Sony SmartBand evaluation: a health tracker that goes past health
Once you hear the phrase “wearable,” there is a good probability you consider a wristband, in all probability one which tracks your exercise. Ever since Nike launched the FuelBand, your decrease arm has develop into the primary focus for health tech. Already the rot is setting in, although. Nike is rumored to be leaving the sport utterly (even when current occasions recommend in any other case). Everybody else is nonetheless making an attempt to determine what precisely a wrist-worn gadget ought to do. Nobody gadget seems to have found out the magic components. Most bands cease at counting steps and logging sleep. However Sony determined to attempt one thing totally different with its $one hundred SmartBand wearable. It nonetheless does the step-monitoring factor, simply together with different stuff — like, y’know, logging your complete life. As a lot as it might with a movement sensor and cell phone, anyway. So how is it? I strapped one on to seek out out.
- Logs extra than simply bodily exercise
- Straightforward to arrange
- Battery life might be higher
- No social options
- Disappointing choice of third-get together apps
Sony’s created a uncommon beast: a wristband that is not nearly health. The companion app is enjoyable, and has the potential to be genuinely helpful. If Sony can persuade extra builders to work with the SmartBand’s distant management function, it might be an actual winner.
It’s kind of complicated, however Sony calls the small sensor bit “Core,” however when bought with the wristband, it is often known as SmartBand. The Core half is just like the sensor you get with a Fitbit Flex or Garmin Vivofit. It is about an inch lengthy by half an inch large, and curved to suit your wrist. On one edge is a button, plus three small LEDs. There is a micro-USB port on one of many brief ends, and that is principally it. The band is textured on the outer aspect and feels snug on the pores and skin, even after extended use. As with different trackers, there is a selection of two sizes within the field, and the large strap is bigger than another band we have seen. So, even when your wrists are like oak timber, it ought to nonetheless match. The clasp is a small metallic circle with two pins on one aspect, and a brushed end with a Sony emblem on the opposite. When it comes to type, it nonetheless has that generic “sporty” look, however it’s extra understated and visually pleasing in comparison with others I’ve tried (which is most of them), and the clasp provides a delicate metallic element to the in any other case plain rubber band. If, heaven forbid, you may want one thing aside from black, there is a bunch of colours to select from, with a pack of three costing $25.
Consistent with the remainder of Sony’s cellular hardware, the SmartBand is IP58 water- and splash-proof. As for compatibility, you will want a telephone operating Android four.four (with Bluetooth LE) to hitch within the enjoyable, however NFC is not a requirement; that simply makes pairing quite a bit simpler. The three LEDs are your solely visible output, however there’s vibrating suggestions too. The battery lasts about 5 days between fees, relying on how a lot you employ that vibrating suggestions. I by no means had it final lower than 4, which is the minimal for any wearable, actually. Luckily, it additionally fees pretty shortly, going from lifeless to full in underneath an hour.Setup
Press and maintain the lone button, and the SmartBand will vibrate into life. As soon as on, it’s going to go straight into pairing mode. I set it up with an LG G3, which has NFC. This makes issues mildly simpler, as all of the Bluetooth pairing is completed routinely, and the Play retailer masses up a obtain web page for the required Sensible Join app. As soon as that is put in, it’s going to do the identical for an app referred to as Lifelog, and also you’re set. In the event you’re not acquainted with Sensible Join, it means you in all probability have not used any Sony equipment earlier than. It is the corporate’s “hub” for something that connects to your telephone (Bluetooth headphones, and so forth.). You will know when you have it put in as a result of it pops up (just a little annoyingly) whenever you join virtually something to your telephone.
Sensible Join is the place you will change the SmartBand’s primary settings. Lifelog, however, is the place all of the, nicely, life-logging goes on. Once more, it is a complicated association having two separate apps (technically it is three, however the SmartBand settings app is embedded in Sensible Join). Consider it as one for settings, and the opposite for the enjoyable stuff, and you will be principally proper. If you do not have NFC in your telephone, setup is nearly the identical, simply with some guide steps to get the units paired.
With pairing full, and the apps put in, you are able to get logging. In your troubles, you will even be rewarded with two persistent notifications in Android. One from Sensible Join telling you which of them mode the band is in (extra on this later), and one from Lifelog letting you realize it is, er, logging. Each appear a bit pointless, and are nothing greater than a everlasting annoyance, occupying oft-useful notification area. You can use them to get into the apps shortly, however I might nonetheless choose to have the ability to dismiss them.Software program
Proper on the prime, I discussed how Sony was making an attempt to do one thing totally different than different health trackers. That is the place Lifelog is available in. The app is as a lot part of the product because the hardware is. That is arguably true with Jawbone’s Up and Fitbit, et cetera, the place the software program provides performance past the essential monitoring, however Lifelog takes a totally totally different strategy. Whereas Up will allow you to manually log meals, and offer you further well being-associated knowledge, Lifelog tracks what you do together with your telephone. For instance, take an image, and Lifelog makes a notice of that. Browse the web, and it’ll tally how lengthy you have been on-line. It’s going to additionally hold tabs on the place and once you did all the things (should you let it). The thought is that, together with the movement/exercise knowledge, you possibly can construct up a “greater image” of the way you spend your day.
Lifelog tracks 12 totally different actions, with some overlap. These embrace: steps, complete minutes strolling, complete time operating, energy burned, hours slept, time spent on social networks and variety of photographs taken. It’s going to additionally log time spent with music, films, video games, books and the web. You’ll be able to create “Life Bookmarks” by double-tapping the SmartBand’s button (or by way of the app), and Lifelog will report a snapshot of what you have been doing, the place you have been doing it, the climate on the time and so forth. If all this sounds a bit of hectic, it isn’t. The app is straightforward, with a timeline operating alongside the highest (displaying the previous few hours) and your day by day totals for every exercise in tiles under.
Click on on any exercise’s tile, and also you drill down into extra detailed stats. For instance, prod the steps tile, and you will get an hourly breakdown of the day. There are additionally tabs to point out your exercise by week, month and yr. You’ll be able to set your required day by day objective for every exercise right here too. So, if you wish to set a objective of half-hour of cellular gaming a day, you possibly can — it will not cease you from going over (now there’s an concept), however you’ll be able to see at a look how shut you’re to that focus on. The squares for every exercise change hue, from faint to vivid, all through the day as you progress towards your objective, offering a fast progress overview. Cute round icons additionally seem on the timeline above an avatar (representing you) each time an exercise is logged (e.g., a digital camera icon for a photograph).
The timeline might be the centerpiece of Lifelog. Within the center is the aforementioned avatar — a person or lady completely gazing at a telephone (so true). The background modifications colour reflecting the time of day, which is marked out in hourly intervals. Lifelog hooks into AccuWeather, and can present totally different graphics on the timeline to let you recognize if the solar was shining on the time, or if it was raining in your life parade. Maybe extra usefully, you possibly can scroll into the longer term and see how the climate ought to be at the moment (like a micro climate app).
The actual celebration piece is you could scroll forwards and backwards in time to get a really fast visible overview of your whole life (nicely, the bit you possibly can log with a telephone anyway). It is cute and creepy all on the similar time. Particularly whenever you scroll again and watch your onscreen self simply standing there, then sleeping, then standing. Do you have to log any train, your avatar will perform a little operating animation for that interval, earlier than going again to glumly wanting on the telephone once more. If it did not spotlight the unhappy actuality so elegantly, maybe I would not thoughts as a lot.Logging life
I truthfully do not understand how I really feel about all of it. On the one hand, I dig with the ability to break down how I spend my day. On the opposite, I really feel like I’m writing a pointless diary that nobody will ever need to learn (together with me). In actuality, it is a extra juiced-up model of what you get with any self-quantifying knowledge. It is as helpful or ineffective as you deem it to be. One factor’s for positive, in case you spend an excessive amount of time on Twitter, or enjoying Dumb Methods to Die, you are quickly going to find out about it with Lifelog. Some metrics undoubtedly really feel extra helpful than others:Energy
The app asks in your primary particulars (e.g., peak, age) and estimates your caloric expenditure based mostly on commonplace tips, coupled together with your recorded bodily exercise. You’ll be able to set a objective of energy you’d wish to burn, nevertheless it’s onerous to gauge how correct it’s with out refined instruments. As a information, it is good to know, however I do not discover myself referring to it typically.Steps, time strolling and train
These merely log the entire period of time you spend both strolling or jogging. The app guesses at distance totals with average accuracy (about 70 % and upwards, just like the step-rely accuracy). It does not plot a route of your strolling, however the app does seize your location sporadically (with permission), so that you do get a tough path on a map. The perfect factor concerning the train monitoring is that it is automated. In my testing, it picked up my treadmill operating after a few minute. These stats will not be as correct as different trackers, however are nonetheless good general guides.Sleep
By way of the settings, you possibly can inform the app to routinely enter sleep-logging (or “night time”) mode at set occasions, which is a lot better than having to recollect and change it to nighttime mode manually — most sane individuals will give that behavior up in a short time. The issue is once you’re not truly sleeping at these occasions, it’s going to both log you as having mild sleep or, to its credit score, assume you awoke briefly. As with comparable units, it determines mild and heavy sleep based mostly on motion. You’ll be able to ask it to wake you up on the optimum time inside a half-hour window. In case you’re sleeping like a log the entire time, it’s going to simply buzz you awake on the goal time regardless. I just like the alarm function, however as for sleep logging? I already know I do not get sufficient sleep, thanks.Communications
Wish to natter on Hangouts, Gmail, Twitter and Snapchat? You get the image. Lifelog stories the entire period of time you spend on every of those apps, and aggregates it right into a lump sum determine of time spent principally chatting. I am unsure how helpful that is, however it’s there on your vital different or mother and father to see and inform you off about. Thanks, Sony.Photographs
My Instagram is fairly uninteresting, however it’s enjoyable to have the ability to see when and the place you determined to take a photograph. In case you’re skimming by way of your timeline, it partly serves as a mini bookmark, letting you notice a second once you discovered one thing fascinating. In case you click on the digital camera icon, it’s going to present you thumbnails of the pics you took too. Not totally ineffective. Word: You possibly can’t edit what exhibits up on this part. Which means, any and all pictures might pop up right here.Music
I take heed to streaming DJ mixes virtually all day lengthy, so this is not a lot use to me. For those who’re a traditional individual, although, you may take pleasure in with the ability to see if you have been listening to track X or band Y, particularly if these moments hook in with different occasions (like an awesome exercise).Films
When you’re an avid viewer, it’s going to put a quantity on how a lot time you spend squinting at Orange Is the New Black. Then you’ll be able to set a aim to try this much less (and do the correct factor, and watch it on a TV as an alternative).Gaming
Relying in your gaming habits, this metric may serve the twin objective of signaling rest room visits, and time spent ready for public transport.Books
I a lot favor studying both an actual guide, or on my Kindle. I examined it on the telephone to ensure it logs the Kindle app (it does). In order that’s good.Shopping
That is in all probability the shock winner for me. I do know I browse lots. Like, an actual lot (given my job, that is hardly shocking). It is nonetheless, doubtless, the factor I do most on my telephone, together with messaging. I knew this, however having it quantified motivates me to commerce a few of that point for steps, or operating.
Individually, it is unlikely any of those analytics will make a huge effect to the way you determine to spend your day sooner or later. It is the large image Sony is gunning for right here. It feels prefer it’s extra about passive logging for lengthy-time period knowledge accumulation and later reference than surprising you into change. Or, probably, logging principally for logging’s sake — one thing individuals clearly take pleasure in doing (take a look at Foursquare, for example).
The entire lifelogging factor is cool, however there are another helpful options past that. I already talked about how when you go for a run, you need not inform the SmartBand; it’s going to simply determine it out and begin recording. For those who take your telephone with you, it’s going to even log the place you went (although not an in depth GPS monitor). That is totally different to different trackers just like the Jawbone or FuelBand that require you to inform them you are understanding. It’d look like a small element, however the much less a wristband calls for of your time and a spotlight, the higher it is doing its job.In use
When you can pull your self away from the Lifelog app lengthy sufficient, the SmartBand has a number of different tips up its sleeve. For instance, in case you have an Xperia telephone, the SmartBand will vibrate to provide you with a warning of any alarms you set on the handset. Then, you’ll be able to faucet the wristband’s button to dismiss them. It may also be used as a primary notifier for e mail, SMS and virtually another app you may need. Want to remain on prime of these Netflix notifications? No drawback. For this, you need not have certainly one of Sony’s telephones; it really works with any Android handset. It might be silent, nevertheless it’s pretty troublesome to overlook — I personally discovered the notifications function very helpful. There’s an “out of vary” alert, too, that tells you whenever you depart your gadget behind (i.e., it goes “out of vary”). That is good when you’re the forgetful sort, however much less in order an anti-theft gadget. The robbers will have already got had a head begin by the point you get your three pulses.
There are two issues I’ve struggled with throughout my time with the SmartBand. The primary one is privateness. Lifelog does not share any knowledge that you simply would not be snug placing on Fb, theoretically. Put all of it collectively in a timeline, although, and also you’re leaving a private snail path that anybody who picks up your telephone can entry. Once more, no massive deal in concept, however I am positive it will not be lengthy earlier than the app betrays you, and divulges to a colleague you have been within the pub if you stated you have been operating an errand, or tells a big different that you simply have been truly enjoying video games and never out for a jog such as you stated you have been. Social networks have been doing this for ages although, so I assume customers know the dangers.
The second is that this query: Who is that this for? There are higher health trackers on the market if that is what you are after (the Garmin Vivofit and Fitbit Flex, to call however two). As for lifeloggers, they may be higher off with one thing like Autographer or the Narrative Clip. I assume some may discover completely sporting a digital camera somewhat creepy — intrusive, even. If there’s a secret sauce right here, I really feel it is discretion. The SmartBand and Lifelog app are low-key, out of view and document a little bit of all the things (not simply steps, not simply location or pictures). For some individuals, it will possible be a really interesting prospect. It isn’t going to be for everybody, but when the web has taught me something, it is that folks wish to hold logs of issues, and SmartBand is screaming within the course of that crowd.
Curiously, there are two scarcely used controls that, if supported properly, might truly make the SmartBand compelling to extra individuals. The primary is distant app management. Sony has a few Android apps that may be managed by the SmartBand. One apparent instance is a digital camera shutter app. This ends the tyranny of the arm-size selfie. Prop your telephone up someplace, and set off the digital camera with the SmartBand’s button. Different apps that play good embrace a “discover your telephone” software and, confusingly, OfficeSuite 7. Both means, very similar to Sony’s SmartWatch 2, you can also make use of the hardware button to work together with third-social gathering apps. If extra extensively supported, this might undoubtedly broaden the SmartBand’s attraction.
The second management is “faucet” enter. Comparable merchandise like Misfit’s Shine and the Fitbit Flex depend on faucets as the primary interplay technique. In my expertise, it does not often work too nicely, however I can see the attraction when there is no show to assist navigate. SmartBand makes use of faucets to regulate Android’s media participant. One faucet for pause, two to skip ahead and three to skip again. Useful. The unusual half is that this enter mechanism is not used for anything. Why not use it with third-get together apps just like the button, or to dismiss calls, et cetera? Simply throwing concepts on the market, Sony.Wrap-up
I feel there is a trick being missed right here. Because it stands, the SmartBand feels prefer it’s dwelling as much as about seventy five % of its true potential. Lifelog is clearly meant to be the main target. The app is not good — I might love to have the ability to drill down into much more element, or have the choice to share (compete?) with buddies. However, I just like the premise. Despite the fact that a number of it is of restricted use to me, there is a sure demographic that’ll go nuts for the power to create a path of their day by day lives. This is the place a part of the expertise is lacking: Lifelog is crying out for a social element (so long as it is elective). It looks like a wierd omission. The power so as to add pals, share your life with them and add interactivity to Lifelog looks like a day-one function. Not for the privateness-acutely aware, in fact, however there are lots of individuals who wish to share their lives, and this might be an excellent software for them. The opposite untapped potential refers to enjoying good with third-social gathering apps. Once more, it appears ripe for exploiting.
The seventy five % of potential that is being lived as much as makes the SmartBand a wearable that may, for as soon as, attraction to individuals aside from the health crowd. When you’re not into exercise monitoring, there aren’t many wristbands aimed toward you. As with its SmartWatch 2, Sony has constructed one thing that tries to do plenty of issues adequately, quite than one or two issues excellently. Maybe, most necessary of all, Sony’s tried to do one thing — gasp — totally different. With slightly refining, and ongoing software program help, this tracker-come-notifier might earn a loyal following. Particularly if the corporate’s current Core ideas trace at future plans. Simply be sure to faucet that remaining 25 %, Sony.
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