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Sony Smartband 2 Review: In Depth

The Good

  • Light and customisable design
  • Heart rate monitor
  • iOS and Android
  • Waterproof

The Bad

  • Short battery life
  • Need app for feedback
  • Less smart than UP3
3.5

Sony Smartband 2 (SWR12) Review: We rock Sony’s latest fitness wearable, the Smartband 2, featuring built-in heart rate monitoring, smart sleep features and easily-swappable wrist bands.

I really liked last year’s Smartband Talk, which may not have been a perfect wearable, but had some genuinely useful features for the average consumer. The dinky e-ink screen could display the time as well as your daily stats, while you could easily take incoming calls using the (surprisingly strong) built-in mic and speaker.

The Smartband 2 does away with the screen and call feature, focussing primarily on fitness. That removable core now has a built-in heart rate monitor to track your ticker, but how does the Smartband 2 size up to rival exercise wearables like the Jawbone UP3?

Design

The Smartband 2 is actually a dinky plastic ‘core’ that sits snugly inside a rubber wrist strap. Controls are as simple as it comes, with only a single button on the side for powering on the device and skipping through a couple of built-in modes. There are three dinky LED lights too, which tell you which mode the Smartband is currently locked in.

The strap itself is a simple rubber affair that’s comfortable to wear for days on end and easy enough to fasten, with a catch that won’t come undone by accident. The whole thing weighs roughly 30g so you won’t even notice it on your wrist, although it’s a shame there aren’t more coloured bands available – for the moment you can only snap it up in black, white, blue and pink. And there’s now no screen, just like the very original Sony Smartband, so you’ll need to refer to your phone to see how you’re doing.

Too lazy to remove your wearable in the shower? Good news, the Smartband 2 is IP68 water-resistant so it can survive a thorough dunking or dousing, although there’s sadly no built-in swimming tracking in Sony’s apps.

Features

The Smartband 2 works with both iOS and Android devices, via Sony’s Smartband app (which is free to download on the App Store and Google Play). This app allows you to quickly pair with your device (via Bluetooth or NFC) and track your main stats, recorded via the Smartband’s heart rate monitor and accelerometer, as well as receive vibration notifications.

iPhone users can automatically sync with Apple Health, which provides a more detailed analysis of your stats and records your measurements and achievements over time. Meanwhile, Android users can download Sony’s Lifelog app which – on top of the usual health shenanigans – tracks a range of your daily habits, including web browsing time, how long you spend playing games and other fun facts that make you realise how much of your life you’re wasting.

The heart rate monitor is as accurate as you’d hope and can passively track your pulse too, so you get a full reading throughout the day. If anything, it’s a little terrifying – apparently negotiating the run of tourists, dilly-dalliers and umbrella twats between Oxford Circus and Recombu HQ raises my pulse to artery-bursting levels.

Of course, the real use of that monitor is to measure your stress and recovery levels. After entering a bit of physical data, you can track how your recovery time and maximum pulse rate improves over time. Nothing revolutionary, but definitely a handy indicator.

And of course you can monitor your sleep too, if that’s your bag. There’s a do not disturb feature so your wrist won’t be buzzing with notifications as you try to get some kip and at the end of it you can roughly see how much shut-eye you managed.

It’s basic at best, of course, like all of these trackers. Simply lying there staring at the ceiling is still recorded as ‘light sleep’ and I have no idea if the deep sleep readings are accurate. All I can confirm is that the LEDs on the Smartband 2 annoyed the hell out of my other half, who kept stuffing my arm underneath the duvet to escape their glare.

More useful is the alarm function, which rouses you from your slumber with a series of vibrations. It’s a lot less horrific than a sudden blast of music, and easier on the heart too, as my pulse read-outs confirmed. There’s also a ‘smart wake up’ feature, where you select an interval of time (default is half an hour) and the Smartband 2 picks the best possible time to wake you within that interval, based on your sleep cycle.

Finally, it’s possible to use the Smartband 2’s single button to control your music on your iPhone, although I found it a little fiddly and stuck with the controls on my Bluetooth headset.

Battery life

If you have the heart rate monitor constantly checking your pulse, then the Smartband 2 will only last a day and a half between charges. However, you can disable the sensor in the app’s settings and get closer to three days if you’re only bothered about motion tracking.

Charging the Smartband 2 is thankfully as easy as anything. Just pop the core out of the band and you’ll see a microUSB port in one end, which can be plugged into your computer or straight into a plug point if you have an adapter. No irritating docks or proprietary cables to contend with.

Verdict

Sony’s Smartband 2 doesn’t do anything revolutionary, despite being a decent little fitness wearable. Like many fitness trackers it can monitor your daily movements and sleep patterns on a fairly basic level, while the built-in heart rate monitor is handy for tracing your stress levels and recovery rates over time. However, if you’re after a truly smart fitness tracker, the Jawbone UP3 is still our favourite of recent times.

Read next: Best fitness trackers

Specification

TypeFitness tracker/wrist band
Screen sizeN/A
Screen resolutionN/A
OSWorks with Android and iOS
Bonus featuresHeart rate sensor, removable strap

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