If you've read any of my recent blog posts (see this, this or even this), I have been somewhat critical of Microsoft. Between the issues with Windows 8/8.1, what I've seen with the Technical Preview of Windows 10, problems with their re-branding of products and services, the consumer experiences I've had with the Microsoft Stores and call centers…I've not had good experiences and I've written about them. Despite all of this, I decided to try the Microsoft Band. Shocking, maybe, but having been a long time Nike Band user and also using a Basis Tracker / Watch, I had some hopes for the Microsoft Band as it has numerous sensors and is cross platform. So, I bought one.
Maybe because it's a new product that's NOT associated with just Windows, but the Microsoft Band not only works, it works perfectly with my Note 3. I'm not joking, I'm honestly pleasantly surprised with how well this thing works! It works right out of the box and requires very little time to get up and running and working with your mobile device and the associated Windows Health app. There are no quirks, no bugs and well…not that many issues.
A common complaint is that it is a little big. However, if you are used to the various other bands that are available on the market today, while this is a bit bigger, but you forget about it after awhile. Another complaint is that the face scratches easily. I got a screen protector for it when I bought the band and put the protector on immediately. For anyone considering getting a Microsoft Band, this is probably the smartest thing you can do. So, scratching isn't a concern in my case, but the fact that you need the screen protector at all may put some people off as you shouldn't need it for a wearable. For me, though, it isn't an issue.
As for the overall size of the Microsoft Band, it isn't the result of poor design but rather it needs to be larger because they really packed a lot of stuff in it:
- Hear Rate monitor
- Ambient Light Sensor
- Galvanic Skin Response Sensors
- UV Sensor
What I loved about the Nike Fuel Band was that it felt rewarding to hit my goals. I worked a little harder on certain days to get 7 day goals, etc. That was probably the best part of the Nike Fuel Band because, overall it had some limited functionality.
With the Basis, it has many of the sensors I wanted but lacked any reward system. I loved watching my sleep and it was the first time I really realized that I don't sleep enough and I don't always sleep well. But I just didn't feel like I wanted to do more in my day with it, especially when compared to the Nike reward system.
I waited and waited for another band or watch that I really felt was going to give me the best of both worlds. I had been reading up on all the Android watches, but nothing really felt right. Apple announced their watch, but the requirement for an iPhone plus not having GPS put me off, and I really am having a hard time getting over the stupid personal heart rate thing you can send to friends and/or the emoticons. I'm not even sure why those bother me so much…maybe it's because I think they're kind of cheesy and don't see their relevance.
But then, suddenly, the Microsoft Band came out. It has daily goals, it has all the sensors, especially GPS, it has sleep monitoring and its a Band, not a watch, which works better for me when playing basketball and tennis.
Of course, I had one HUGE concern: How good would it be, considering Microsoft's recent difficulties bringing products to market. Without a doubt, they hit the ball out of the park. Is it perfect? No, but nothing ever is. This thing really does what it says its going to do. Some highlights:
The sleep monitoring seems alarmingly accurate.
The heart rate has worked well for me but I have read of others having difficulties. I don't mind wearing the band tight and maybe that's why I seem to be getting accurate results.
It works perfectly with my Note 3. I absolutely LOVE getting notifications on my wrist! I always thought that I just wanted a fitness tracker, but keeping your phone in your pocket and seeing if the emails, text messages or whatever are actually critical is REALLY awesome. This functionality got me thinking about the Apple Watch a bit more because it is going to have an OVERKILL of functionality on the wrist. But, I really think they blew it not putting a GPS in the watch.
What about battery life? Apple announced that their watch will need to be charged daily. Charging daily, in my opinion, would make monitoring your sleep very difficult. Most people charge their phones at night, while they sleep. Having to change that pattern, or add in a new pattern and charging the Apple Watch during the day and your phone at night will be a difficult transition for many people. I'm finding that the Microsoft Band is lasting 2 days, with exercise, heart rate, and MANY notifications in a day…. and I can get a full charge in about and 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours. Would it be GREAT if the battery could last longer? Of course, but it seems like the Band is better at battery life than other bands currently on the market, much less others that are coming. In my opinion, anything less than 2 days of battery life would prevent me from collecting my sleep which is one of the most important results for me as it's demonstrating an area that I need to work on the most.
Overall, the Microsoft Band is a great product. It has an incredible number of sensors and gathers a ton of actionable data. The notifications and integration with Android has been excellent. The cross platform nature of the Band was possibly the BEST thing Microsoft could have done with this as it allows them to reach a much broader audience, something Apple can't and won't consider with their Watch.
I will end with a couple of my only concerns. First, the Microsoft Band seems to be sweat proof but not water proof. I'm pretty good about keeping it away from water but I have been pretty hard on my previous trackers: my Nike Fuel band was replaced 3 times and the Basis died in a couple months. I am hoping that the Microsoft Band has the longevity because I would REALLY hate to try and work with Microsoft on repairs after my experiences with their customer service teams for other items. Secondly, I wish the voice integration was stronger when using the Band with a non-Microsoft device. I suppose with Cortana, they want to keep that functionality a bonus for Windows Phone users. While that makes sense, it sure would be nice if I could use it as well.
Overall, I'm pleased. I'm happy that Microsoft finally did something right. Hopefully the success of this points them in the right direction and they can carry the kudos with them to their other products and services.