Microsoft Band 2

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I’ve experienced 3 fitness bands in my time and I’ll admit, I’m not a fitness fanatic that constantly challenges my own PB’s – I’m more of a passive fitness tracker. Actually, I just want a different type of watch!

fuelband2My first foray into the fitness tracking world was the first generation Nike+ Fuelband. Admittedly, it was an impulse buy whilst in NYC and the hype of the Nike flagship store had these puppies on show, front and centre.

The Fuelband exhibited the basics like telling the time, counting steps and Nike’s proprietary NikeFuel calculation that is designed to measure whole-body movement. It was lightweight and comfortable to wear. One of the downsides was the lack of Windows Phone support. So my experience was limited.

Microsoft-BandEnter the Microsoft Band. That was tracker #2 for me. Naturally, it was supported on Windows Phone, so a major plus (for me). It told the time and tracked steps like the Fuelband, but it offered much more.

Integration with mail, phone calls, SMS and other device notifications via Bluetooth was simple and solid. Even Cortana voice interaction was present although I seldom used it (for fear of looking like a complete twat, talking into my wrist).

The screen on the MS band was a major improvement over the Fuelband, with touch capability and a power and separate action button. Personalisation was a sinch through the MS Band app and other apps like “Pimp My Band“.

The down side to this band was that it was quite uncomfortable to wear, rigid in construction and the material was relatively hard-wearing however after a few months of solid use, the inside of the band started to show heavy signs of wear and deterioration. I wasn’t overly excited about the proprietary charging cable, but its not a standard device, so understandable. Whilst it was a OK first edition, the MS Band left plenty of space to innovate and improve the wearable to a leading position.

band2 frontThree months into owning the MS Band 2, I can honestly say, the wearable is on its way to being one of the top wearable fitness trackers on the market.

Building on the Cortana integration, multiple tiles and apps for notifications and Windows Phone support, the Band 2 has a wealth of new hardware and software abilities.

Firstly, the MS Band 2 has the most hardware and sensors in any tracker on the market today. Eleven sensors including GPS, UV monitor, optical heart rate monitor and barometer to name a few.

A few new features I really like include the Sleep tracking enhancement, Music controls and its beautiful colour AMOLED touch screen.  The Smart Alarm, once set, wakes you prior to the set time and when you’re in your lightest point of sleep, waking you up at the most optimal time! The Music controls allow you to interact with your preferred Music app on your phone to play/pause/skip right from your band. Just a double tap on your power button and your Music controls appear for touch interaction. I use Microsoft’s Groove Music service and it works a treat. I haven’t tried any other music services.

The 11 sensors obviously generate a gamut of data and insight on your progress and activity. Coincidentally (or not), Microsoft’s Analytics and Data Insights practices are at work here, surfacing up real time data that is not only insightful – its visually appealing.

According to the Microsoft Health Blog, Social Challenges and Leaderboards are coming soon, aiding in the gamification of your stats and to push you harder to reach your fitness goals.

Another really impressive feature of the MS Band 2 is that it supports all 3 mobile phone ecosystems: Android, iOS and of course, Windows Phone 10. Its the only tracker of its kind and head to head, stands out from the pack when you table connectivity, sensors and software feature set.

Lastly, the Band 2 is so much more comfortable to wear than the first edition Band – but I believe Microsoft could probably refine the feel and finish even more for the 3rd edition!

I would also like to see the Microsoft Health app include the ability to change the Band 2’s wallpaper from your own photo library on the phone or saved pics from the web (like Pimp My Band did for 1st MS Band) and Workouts to include Rowing exercise tracking.

MS Band 2 Charging StandGenuine Microsoft accessories to suit the Band 2/3 such as this great 3rd party charging stand I got for the Band 2 to sit on my beside wouldn’t go astray. Perhaps a wireless charging Qi pad like the Lumia phones? Food for thought.

Got a Band 2? What is your favourite feature or function?

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