Microsoft caught many people by surprise yesterday when it jumped into the wearable technology arena with the launch of Microsoft Band, a health and productivity device, which is worn around the wrist like a watch. Microsoft joins a crowded field, which includes the likes of Jawbone (UP24) and Fitbit (Flex and Zip), and which will soon see the arrival of Apple Watch.
Although heavier than most of the existing tech-inspired wristbands, Microsoft Band is sleek-looking and stylish, blending a heavy-duty rubberized strap with a black horizontal screen that lights up with a full-color display when activated. Although Microsoft Band is currently only available in black, there are three different sizes to fit even the largest or smallest of wrists.
Microsoft Band comes pre-charged, so you can use it right out of the box, but there is also a charging cable that snaps onto connectors on the inside of the wristband and plugs into a standard USB adaptor. When fully charged, Microsoft Band will last 48 hours with normal use, although activating features like GPS will inevitably cut into the battery life.
Once Microsoft Band is turned on, you can customize the color of the screen and also the background wallpaper. If you have one, you can sign in to your Microsoft account to populate your profile fields or you can enter them manually.
Microsoft Band is compatible with iOS 7.1 and 8, Windows Phone 8.1, and Android devices running 4.3 or later. I had a few problems pairing Microsoft Band with my Droid MAXX, as both devices wanted me to input different PINs, but they got on the same page after a few tries. As with most other Bluetooth devices, once you connect the first time they recognize each other and pair automatically after that.
Microsoft Band offers an impressive set of features, including built-in GPS, call-screening, the ability to read incoming e-mails and texts, a fully-synced calendar, a heart rate monitor, and more. But the key to making the most of Microsoft Band is Microsoft Health, an ambitious and superbly organized wellness app, which offers a wide selection of health and fitness tools.
With Microsoft Health you can set activity goals, monitor performance, track your heart rate and sleep patterns, choose from a wide range of different workouts, and even map your outdoor runs. The developers of Microsoft Health have clearly paid close attention to all the popular sports apps and have produced a winning combination of all the best features.
At $199, Microsoft Band is considerably more expensive than Jawbone’s UP24, the Fitbit Flex, or Nike’s Fuelband, but none of those devices can really compare with the style and functionality of this excellent new device. Microsoft may have been a late and unexpected arrival in the world of wearable technology, but now they are here they have undoubtedly raised the bar for everyone else!