Sony’s quest to dominate your wrist continues with the arrival of the SmartBand. For only $99, Android users can dip their toes into the wearable world with a band that looks to bridge the gap between fitness tracker and fully-functional smartwatch.
At first glance, the SmartBand looks mostly like a Fitbit, albeit one with Sony’s logo stamped onto it. However, it’s what’s working inside the removable module – or Core Unit, as Sony calls it – that sets the SmartBand apart from other devices in the category of the same name. According to the device’s product listing on the Sony Store page, the SmartBand includes the usual accelerometer to track a user’s activities. Combined with Sony’s Lifelog app for Android smartphones and tablets, the band provides users with data about steps taken, calories burned, and how much time was spent running, walking, or even sleeping.
The Lifelog app does more than track fitness and health activity, though. It also tells users about the music they listen to and the kinds of communication they engaged in – both of which are functions that the SmartBand is designed to control. While it records your activity, the SmartBand also doubles as a media player remote, so you can skip songs with the push of a button. It also has LED and vibration notifications for text messages, phone calls, and alarms. In short, it provides a good number of the functions promised by just about every smartwatch on the market – just without the watch part.
As of now, the SmartBand is only made to work with Android devices, and only the latest build of the mobile OS (KitKat, or Android 4.4 and later). It isn’t clear whether an iOS compatible version is forthcoming, an omission that seems like one of the few arguments against the SmartBand as a whole. The device makes its United States retail debut today, so if you have a hundred dollars to spend and you’re curious if the world of wearables is for you, the Sony SmartBand may be just the device for you.
In fact, the SmartBand does so much that one has to wonder as to whether or not a smartwatch is necessary at all. Sure, having a watch to tell the time is, well, the most important part about having a watch. However, the main draw of the smartwatch category has been all the ways such a device can augment your smartphone experience. It’s an extra layer of connection between you and your data.
If Sony can shrink all that great additional functionality into an affordable, fashionable, waterproof wearable, do we really need smartwatches at all? Has Sony rendered its own SmartWatch line of devices obsolete?