Sony’s SmartBand 2 Takes the Plunge

Sony on Thursday unveiled its SmartBand 2 fitness tracker.

It has an advanced heart rate sensor and a variety of communications capabilities. It informs wearers when they get calls, messages, emails or notifications on social media sites.

It sports interchangeable silicone rubber bands in black, white, pink and indigo.

The SmartBand 2 is compatible with any device running Android 4.4 KitKat or later, as well as iOS 8.2 or later.

It can be submerged in up to three meters — nearly 10 feet — of water without damage, although it has an uncapped microUSB port.

“We were able to water seal the external part between the slot and the core casing,” explained Sony spokesperson Anthony Devenish, but “we recommend users ensure the port is completely dry … before charging the device.”

In that respect, the SmartBand 2 is ahead of the UP4 from Jawbone, noted Angela McIntyre, a research director at Gartner.

“Jawbone wasn’t able to make their band waterproof to swim with,” she told TechNewsWorld.

Sony will offer the SmartBand 2 in 60 countries worldwide, but it won’t be available in the United States at launch.

The SmartBand 2’s Tech Specs

The SmartBand 2 has an accelerometer and heart rate sensors. It automatically tracks activities, including walking and running, and it maps the user’s heart rate.

Details are filed in Sony’s Lifelog app, which displays historical data.

The SmartBand 2 has automatic sleep detection, and a smart alarm clock function that will vibrate to wake users at the best time, based on their sleep cycle.

It notifies users with subtle vibrations and three pulsing RGB LEDs when they get calls, messages, emails or tweets.

Users can control music on their smartphone or tablet by tapping on the SmartBand 2 to play, pause or skip through tracks.

The SmartBand 2 vibrates to alert users when they’re more than 30 feet from their connected smartphones or tablets.

Its battery charges within one hour and each charge lasts up to five days.

The SmartBand 2 will receive over-the-air updates through its host application and the Lifelog app on linked smartphones, Sony’s Devenish told TechNewsWorld.

Feature Scoreboard

In addition to Bluetooth, the SmartBand 2 supports NFC.

“NFC connectivity is a key feature in our Xperia smartphones,” Devenish remarked. “It allows for easy and quick connection with a single touch.”

That NFC connectivity “could make it capable of use for payments,” Gartner’s McIntyre suggested.

However, the SmartBand 2’s bells and whistles don’t include some features offered by the competition.

For example, Jawbone’s UP4 already can be used to make payments at point-of-sale systems through an exclusive deal with American Express.

Further, the UP4 has a seven-day battery life — two days more on one charge than the SmartBand 2, while the Fitbit Charge has a battery life of seven to 10 days.

What About Smartwatches?

“The whole wristband category is extending beyond what we first thought of as a fitness band for tracking steps and heartrate,” McIntyre observed.

Competition in the fitness band market is fierce, and any new features introduced by one maker soon will be implemented by others.

Given the increasing number of features on fitness bands, including notifying the user of incoming emails and calls, could consumers purchase a fitness band instead of a smartwatch?

“I use my Fitbit as a watch — and I prefer wearing it to my smartwatch, because it’s slimmer and not so obtrusive,” said Gartner analyst Tuong Nguyen.

Also, “I can get credit for all the walking I do during the day,” he told TechNewsWorld.

A Thing of Beauty

The SmartBand 2’s assortment of colors may increase its appeal to consumers.

“We’re finally entering that phase of the market where we’re going beyond high school science experiments and getting devices you won’t mind wearing,” noted Ramon Llamas, a research manager at IDC.

Still, “what’s meaningful is the applications you have on the device,” he told TechNewsWorld. “Users don’t want to be inundated with a lot of useless information — they want it streamlined and looking good.”

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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