The race among a crowded market of activity-tracking devices just got a new contender as Sony today unveiled its latest smart band designed to monitor the health and fitness of users. Sony’s SmartBand 2 tracker includes a heart rate monitor that can register and display cardio data as long as the user feels like wearing it. Along with pulse, it measures heart rate variability, movements and quality of sleep.
The product can also count steps and even monitor stress level, according to Sony. SmartBand 2 is compatible with Android 4.4 and iOS 8.2 devices. Once paired with a device running one of those operating systems, SmartBand 2 can notify its user when an alarm, a message or a call arrives using vibrations or a series of LED lights. The SmartBand 2 can also be used to control media playback or the camera on the user’s mobile device.
The new Sony product runs an ARM Cortex-M0 32-bit processor, and comes with 256 KB internal embedded flash memory and 32 KB of RAM. The module and wristband measure not quite 10 inches in length, and weigh just under an ounce.
The SmartBand 2 also comes with a standard micro-USB port for charging. It takes just over an hour to take a full charge, after which it can run for up to two days, Sony said.
All nice features, but are they enough to make SmartBand 2 stand out in a crowded and competitive activity tracker market? We reached out to Chris Jones, vice president and principal analyst at Canalys, who told us the SmartBand 2 might end up standing in a very tall shadow.
"Fitbit dominates the fitness tracker market, and had to increase manufacturing capacity this year to cope with the demand for its new products, especially the Charge HR," said Jones. "So vendors need a band in their activity tracker portfolio with [heart rate monitoring], but they must generate the demand for the products, and have broad availability and a robust software platform."
Jones pointed out another advantage of Fitbit: the word-of-mouth effect that comes when friends, family and colleagues all seem to be using the same brand of a product.
"Fitbit is a tough competitor," Jones said. "It has excellent in-store point of purchase presence, is tripling R&D [spending] in 2015, and has a growing corporate wellness business."
Besides Fitbit, the new offering from Sony must contend with Jawbone, Garmin and Misfit, which all offer bands with similar features. Budget Chinese mobile phone vendor Xiaomi also has its $30 Mi Band. Meanwhile, many smart watches, such as the Apple Watch and the Microsoft Band come with fitness tracking features.
The silicon SmartBand 2 comes in black or white and is waterproof up to nine feet. The device will go on sale next month for $130.
"The Smartband 2 is cheaper than the Fitbit Charge HR, although the Charge HR does include a useful function that the Smartband 2 does not feature -- it tells the time," said Jones.