A few weeks ago you may remember that I was able to get hold of the Microsoft Band briefly at its launch event. I have now had some time with the device and thought I would share my thoughts with you.
I am not the fittest guy in the world and I really hate the prospect of going to the gym. However I am aware that I do need to try and get fitter. So if in any way technology can help me in getting some of my fitness back, then I am ready to give it a shot. This where the Micrososft Band comes in.
Unlike some of the other fitness trackers out on the market, the Band is not trying to be the all singing dancing ultimate fitness device. What it is trying to do and does well, is be a smart fitness companion. I will try and explain this below.
So – on the device. You have a whole load of sensors that will all record different aspects of your day to day live, including your heart rate, calories output and steps. Along with these readings, the Band is also GPS aware so that when you go for a run it will show you where you have been.
While it is doing all of this it will also tell you the time and allow you to be kept up to date with notifications from your phone, be it an iPhone, Android Phone or a Windows Phone. That last point is a big one this wearable is the first to be able to be used by all the major phones software that is currently available. The Android and iPhone notifications are not quite as evolved as what you would find if you were using a Windows Phone. This is due to the fact that Cortana is used when the band is paired with Windows Phones for handling notifications. Cortana is not currently available for iPhone and Android.
I am an Android user, and I was able to get all the relevant fitness info delivered to my wrist with no issue and the app for the phone was very clear and concise. I particularly enjoyed the sleep tracking as it would tell me when I needed to go to bed in order to get the best restorative sleep.
I didn’t even know such a thing existed! You can also dial in on much more intricate detail about your activity on the web-based dashboard that the Band has which ties in with Microsoft Health.
The actual menu layouts are very reminiscent of what is normal for Windows phone and this is to be expected, as the app is more or less a port of the Windows Phone version. I like the way it is laid out as it is very user-friendly. From within the app you can control the look of your Band and how it handles your notifications.
As I have mentioned due to the lack of Cortana on Android, you don’t get the ability to have your texts read out to you, set up reminders and control music tracks by voice. This is something that I really enjoy doing on the Sony Smart Watch 3 and I did miss doing this on the Band. here are some shots of what the UI looks like on an Android Phone.
In addition to all of the above the Band supports Guided Workouts. In essence, these are workouts that will prompt you through a vibration on the Band to move onto the next step of the workout. In practice it was very useful, however this is where one of the biggest issues with the Band arises. I found that it was very tight and it was restricting my muscles from actually expanding and contracting when lifting weights. I tried to loosen the band to counteract this but it then would not register my heartbeat correctly.
I also found that after wearing the band for a few days I was starting to develop a bald patch on my wrist were the Band sat. This was due to the covers for the sensor units actually pulling the hair out of my arm. I don’t understand why Microsoft have decided to make the band the way they have, when they could have had a more seamless design if it had been all one uniform profile throughout. Also, I think it is positively criminal that a curved screen wasn’t used. This is a very easy issue to rectify and one that I hope to see done on the Microsoft Band version 2.
The Band is a great product and it is by far and above the most accurate wearable I have seen to come out yet (I haven’t tested the Apple Watch). However it does need some fine tuning when it comes to usability, particularly on the iPhone and Android side of things. If tracking fitness is your primary goal from a wearable, then I would go for it. If like me, you use your wearable as a second screen for handling notifications, then maybe I would suggest you look elsewhere.