If you identify as a ‘proper watch' person, you may have found yourself feeling conflicted in recent years.
On the one hand, the Breitling you got for your 30th always goes down really well in Mayfair steakhouses, but you can’t help but feel jealous of the people using their Apple Watch to pay for flat whites.
The idea behind Sony’s reborn Wena wrist band - a crowdfunding sensation in Japan that's now making its way to the UK - is that you no longer have to choose between old and new, or smart and dumb. Attachable to 90% of watch heads according to Sony, the wena band has a little OLED display for notifications, and can be used to make payments and track your activity, just like a smartwatch.
There are two versions of the band: the Wena Wrist Pro and the Wena Wrist Active. Both share the same snigger-worthy name, and much of the same functionality. But they’re aimed at markedly different watch owners, as we’ll explain below.
Design: fit or flash
This is where the two Wena variants (stop laughing) differ the most. The Pro model, available in Premium Black or Silver, is made of Stainless Steel, and is therefore best paired with either one of Sony’s own Wena metal heads (can still hear you giggling), or your favourite TAG Heuer.
Weighing in at 85g, it has over double the heft of the 40.9g Active, and a different clasp mechanism. Naturally, it feels a lot more luxurious in the hand too.
Made of silicone rubber, the Active model is aimed at sporty types, and therefore finding a non-jarring combination with a third-party watch head might be a bit trickier. Again, Sony offers various mechanical, solar, chronograph and traditional three-handed styles of its own.
Both Wenas have a slender, full colour OLED display that sits on top of the back of your wrist and displays information across two lines of text. It's arguably a more natural way of checking notifications. You can cycle through them by pressing a button above the screen.
Both come with 18mm, 20mm and 22mm lug attachments. Again, Sony reckons 90% of watch heads will play nice.
Features and battery life: all bases covered
Most people predominantly use smartwatches for three things: activity tracking, notifications and contactless payment. Granted, being able to play a quick round of wrist-based Pong in the lift is always fun, but it isn't going to make or break a wearable.
Good news, then, that both the Wena Pro and Active are equipped for all three. Paying via NFC is as easy as lowering your wrist to the reader, and again, many people are going to find that less awkward than flipping it around.
If the Active fails to detect the body of the person wearing it (more on that later) it’ll disable payment. The Pro will do the same as soon as you undo the clasp, so either way, security is covered.
Both bands feature customisable vibrating alerts for incoming phone calls, messages, and you can use the button to see your step count and the date.
When it comes to activity tracking, the Active has a few additional features. While both track steps with an accelerometer, the Active has a heart rate monitor and built-in GPS. And unlike the Pro, which can’t be worn without a watch head, the Active doubles up as a standalone fitness tracker when you’re on a run. No watch face required.
Both models feature Bluetooth Low Energy, so will supposedly last for a week before they need a recharge. If that's even close to being true then the Wena duo thrashes the majority of smartwatches in the battery department.
Software: Stats good
Both bands are compatible with iPhone (iOS 8.0 and above) and with Android 5.0 or above.
The Wena app features a dashboard that gives you breakdown of all your daily stats, which you can customise to your liking. It's a simple and clean interface.
Wena’s transformative abilities will no doubt appeal to all sorts of watch wearers, and the two options mean pretty much everyone is catered for.
Sporty types eyeing up a smartwatch should consider the Wena Active. Bear in mind that at £349 it’s a lot more expensive than a Fitbit Charge 3, and nowhere near as feature-packed. But if you want to make a plain watch smart and gain a GPS-equipped fitness tracker, with the option to use it as a standalone fitness band, Sony's Wena Active is a unique offering.
If you can't bear demoting your beautiful ticker to sit on your bedside table only seeing light of day on special occassions, then the Pro is the obvious pairing to add some real smarts. That it doesn’t have have GPS and a heart rate sensor isn’t going to matter, unless you particularly enjoy jogging while wearing a whacking Rolex. Prices start at £399.
The Pro adds a sprinkling of smarts to your timeless object of beauty and will allow you a sweet slice of that smartwatch action. So you can put your money where your, er..., wrist is.