It’s been a good few years since Sony released a typical smartwatch or fitness tracker. Instead, the company has decided to pave its own path, taking a more unique approach to its wearables. Enter the Sony Wena Wrist Pro, the company’s latest smart strap following the original Wena watch strap from 2015.
The elevator pitch is that you move the smart functionality away from the watch itself, and instead incorporate it into the strap. This lets you add smart functionality to a timepiece you might already have, or take it with you when you decide to change watch altogether. Read this: Best hybrid smartwatchesIf you have a watch case full of luxury watches you don’t want to replace with a modern smartwatch, the concept of the Wena straps is pretty sound. Similarly, if you want to have smartwatch features in a more discreet design, most people won’t notice the added tech packed inside.
But is the Wena Wrist Pro worth the hefty $399 it costs to get one on your wrist? We’ve been putting it to the test to find out. Here’s our full verdict.
Sony Wena Wrist Pro: Design and screenSony Wena Wrist Pro key featuresWorks with iOS and AndroidSupports 18mm, 20mm and 22mm watchesOLED display5ATM waterproofContactless paymentsNotification support
The Wena Wrist Pro is available either as the smart strap alone, or bundled with a range of different watches, referred to by Sony as ‘heads’. These heads range in cost from £100 up to £400 in the UK, potentially doubling the price. If you have an existing watch you want to augment with a Wena strap, it supports 18mm, 20mm and 22mm watches thanks to bundled lug adapters.
We won’t dwell too long on the head supplied with our review model, but it’s the Wena Wrist Chronograph Head (around £200) for anyone wondering. Unsurprisingly, it pairs nicely with the Wena Wrist Pro in black.
As for the Wena Wrist Pro strap itself, it’s available in either black, black stainless steel or silver stainless steel finishes. It has a smart design not unlike any other steel watch bracelet, and that’s really the point.
On first glance, you’re not going to really notice anything special or out of the ordinary about the Wena Wrist Pro. If it has one distinct advantage, it’s its subtlety. The only indication that there’s anything more to this watch strap is when you notice the sliver of a display towards the buckle.
With that said, as the display is black, it naturally blends in more with the black straps when in standby compared to the silver option. The OLED display is just big enough to display two lines of text, which might not be the rich level of information you’re used to.
There are three levels of brightness you can set in the companion app, but no auto brightness adjustment. You’ll have to crank the brightness up to its maximum when used outdoors on a sunny day, but even then we still struggled at times to view the screen.
The display supports gestures to wake it when you rotate your wrist, and this is more consistent than a lot of other smartwatches and fitness trackers we’ve worn. This is helped because you tend to rotate your wrist in a more pronounced way if the display is on the underside.
Above the display is a small physical button you can use to jump between different screens as well disable Bluetooth and turn the Wena Strap Pro on and off. There’s no touchscreen here or any other way of interacting directly with the strap.
With this being a steel bracelet, resizing means removing or adding links, which could mean a trip to the local jeweller unless you have a resizing kit at home. Fully aware that this is likely going to be an experience unique to us, we weren’t able to really find a size that suited our wrists.
Only some of the links are removable, denoted by an arrow marking. This left us with an uneven number of links either side of the display. As the display is about three links in length and inflexible, this meant one side of the strap would dig more into the wrist than the other.
Again, not everyone will have this same experience, but we wish there was a bit more flexibility in resizing. It’s something to be aware of if you have particularly small wrists and need to remove a lot of links.
The Wena Wrist Pro is water-resistant up to 50 metres, so it’s safe to swim or shower with, which is always convenient. There’s no actual swim-tracking, however.
Sony Wena Wrist Pro: Fitness trackingThe fitness tracking on the Wena Wrist Pro is very basic. Think step counting, calories burned and sleep tracking. That’s basically it. There are fitness trackers costing a fraction of the Wena Wrist Pro that can do more.
Read this: Best running watches to buyIf you want any sort of real sports tracking, you’ll have to look at the Wena Wrist Active, which does have built-in GPS and a heart rate monitor.
The Wena Wrist Pro doesn’t even have move alerts. They’re the gentle nudges you get from even the most basic Fitbit, Garmin, or pretty much any fitness tracker on the market, to get in a few extra steps each hour if you’ve been sitting sedentary too long.
Fitness tracking compared: Sony Wena Wrist Pro (left) and Fitbit Charge 3 (right)We don’t put that much trust in Sony’s step counting algorithm either, often coming up significantly short of the steps counted by a Fitbit Charge 3 we compared it against. While everyone tends to count steps a little differently, we at least trust Fitbit to count consistently. But unfortunately, the difference between the two step counts varied wildly day by day.Sleep tracking compared: Sony Wena Wrist Pro (left) and Fitbit Charge 3 (right)It’s a similar case with the sleep tracking. The Wena Wrist Pro’s implementation is rudimentary at best, just recording time spent in light sleep or heavy sleep. Nothing for time spent in REM or awake overnight. The total duration of sleep was often overestimated, too.Read this: Best fitness trackersAll of this information is pulled into the Wena app but it’s not presented in the most attractive way. It’s a rather drab grey affair.
Sony Wena Wrist Pro: Notifications and extrasTo the side of the Wena Wrist Pro’s OLED display is a little LED status light, which can flash in a range of different colors. You can associate this with different apps in the Wena app, so you can instantly know what app has pushed a notification to your wrist. That’s the sort of discreet notification the Wena Wrist Pro does well.
As for displaying any information from your notifications, the small display limits how much can really be shown. You’re not going to want to read an entire WhatsApp message off this screen anyway, not that you could as there’s a limit on the length of a notification before it gets cut off.
It’s a little annoying you can’t adjust the scroll speed as it can take a long time to get to any useful information. Take a WhatsApp message as an example. It’ll show the sender’s name, then the group name, before actually displaying the message that was sent, all the while you’re waiting for this to horizontally scroll across.
Jumping back to the notifications screen, the Wena Wrist Pro only shows you the last notification that came in as well. There’s no way to scroll back through past notifications on the strap. We wish the display was a touchscreen so you could swipe across it.
One thing to like about the Wena Wrist Pro is its firm vibrations to indicate when a notification has come through. Perhaps it’s because your inner wrist is more sensitive, but it’s hard to miss a notification coming in. There are three vibration levels you can set in the app but the medium level is already quite firm.
But, there was an unforeseen issue with these meaty haptics. Imagine you’re regularly sat at a desk, bashing away at a keyboard with your wrist resting on a surface. You might have already guessed what the problem is going to be. Well, those vibrations can go straight into your desk and make a lot of disruptive noise if you’re not careful with your wrist placement. We had to move the keyboard closer so the wrist wasn’t in contact with the desk, which isn’t preferable.
Beyond notifications, the Wena Wrist Pro also supports contactless payments thanks to an NFC chip inside. Contactless payments can be a bit of a stumbling block for anyone that’s not Google or Apple, because you need the banks onboard to support your payment system. Take Fitbit Pay and Garmin Pay as examples; in the UK few of the big banks are supported, making the function irrelevant for many.
To get round this, to use Wena Pay you have to sign up for a Boon account. This is essentially a prepaid virtual Mastercard. On paper, that’s a relatively elegant solution to getting round the need to negotiate support from banks and vendors, even if having to regularly top up the Boon card can be inconvenient.But the real kicker is that after the first three months, there’s a monthly charge to use Boon. In the UK that amounts to £1.49. So you’re having to pay a subscription for the ability to spend your own money.
Even then, we found Wena Pay frustrating to use. You have to re-enter your PIN in the Wena app on your phone to activate it first. Then, when you want to go to pay, press the button on the strap a few times to jump across to the payment prompt, after which you have 60 seconds to make your payment. Depending how you have your screen options set up, that’s up to four button presses before you’re ready to pay.
Priming your Wena Wrist Pro for contactless payments is also a frustrating experience as well, as sometimes our PIN wouldn’t be accepted by the app, claiming to have no network connectivity or other errors.
This need to re-enter your PIN issue is exacerbated because the Wena Wrist Pro also has a habit of losing Bluetooth connectivity to my iPhone, which means you have to completely power off and back on to re-connect. This again brings back the need to re-enter a PIN.
Sony makes a big deal about contactless payments on the Wena Wrist Pro being more natural due to the placement. That’s generally true if you’re tapping on a horizontal contactless payments reader like on a turnstile, but using it on a vertical reader and it’s just as awkward as using an Apple Watch, just in the opposite way. Rotating your wrist really isn’t that hard, Sony.
Sony Wena Wrist Pro: Battery lifeSony rates the Wena Wrist Pro’s battery life as up to a week, which we would have expected at a minimum considering its small display and basic fitness tracking. But unfortunately, we only saw upwards of four days and sometimes as low as three depending on how many notifications you’re receiving. That’s really disappointing considering there’s not even any power-sapping features to power.
Charging the Wena Wrist Pro takes about an hour and a half and uses a charging clip. It’s a bit fiddly to attach the first few times, but you will eventually get the hang of it.
Sony Wena Wrist Pro
There’s really no getting round just how expensive the Wena Wrist Pro is considering the functionality it provides. Compound that with just how basic the smartwatch and fitness tracking are and it comes across as incredibly poor value. You can get an Apple Watch for the same price or three Fitbit Charge 3 trackers. Then there’s the lacklustre contactless payments implementation and poor battery life. Altogether, there aren’t a lot of reasons to recommend the Wena Wrist Pro. Unless you have a favourite watch you must absolutely add some smart functions too, or have more money than sense, the Wena Wrist Pro misses the mark.
Discreet and premium design
Can mirror any notification
Strong vibrations for notifications
Poor battery life
Subscription fee for payments
Basic fitness and sleep tracking