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Thread: Review: Sony Smartband Talk

  1. #1

    Review: Sony Smartband Talk


    As a phone addicted, socially networked, always connected modern kind of a guy, I love the idea of smartwatches. There's just one problem with them, they're watches....
    What that means for me is that, if I'm wearing a smartwatch I'm not wearing my Seiko Alpinist or my Rolex Explorer or any one of a dozen other timepieces that might be calling for my attention that day. I had a Pebble watch for a while (widely recognised as the first smartwatch that really got it right) and I loved the functionality but disliked it as a watch. Its utility meant that it demanded to be worn every day, but it was never going to win in a battle for my heart against something with mechanical guts. I tried wearing it on my right wrist, with a regular watch on my left, but it was too big, too watchy, for that to work. Frankly it made me look like a knob.
    So I sold it, and since then I've been on the hunt for something to take its place, something that gave me the same utility, but could be worn alongside another watch. Finally, in the Sony Smartband Talk, I've found it.

    The Smartband Talk (as the name suggests) comes at the smartwatch question from a different angle, style wise. Rather than trying to look like a watch, it's a fitness band with added smartwatch style functionality. This leads to some trade offs - the functionality is far more limited than something like the iWatch - but crucially for me, it means that the size and style are such that I can comfortably wear it on my right wrist without the whole looking like a knob issue (YMMV).

    Physical Design

    Physically, the Smartband Talk is small, light and comfortable on the wrist. It weighs just 24g, is 23.5mm wide and 9.5mm thick. It comes on a comfortable rubber strap with a second, smaller one in the box if the default is too large. You can also buy replacements in different colours, so whilst the customisation options don;t come close to that of the iWatch there are at least some possibilities there. Changing the strap is easy enough that I can see myself getting a red one and swapping it out every so often. The band is very comfortable but, as the photos show, a bit of a lint magnet.
    The smartband is also IP68 rated which means you can swim and shower with it (I'm guessing this relates to about 100m WR in watch speak?). The screen is a 1.4" black and white e-ink affair, which is pretty low resolution, but has proved absolutely fine in terms of functionality. My only slight issue with it is that it doesn't do a full refresh every time it changes, meaning you do get some ghosting of the previous image at times. I'm guessing this is a battery life driven decision, Sony claim users will get 3 days in normal conditions and that estimate feels about right to me so far. Charging is done via a micro usb port, so no worrying about having to carry an extra proprietary cable when you go away.


    The functionality is very simple. It has the fitness tracking capabilities of something like a Fitbit along with a small e-ink display that shows phone notifications as they come through. Using an app on your Android phone (iOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry users will need to look elsewhere I'm afraid), you can change the default watch face and add other simple apps which you then scroll through on the watch using one of the two buttons. I've added a music control app (a simple play/pause button on the face of the watch that works with my Sonos system or whatever music app I'm using on my phone), a countdown timer app, a voice control app and a speed dial for my wife. The "Talk" in the device's name is there because it has a built in microphone and speaker and can be used like a bluetooth headset to make calls. This is surprisingly useful, yesterday, when I got home from work and was bustling round the house putting my work gear away, I was able to take a call without even having to get my phone out of my backpack.
    It connects to your phone via Bluetooth and that connection for me has been solid and surprisingly rangy - I can get up from my desk at work to get a coffee and leave my phone behind without the link dropping. If you do lose the connection you can reconnect via NFC by just tapping the watch against the back of your phone.

    The companion app for your phone allows you to fine tune the notifications so the Smartband isn't bombarded, but basically, if you can get a notification for an app on your phone you can get it on the Smartband. They come through instantly, with an app icon and a small bit of text (e.g. email sender's name). If you tap the screen of the phone you then go into a brief preview of the notification, if you don't tap the display will turn back to the watch face after 30 seconds or so. You can't interact with the notifications, they essentially just allow you to decide if you need to pick up your phone or not. Given that even the most advanced smartwatches are way more limited and frustrating to actually do anything on than a phone, this seems like the best option to me.

    So far everything about the Smartband Talk has "just worked" for me. It has accurately tracked my sleep and exercise, knowing when I am cycling rather than walking or travelling my car. The notifications are efficient and give me just enough information and the Dick Tracy style "phone on your wrist" gimmick has already proved useful. Set up was extremely easy and the companion app seems well designed and works just fine.

    Wrap Up

    As a watch lover I had a very tight (and possibly not that common) set of requirements for a smart device. I wanted basic functionality in a package that was small enough to be completely unobtrusive. For me, the Smartband Talk has hit the sweet spot between utility and wearability, I love it.

    (for reference, I'm using the Smartband with a Sony Xperia Z3 Compact)
    Last edited by whatmeworry; May 2, 2015 at 09:36 AM.

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  3. #2
    Selection of screen shots from the companion app to give a feel for how that works.

    The smart wake up alarm is very clever, you set a 30 min time window and it wakes you when you aren't in deep sleep.

    Notifications are very granular, you can choose exactly which apps you want notifications from

    There's a reasonable selection of apps available to add functionality

  4. #3
    I've added a 1 month in update to my original review.

  5. #4
    IP68 is NOT necessarily 100m wr: it's more like 5m WR, i.e. not much at all. The IP stands for Internal Protection, sometimes Ingress Protection, but the IP68 is dust-proof (6=no dust can enter the unit whatsoever) and can be used indefinitely under water to a set specified depth (8=device can be used underwater indefinitely up to a specified depth, usually around 3m if not otherwise specified). Without clear specification, it behooves to assume that such a device is basically waterproof for most purposes, but not for situations where you might be quite deep indeed...

    I think I read somewhere that it's rated down to 1.5 m. Given the IP68 rating, I think it's safe to assume that you can use for normal swimming purposes, but not for diving or anything like that. Which makes sense... :-)

  6. #5
    Well after just 2 months of ownership the clips that hold the strap on have snapped. They're replaceable and I have another set, but I'm still pretty disappointed. I'll mail Sony later and see what they want to do about it.

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