Back in January at CES, we got a very brief look at Sony's first activity tracker, dubbed The Core. It's a tiny little pod that can be worn on your wrist in its SmartBand, or tucked discreetly into your pocket. The CES announcement was really just a tease, but finally a few more details have been unloosed, including its rapidly-approaching availability.
Sony is taking kind of an interesting tack here in that the SmartBand is not being billed as a "health tracker," "fitness tracker," or "activity tracker," they're selling it as a life tracker. Which may cause a scary knee-jerk reaction for some. Basically, the cornerstone of this SmartWear Experience Sony is talking about is the new Lifelog app for Android.
According to Sony's description, when paired with the SmartBand, Lifelog is intended to let you capture, "places visited, music listened to, games played, books read... how active you were, where you went, what pictures you took and how you have been communicating with your world." It will also, "help you set activity goals, monitor your progress and make recommendations to help inform future decisions." If you're wondering what the hell that means, congratulations, your brain is working just fine.
Ultimately, there's still not a ton we know about how this system works. Based on the above description, though, it sounds like the app is going to do a lot of the heavy lifting, since most of that stuff has nothing to do with the SmartBand, other than the stuff about how active you were and your activity goals. Sony claims all of this info will be presented in a visually-appealing layout.
In terms of how the SmartBand itself will work, The Core (which, again, is the brains of the operation) can be worn in the band or it can be popped out and tucked where ever. It uses Bluetooth to pair with your smartphone, and it has NFC so pairing should be a "one-touch" process, but we'll have to see about that. It's being billed as "fully waterproof," but it's really IP55 and IP58, which means dust-resistant and waterproof in "under 3 meters of freshwater for up to 30 minutes," so I'm not sure I'd trust it in a pool.
Because it's a device meant to be worn 24/7, it will measure your sleep cycle, and because it has a vibrating motor it promises to wake you up at the optimum time. It will also use that vibrating motor to alert you when calls, messages, Likes, or tweets are received. Note that there's no screen, so you still have to pull out your phone each time it vibrates, which... meh. Oh and it will vibrate when you go out of Bluetooth range from your phone (usually less than 30 feet), alerting you of the broken connection. Yeah, maybe that will keep you from losing your phone someday, but mostly that just sounds annoying while you're walking around your house. My phone isn't a leash! (OK, yes it is.) Hopefully that feature can be turned off. It can also be used to play, pause, and skip tracks in the Walkman app by pressing the button and tapping on the band. No word yet if it will work for other music players like Google Play Music, Spotify, Rdio, or Pandora, but man I sure hope so.
The SmartBand will only be available in black at launch, but Sony promises a variety of "vibrant" colours will be available shortly thereafter. It's actually really pretty handsome as it is, but the company says it's working with a bunch of "creatives" from the world of fashion and design, "to broaden the range of experiences and offer consumers more choice." Hey, if they could actually make it really, really ridiculously good looking, who would complain?
The SmartBand SWR10 and the Lifelog app will both be available sometime in March 2014, worldwide. No word yet on specific timing or pricing, but we'll let you know when we do. This is certainly the most interesting-sounding activity tracker we've seen in a while, and it's nice to see someone taking a different approach. Whether that approach will be ultimately translate to features us users actually care about, however, remains to be seen.