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Sony SmartBand 2 review

Sony’s second SmartBand lacks the pace-sensing skills for success

Naming your smooth-skinned step-tracker a SmartBand is risky business.

If it’s truly an intelligent stride sensor, you’ll be hailed as the know-it-all of nomenclature. If it’s not, you’ll be sent packing and trusted to label nothing but light switches – and nobody wants a BulbMaster 3000.

Sony fears no such punishment. It’s made one SmartBand, why not make another and stick a two on the end? Which is precisely what it’s done.

So does the second iteration of its activity tracker offer superior step-sensing and smartphone-syncing skills? The answer awaits.

No screen shocker

No screen shocker

As wristwear for stat-lovers goes, Sony’s SmartBand 2 is far from an ugly duckling. More than just comfortable, its strap is easily adjustable and properly secure. Despite packing a heart rate sensor into its removeable plastic core, the body of the ‘Band sits snugly on your wrist.

What’s the secret to Sony’s slimline success? There’s no display of any kind. This shirking of a screen means alerts for phone notifications are next to meaningless: without a way to preview or even see what sort of notification it is.

The ‘Band is little more than a second source of vibration, and one that quickly becomes irritating.

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At least it’s easy to forget that you’re wearing the SmartBand 2 thanks to its IP68 waterproofing, which means you can happily jump in the shower with it. Whilst the ‘Band won’t track your swimming form, it will withstand submersion down to 3m before aquatic panic kicks in.

It also feels tucks in well beneath a sleeve, thanks to a lack of rigid edges, and weighs little enough to not to disturb your sleep as it detects you dreams.

Is the SmartBand 2 worth wearing it all the time? Well, Sony’s clever companion will count your paces, discern your heart rate through stress and recovery , and monitor your hours in the land of nod, but it’ll only do so for two days before its battery splutters out.

Battery struggles

Battery struggles

Two days. That might not sound terrible, given that most smartphones need juicing before every working day is out, but it quickly becomes an inconvenience. Especially with cheaper always-on competition seriously outlasting Sony’s beefless battery.

OK, so the SmartBand 2 charges quickly enough via microUSB, but the only way to eek anything further from your fitness friend is to turn off its heart rate tracking. This makes as much sense as running a car on two cylinders to save petrol.

Still, at least the data delivered when the SmartBand’s on makes the movement monitoring meaningful. Right? Don’t get too excited. Whilst stride totals are generally accurate, if a little generous, and sleep figures seem right enough – though it’s hard to be sure – the absence of any way of checking progress on the ‘Band itself means the app has to do the hard work, something it fundamentally fails at.

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Lacking in app smarts

Lacking in app smarts

Without an on-wrist option to track your pavement-pounding progress, the SmartBand 2 is reliant on you whipping out your phone at regular daily intervals– something which its panel-centric interface fails to inspire.

Pairing the tracker with your smartphone is simple enough, with Bluetooth buddying up a breeze and NFC tap-to-twin an option for those with suitably-equipped Android hardware. Inside the app your footstep and doze totals are clearly displayed next to a live heart rate reading and options to set a smart alarm, but that’s about it – on iOS, at least.

Beyond a weekly breakdown of activities and more detailed metrics for your ol’ ticker, nothing about the app commands commitment to constant fitness. There are no social smarts and few achievements to earn for success, bar a ribbon for meeting your custom goal.

Things are a little better on Android, with Sony’s Lifelog app plotting every activity in your day on a scrolling timeline – and we mean everything. Made a call as you walked? Browsed the web on the bus? It’ll use your phone’s GPS and logs, alongside feedback from the ‘Band, to breakdown your daily habits, bit by bit.

It’s creepy in a kind of novel way, but, beyond first interest, there’s not much in the way of data you’ll actually want to check back on – other than a symbol of your laziness if you snoozed the alarm all Sunday. Where apps from the likes of FitBit offer encouragement, if patronising, and social competition aspects to drive achievement, the purely data-driven angle of the SmartBand 2 feels a bit like a bauble: shiny on the outside, lacking in substance.

Sony SmartBand 2 verdict

Sony SmartBand 2 verdict

In fact, that’s a telling indictment of the entire SmartBand experience: price and promise pointed towards a neatly-packaged tracker that would integrate into your life and leave you fitter without any fuss. The result was an entirely different reality.

It feels just a little too much like Sony couldn’t decide what it wanted to make here. Given how little the ‘Band itself can be used for, besides buzzing for notifications and basic music controls, it needs a in-app experience to ape the competition. ‘Paired back’ can be brilliant, but not at this price.

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Stuff Says…

Score: 2/5

Apps: 3/5

Design: 4/5

Smarts: 3/5

Battery: 2/5

A minimalistic wrist-wrapper with a paired-back phone companion make for meaningless motion monitoring

Good Stuff

Sleekly styled step tracking

Comfortable enough to wear 24/7

Fairly accurate

Bad Stuff

Poor battery life

Lack of a display makes notifications meaningless

Partner app fails to motivate