart. Users can also interact with smartphone apps by tapping the band, with multiple taps advancing or rewinding through a music playlist, or a single tap playing or pausing a song or triggering the camera app to take a photograph. Though it worked after a slight initial connection issue, it is hard to seriously think of the tapping control as a serious, everyday-use feature.
Demonstrated on an Xperia Z2, the accompanying Lifelog app is able to track the number of steps taken, the amount of time walked or ran, estimate how many calories have been burned, and what kind of transport the wearer has used. A sleep tracker will measure the amount of time spent in light sleep, deep sleep, or awake, as well as keeping tabs on how far above or below a target goal of sleep the user is. The app will also make a note of photographs taken during the day, what songs are played, and specifically bookmarked occasions for later recall.
The entire package of the SmartBand and Core appears to be very well put together. The app tracks far more than what a typical user would deem necessary, while the band is stylish and discrete. While it directly competes with Samsung's recently-announced Gear Fit, as well as other fitness trackers, the toned-down design and wealth of tracking options could give it an edge against the competition when it launches in March.