Sony SmartBand SWR10 Review
Lifelog companion app
Sony’s LifeLog companion app is rich in functionality and looks beautiful.
The centerpiece of the SmartBand fitness tracker experience is the Lifelog companion app. Sony has made the application compatible with all brands of Android devices (not just Sony devices), and this kind of interoperability is a very welcome development that many fitness trackers sorely lack.
The Lifelog companion app is much more than just a step and calorie aggregator, though. It is an app that truly wants to give you an overview of your mobile life and fitness in a single window. For this, it tracks all the time you’ve spent browsing, listening to music, and watching videos on your devices, and shows it all along with your walking/running/cycling activity in an interactive timeline. This way, you can see exactly what pictures you took on which day without ever having to enter the gallery, for instance.
And for its other, fitness side, it uses your personal data to set step goals and show you your progress towards them. Speaking of personalization, we ought to complain about the unnecessarily tedious process of installing Lifelog and getting it to work with the bracelet. In order for all this to happen you need to install three separate apps (Sony Connect, LifeLog, and SmartBand SWR10), plus, in addition, you need to register a Sony Entertainment Network account via an interface that is not very well optimized for mobile. We wish Sony would decrease the number of necessary apps for all this, and make the registration simpler.
Pairing and functionality
Getting the SmartBand SWR10 on, pairing it and getting it to work is a quick and easy process, once you’ve got all the apps in place. Sony’s fitness tracker comes with NFC, which makes pairing a super simple process. Just make sure you have Bluetooth enabled on your NFC-enabled smartphone, and touch the phone with the tracker, to have it all paired and completely hooked up. The technical requirements for the app and the band are Android at version 4.4 KitKat or newer.
You have just one button on the SmartBand, and here’s what it does:
- single press to check if you’re in day or night mode
- press and hold to switch between day and night mode
- double press to add Life Bookmark
The one button is all you have to interact with the device. The SmartBand lacks the display that some other fitness trackers have, and that’s basically its biggest limitation. You wear it 24/7 anyway, so it would be nice to be able to see the time on it, rather than having to check your smartphone, or having to wear one more thing on your wrist - a traditional watch.
With this in mind, and now that you know how to operate it, it’s time to take a look at what the SmartBand actually does.
SmartBand as fitness and sleep tracker
The SmartBand will track your steps and runs, and it will monitor your sleep and wake you up gently, but it won’t be of much use for sports other than running.
The SmartBand is an excellent fitness monitor that tracks your steps, and automatically detects whether you walk, run, or use some other form of transformation. Our testing showed its pedometer works very well, rarely missing steps when it comes to your walks or runs. We should, however, note that the SmartBand is not a device that can track your activity during say, a basketball game, or even less so, during gym workouts. We tried wearing it for a 1-hour pick-up basketball match, but it did not seem to track the whole exercise correctly, recording an inaccurately low step count.
With this in mind, when it comes to walking and running, the SmartBand is capable of telling the one from the other correctly most of the time. Quite neatly, your travels are also put on a map, so you can see where you went and at what exact time. You get reading of steps taken and calories burned, but what’s notable is that the number of calories burned when you are passive (sitting or sleeping, for instance), is also taken into account.
In addition to being able to track your steps, the SmartBand also monitors your sleep, but you need to manually press and hold the single physical button to switch to night mode for the tracking to kick in. With this kind of tracking, you can see how much time you’ve spent sleeping, but probably the biggest benefit is the silent vibration that gently wakes you up in the mornings in the right time, so that you feel refreshed after your sleep, and not awoken mid-sleep and still grumpy.
The other functions of the SmartBand: control your music
One final special feature of the Sony SmartBand that is worth your attention is its music control capabilities. Getting the hang of music control is a bit tricky, but after a few attempts we got it working. You have to press the physical key once and then tap on the top of the SmartBand to control music playback on your paired device. Tap once to play or pause the current track, tap twice to skip to the next song, and tap three times to go back to the beginning of the song, or reverse back to the previous one. Note that this kind of control works best with native applications, and may not work with third-party apps.
Battery life and charging
The Sony SmartBand SWR10 ships with a miniature, 35mAh Li-Ion battery that theoretically can last up to five days on a single charge. In real life, those numbers are about right, and you should not expect much less. Recharging the battery takes about 1 hour, which is not all that much, but it’s just strange to see such a small battery charge up for so long.
You charge it via a regular microUSB cable, and good news is that you’d need that cable for charging only - all the syncing happens wirelessly.
The Sony SmartBand SWR10 is now sold for $100, a price that is not too high given that the competing FitBit Flex is also sold for $100, while the Nike FuelBand+ is priced significantly higher, at $150.
For all it aims to do, though, the SmartBand delivers. It’s a good fitness tracker that will please stats-obsessed runners, and just those who want to improve their health by walking and running more. The LifeLog app is also a great effort by Sony. All in all, if tracking your daily activities is something that you want to do, the SmartBand won’t disappoint.