The world is awash with fitness bands, each one promising to help you make sense of your workouts and track how well you're doing, spurring you on when your willpower flags. With so many options available from so many different companies, it's difficult for new models to stand out. Sony is hoping to catch your eye by equipping its new wristband, the Smartband Talk, with an easy to read e-ink display -- like on a Kindle -- as well as the ability to make and receive phone calls via your phone.
The Smartband Talk is due to go on sale later this year. Sony hasn't said exactly where it'll be available or how much it will cost in each country, but has said it'll be around the €160 mark. That translates to roughly £125 and $210, based on a direct price conversion.
The Smartband Talk doesn't stray far from the standard wristband template. The unit itself is gently curved to match your wrist and its rubber strap fastens with little pegs that squash into holes. The black and white models are both fairly plain -- I doubt you'll be able to use them as conversation starters -- although the black and orange model I saw was rather more eye catching.
The band is completely waterproof so you won't need to worry about it when you're washing up your dishes, and you can keep it in the shower after your workout at the gym as well. It's fairly comfortable to wear although I did find the unit itself a little small, meaning it didn't sit particularly snugly against my wrist.
One of the standout features of the Smartband Talk is its curved e-ink display. E-ink screens are made up of numerous tiny dots that are black on one side and white on the other and physically flip around to display characters. That means that, unlike typical LCD screens, e-ink screens only use power when they refresh what's being displayed -- once that's happened, the balls stay in place, taking up no power as there's no backlight.
That should mean the Smartband Talk is very efficient. Sony sadly wasn't forthcoming with battery life estimates, but you should expect to be able to get at least a few days of use between charges, if not longer.
The band's primary function is as a fitness tracker. It'll count your steps, showing you how far you've walked, and has an altimeter built in too, so can tell you how high up you've been -- handy if you're a keen hill climber. It'll feed this info back to your phone, syncing with your favourite fitness apps, although Sony says it works best with its own LifeLog app.
LifeLog is an activity tracker, but it also keeps a record of what music you've listened to, which movies you've watched, how long you've slept and what photos you've taken. It gives a thorough overview of everything you've been up to, so you can look back in years' time and get a really detailed picture of what happened on a given day.
The band has a microphone and speaker built in, which will allow you make and receive phone calls. Yes, that does mean you can be that guy shouting into your wrist while walking down the street. It's a wonderful world we live in. As it uses a speakerphone, you should probably avoid having personal conversations anywhere you don't want others listening in. Or maybe just use your phone as normal.
Although I'm not exactly convinced that anyone needs to be able to shout into their wristband to make a phone call, the Smartband Talk still has a few neat features to be excited about. The e-ink screen shows fitness activity (which its screenless predecessor wasn't able to do), while its waterproof design means you can happily shower with it on. It's not dirt-cheap, but it may be worth a look if you're after a fitness gadget that doesn't require you to sync it to a phone to find out how much exercise you've done.