The Microsoft Band is an odd one. It looks like a fitness band, but despite its slim design, Microsoft has tried to cram as many smartwatch features in as possible.
- Price: $199.00
- Sizing (Wrist Height): Small (39 mm), Medium (41 mm), Large (49 mm)
- Battery: 48 hours of ‘normal use’, 1.5 hour charge
When someone utters the words 'Microsoft' and 'mobile' in the same sentence, most have an overbearing urge to turn and run in the opposite direction. But don’t be so hasty, because Microsoft has entered the fitness tracker fray and they’ve released a versatile band that might just be worthy of some of your attention.
It’s as if the designers were in two worlds about the product they wanted to create. Though, they do admit the emphasis is on fitness, and not its smartwatch capabilities.
It is, thankfully, compatible with iOS, Android, and of course, Windows. If the Band is hooked up to a smart device, you’ll be able to receive text, call, email notifications, social and weather updates. You can even use preset messages, a 'Virtual Keyboard', or voice dictation to reply to text messages. That’s even more than the Fitbit Surge offers. If you’re using a Windows phone, you will also be able to control Cortana straight from the band. Fingers crossed, the same compatibility may apply to the iOS and Android versions of Cortana, which are reportedly arriving soon.
The Microsoft Band also does most things you’d expect from a fitness tracker. It’s got an accelerometer to count steps and distance travelled, a GPS tracker for planning out exercise routes, and heart rate sensors. This data is transferred to your smart device through wireless Bluetooth and your data can then be reviewed through Windows’ patented Health App.
The interface for Windows Health has a lot of potential. Everything is crisp, colourful and easy to digest. Its menus are clustered with vibrant tiles that give you access to sleep data, steps, calories burned, and exercises routines. The app provides a pretty detailed breakdown for statistics in each of these categories. There’s a lot there to keep you occupied. Microsoft is still smoothing out some their proprietary app’s kinks. But, for now, Windows Health just isn’t as polished as other offerings available, like Jawbone UP.
Packing such an arsenal of features into such a small band is bound to have its drawbacks, though. The Microsoft Band is uncomfortable to wear, plain and simple. Its inner band has large bulges packed with 10 different sensors, its also very rigid, more so than the Jawbone UP24, and it feels like you’re being poked and prodded with every movement. The elongated touch display is also to blame for this; it flattens out the top of the band causing it to sit awkwardly on top of the wrist.
It’s a shame really, because the display pops with vibrant colours and the large, easy-to-manage tiles that Microsoft has started to use across all of their platforms. But, it also has its problems. The horizontal layout runs across the wrist, which makes it extremely difficult to use some of the features, like typing, that Microsoft has tried to implement without completely removing the device from your wrist.
Microsoft has had a really good crack at trying to revolutionise the fitness tracker by pumping it full of smartwatch features. Unfortunately, they’ve flown too close to the sun with this one, and their ambition has gotten in the way of good design. The effort is really appreciated though. It’s nice to see Microsoft trying out ideas, like cramming a fully interactive keyboard into a 1.4-inch display, that people are bound to condemn before they try.
- Colourful, easy-to-navigate display
- Windows Health has a lot of potential
- Cortana control from the wrist
- Compatibility for iOS and Android
- Good to see Microsoft run with some risky ideas…
- Unfortunately, these ideas don’t live up to their potential
- So many sensors in such a small band makes for an awkward fit
- Windows Health not where it needs to be, just yet
- No waterproofing
- Poor battery life