It was only a matter of time before Microsoft jumped on the wearables bandwagon. While many speculated that Microsoft will put out a wearable band that will act as a phone notification device, a fitness tracker, GPS etc, nobody thought that it will be called something as plain as “Microsoft Band“. But, that is exactly what Microsoft is calling this wearable that costs about $199.99, maybe a little less because of all the holiday sales around.
The Good stuff
With Windows phones struggling to gain market share, Microsoft were smart not to make their band exclusive to just devices that ran Windows. Thus, the Microsoft Band is cross-platform compatible with Android and iPhone smartphones. Of course, it works with Windows phones as well.
What Microsoft has also done well is to incorporate a plethora of many useful notifications to increase the functionality of the band, giving you many, many updates from your phone, without you having to fish it out of your pocket.
The Bad stuff
It has to be said that the Microsoft Band is a bit buggy at the moment. These issues will clear out with simple software updates in the near future but you must be willing to be a little patient if the band acts up a little at the moment.
Another downer that might turn you off is the lack of good or great battery life. It ins’t woeful but you will probably want some extra juice from this device that you will wear out for probably the whole day.
Bluetooth syncing is a bit buggy and it can happen fairly regularly if you are unlucky. The band always manages to eventually connect but the buggy syncing up process might get to you from time to time.
Lastly, it is just water resistant and not water proof, meaning that you will have to remove it when you swim or shower.
If you have seem the Sony Smart Band, you will probably be able to relate to the Microsoft Band. It also has somewhat of a resemblance to the Nike Fuel Band although the Microsoft Band is a bit chunkier.
An ambient green light will glow at the bottom of the Microsoft Band. This of course is the heart rate monitor, which as discussed later is something that is very accurate at times and not very accurate at other times.
Unlike other wearable devices that usually give you plenty of adjustment options, the three adjustable bands that come with this Microsoft Band will fit, but maybe not as snugly as you might want it to.
The top features a 0.43′ X 1.29′ inches OLED display that puts out a pretty crisp resolution of 320 X 106 pixels. It is touch sensitive and can be swiped and pressed to navigate through.
As for the charger design, you get a magnetic charger that snaps on confidently with this band. However, the proprietary charger means that generic USB cable charging is out of the question.
Since the Band is entirely made out of plastic, scratches can start to show. Considering that this is something that you might want to use as a fitness tracker among other things, you just have to be OK with it receiving some scratches in the long run, scratches that will definitely show.
What is unique about the Microsoft Band is that Microsoft have actually taken the pain to tie up with Gold’s Gym, Men’s Health, Shape and Muscle and Fitness to give you workout regiments that can be selected through the Microsoft Band’s app.
Once you have selected the workout regiment and have initialized a training session, the band will then guide you through your workout, reminding you of how many reps you have to take, how long you have to wait between sets etc.
The downside however is that the reminders are all not exactly in sync with what you are actually doing in the workout. You could go to the restroom or chat up with your trainer and the reps will count down like you were doing the exercise.
So, when you are using this band to guide you through specific workouts, treat it as just that, a guide and not a tracker.
If you are rather interested in calories burned, the hallmark metric of measuring an exercise, switch the band into basic exercise mode and it will do just that, by mostly using information gathered from your heart rate monitor.
The heart rate monitor is unfortunately not very accurate. It seems like the snugness of the fit can affect the performance of the heart rate monitor. If the band wobbles around a bit on your wrist or is clamped on too tight, heart rate accuracy suffers, especially when you are doing high intense workouts.
Tracking your run is something that the Microsoft Band does very impressively. The GPS latches on to your position in no time and gives you a visual route on a map with great accuracy, often down to just a 100 or 200 meter difference from your actual run.
While the run tracker is great with accuracy, Microsoft seems to have blundered when it comes to choosing what should be displayed on the screen when in run mode. Instead of showing run time, average speed, calories burned and other crucial running metrics, just just get to see the total distance run. All other metrics are accessible but only with a swipe down of the screen.
Manually Switching Modes
Wearable devices are still not smart enough to figure out when you have gone to sleep, when you have started running etc. This means that you have to manually switch them into a mode. Some wearables are better than others when it comes to automatically switching modes.
The Microsoft Band is however not one of those better switching devices. Whether you are going into walk mode, sleep mode, workout mode or run mode, you will have to manually switch modes in the Microsoft Band. Forget that and your whole workout will be blissfully ignored, something that can be very annoying when you eagerly try to check stats after a good hard run.
Smart Phone Notifications
We are not talking about basic smartphone notifications but smart notifications from your phone. Notifications are customizable and you can essentially see all your phone’s notifications on your Microsoft Band’s screen.
Everything from calls, messages, Facebook updates, twitter updates, stock ticker updates, weather, calendar dates and mail can be seen on this little band, making it a real powerhouse for a wearable if you like to see all notifications without having to check your phone.
Even more impressive is the fact that all notifications will work regardless of whether you use an Android, Windows or iPhone. You just need an iPhone that runs on iOS 8.1 or higher or an Android device that runs on Android 4.4.4 or higher.
The average user will get about two days of battery life from the Microsoft Band. When we say average user, we mean someone who runs for about 30 minutes a day with the GPS on, with some additional on and off fitness tracking.
Considering that you are constantly getting real time updates on your phone, battery life is pretty impressive. However, if you are going to leave GPS always on, the Microsoft Band will last you just 5 hours and you will be much better off with a GPS watch like the Garmin ForeRunner for example.
Who might like the Microsoft Band?
There you have it, the skinny on the rather chunky Microsoft Band. If you are a first time wearable purchaser, this will make for a very interesting purchase. If you already own something like a smart watch or a GPS watch, you might still find it interesting but a bit confusing as well.
We would recommend it to people who like to track their fitness on and off and not on a continuous basis. We would also highly recommend it to anyone who wants notifications on their phone to be relayed to a device on their wrist.