Microsoft Band isn’t for everyone. It competes in a market full of ever-improving alternatives from respected companies such as Fitbit, Garmin, Jawbone, Withings and many others. And at $200, it’s fairly expensive, though I argue that the range of functionality that it provides—and the coming improvements both on the Band itself and through the Microsoft Health service—distance it from the other choices.
Note: This article is excerpted from my free e-book, Microsoft Band Field Guide, which you can download in PDF, ePub and Mobi formats from the Field Guide Books web site. Thanks for reading! –Paul
The Band is also pretty big and bulky, because it’s made to be durable and because it contains so much technology. (That said, Band is water resistant, not water proof. So you still need to baby it a bit, and can’t use it in water or in the shower.) And it comes in three different sizes, so you’ll need to makes sure you get the right size. One size does not fit all in this case.
Microsoft Band utilizes a large, touch-enabled TFT screen, which differentiates it from the less technologically advanced screens on many trackers, but also comes with some downsides. First is battery life: You’ll need to charge Band every single day, which can be a hassle. Second, the screen can be bright, especially at night: If you want to check how sleep tracking is working in the middle of the night, prepare yourself for what will seem like the light of 1000 suns.
Because Band is so advanced, you can do many things with the device directly and don’t always need to turn to a smart phone app to see what’s happening. (That said, the Microsoft Health app does provide a lot more data than you can get on the Band itself.) You can use it as a watch; track steps, calories burned, heart rate measurement, basic running, exercise, and sleep; and use it for stopwatch, timers, and alarms, and more.
Are you a Windows Phone fan, like me? If so, Microsoft Band is the best tracker for you because it does more if you link it with Windows Phone (instead of an iPhone or Android phone): you can use your Windows Phone’s Cortana feature to speak commands directly into Band, and you’ll be surprised how full-featured this functionality is. It really is pretty amazing.
Unlike other fitness bands, Microsoft Band doesn’t just track fitness, sleep and other health-related data. It can also be used as a front-end to your phone’s email, calendar, text messaging, phone calls, weather, and other productivity data.
Ultimately, your choice of a fitness band is a personal one, and there are many, many options, each with its own set of capabilities. Long story short, Microsoft Band is more capable than other fitness bands, and unlike those competitors, it will improve over time too. But it’s also fairly expensive, and pretty big and bulky. And it’s fair to say that many people simply won’t want or need this level of functionality. For some, Microsoft Band may simply be overkill.
Still interested? If you live in the United States, head on over to the Microsoft Store online and sign up to be notified when this device is back in stock. (It’s been routinely sold out since launch, but if you live near a Microsoft Store retail location, you may be able to find it there.) And don’t forget to grab your free copy of Microsoft Field Guide at Field Guide Books: I’m going to keep updating this book as Microsoft adds new features to Band and the Microsoft Health service.