In a crowded world of fitness bands and trackers Microsoft has become a surprise entrant in the market with the Microsoft Band. Microsoft first fitness band retails for $199 and with the combo of the Microsoft Health app brings you the best fitness tracking combo available today. Now Microsoft released this without too much hype on it so let’s first talk about what the Microsoft Band is about then I’ll get to my thoughts on it.
What Is the Microsoft Band?
The Microsoft Band is an industrial design band that is dust and splash resistant that packs every sensor that you can think of inside that can measure your heart rate, skin temperature UV Level, calories burned and sleep quality. The data from these sensors are shared with but not restricted to the Microsoft Health app that is available on Windows Phone, Android and iOS. The data will also sync across all devices through the cloud regardless of which phone you have the band attached to.
You control the Microsoft Band using its 1.4 inch touchscreen display and the modern UI that looks very similar to Windows Phone. It’s pretty easy and intuitive to use. Swiping to the left will let you scroll through apps and swiping all the way to the right will reveal the battery indicator, heart rate icon and bluetooth icon. Tapping on a app brings you deeper into it and hitting the always visible back button will bring you back to the main menu. Outside of the settings most items are 1-3 taps away which makes getting to what you want quick.
The Microsoft Band supports a selection of apps that you can control through the Microsoft Health app and you and add, remove and organize them the way you want. Notifications are available for phone calls, text messaging, calendar appointments invites etc. Any notification that isn’t support by a separate app can be found in the notification center app so apps like Google Hangouts and Google Now will show its notifications though there. While you can get these notifications your phone won’t be aware that you’ve checked the message so expect to still see them on your phone. I noticed this with Android and Windows Phone. However I am not sure on iPhone as I didn’t use the Microsoft Band with one. Also you get Cortana on which she will take notes for you and set reminders through voice commands. Very useful if you in the middle of a workout and need to set a reminder for yourself.
Another couple of great features is GPS tracking and the ability to download workouts. When you turn on the run app on the Microsoft Band it will ask you if you want to track your run via GPS. The GPS will take some time to lock in but once it does you will be able to get full map results of your run which will also show your different runs speeds. For workouts you can download them directly to the band using the Microsoft Health app. The workouts come from many fitness brands from Men’s Health & Fitness, Shape, Gold’s Gym, etc. The workouts will run you through the full program and includes rest periods and circuit workouts. If you don’t know how an exercised done you can watch a video in the Microsoft Health app to see how it’s performed of course if you really are not sure how to do the exercise still you will want to consult a personal trainer to avoid injury.
Is The Microsoft Band Good?
Why yes, yes it is! It’s the best fitness band I’ve used. The sensor tracking is on point and never seems to skip a beat or get stuck. Wearing the band does take some getting used to as its bulkier than most fitness trackers in it category. I also wear mine like a normal wristwatch and I find it more comfortable and don’t want to risk slamming the screen against the tablet surface. It is design so you can wear it on the inside of your wrist too so you have a choice either way.
I love the workout feature. Being able to get workout routines from popular fitness gyms and publications and download them right to the band is so far my favorite feature of the Microsoft Band. I’m using one of the Microsoft created workouts and it’s been a lot of fun. The videos that show you the workouts if you don’t know them are very useful. I love having a 7 day routine planned and ready to go.
The GPS tracking is accurate but took some time to lock in. I liked that it showed when I was going my fastest and slowest on the map and its cool just to see where you have gone. I do wish in the app the map was a bit more interactive. Right now its really just a screenshot image of what you have done. Runners who love to track their route on the go will enjoy this feature.
There are not a lot of apps yet but I’ve enjoyed the few that I have used, even the non fitness apps like weather and finance. These are two items I like checking quick and the Microsoft Band is perfect for that. I will say notification can get on the heavy side so you might want to limit that down and not use the notification center app if your on Android as you’ll get a buzz for anything in your notification tray. But for text messages it’s limited quick view is perfect.
The big seller here is not just the band itself. It’s the Microsoft Band and the Microsoft Health app which curates all the date in a simple and very user-friendly way. I like being able to look at my states and get a clear idea of how many calories iv’e burned and the split between fat calories and carbs burned. I really like the sleep tracker as it gives you and idea of quality of sleep and I found that I wasn’t getting as much restful sleep compared to light sleep. I also didn’t know how many calories you can really burn in your sleep when you are in full deep sleep. The app is also open to other fitness devices so you can use it with Fitbit fitness trackers as well. There will be more coming down the road as Microsoft hopes more fitness companies jump on board.
While Microsoft says that you will get 48 hours of battery life out of the Microsoft Band I did fall well short of that around 28 hours of use. The GPS will affect battery life as Microsoft states but I don’t see this reach 48 hours unless under as minimal of use as possible. This isn’t too bad however as the device charges up fully in about an hour. It uses a proprietary USB charger that connects magnetically to the back of the band. While one charger is fine you will probably want to buy a 2nd one if you are an active person on the go. There also is no storage or music player available so if you want to have music while on the run you will need a 2nd device. I’m hoping this is something we see added in the next version.
So the Microsoft Band is $199. It’s does a lot when it comes to fitness tracking and it does it great. With that said I would like to see them drop the price down just a bit to make this more of an easy pickup because I think the Microsoft Band is the best fitness tracker on the market today and I want to see is succeed so we can see more of them out there. There are a lot of fitness trackers out there but if you are looking for one that gives you all the tracking you need and some smartwatch capabilities the Microsoft Band is the one to go with.
Great review Warren. Would like to see a follow up in say 3 months to see how the band is going and how you’ve been using it.
Keep up the good work!
yes I plan to do a follow up in a month or so. Check back.
You missed one point… water resistant/ proof?
I have had the Band for almost a week now and my use of the device is radically different than yours, which is not to say I don’t like the band, quite the contrary, I’m not giving it back.
My use revolves around productivity. The reason I got the band is not at all for the fitness features, heck I’m 60, what am I going to gain, a couple of those cruddy years at the end? What I want is to be more productive now when I can still recall what it is I’m doing.
This Band hits a home run with the texting aspect. The Emails, calendar, alarm function, weather and notification tabs are all a great help. No fumbling for a phone, no rude ignoring people to read a phone screen, just a rude look at the wrist, but that takes less time.
Now the Band itself does not have a speaker but my phone does. Paring the Band with a Windows Phone allows for additional functionality in the form of Cortana. This little lady allows you to speak to the Band and have it make your Windows Phone do ‘stuff’. By stuff I mean pretty much anything you want. Tell me a Joke works, Marry Me resulted in a refusal that blamed the Supreme Court.
I will admit I thought the Band was trying to electrocute me as it started to tingle and vibrate increasingly until I remembered I had set the alarm. One issue I see is the sleep setting, used to track your sleep patterns as you doze, once on it takes over until you wake and turn it off, the problem? The alarm won’t go off until you turn off the sleep function, someone goofed there I think. But then there is the phone, you do need to be nearby so there is no real reason not to tell Cortana to set the alarm on the phone, that’s not all that difficult to do, just push the action button and say “set am alarm for 6AM”. Same thing goes for playing music, in the blog you mentioned it does not play music, again that is as simple as “play Jazz” and presto, Jazz.
What the device does lack is a simple enough tool to read back text messages before sending them. Yes, that means the Band will listen to and send a text message but you are going to have to trust that it sent “I love you darling, please stay with me forever” and not “I’ve tube starlings pigs stay whiffle for evening”. Someone I am sure will be smart enough to see the need here, and soon I hope.