Microsoft Band 2: Another View

Posted on March 22, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft-Band with 0 Comments

Microsoft Band 2: Another View

Back in October, I reviewed the Microsoft Band 2, and have been using and recommending it ever since. So much so, in fact, that my wife Stephanie—admittedly non-technical, but very interested in health and nutrition—started using one as well. At my request, she’s provided her own feedback on Band 2, based on about three months of usage. Here it is.

Step tracker: I use this feature a lot – it’s great to have an easy way to monitor exercise and everyday movement together.

Stairs: If only this worked for me! I keep hoping with an update the Band will start actually noticing when I go up and down stairs. It works sometimes but not often and since I go up and down the stairs in the house a lot it’s something I’d like to be able to measure. (Elevation is never right either. When I start and end a walk at the same place I almost always gain a little elevation. Eight feet usually.) [My own Band 2 doesn’t have this problem, which my wife also finds frustrating. –Paul]

Texts: I like having these notifications, especially since I don’t always hear texts when my phone is in my bag. Being able to customize the replies is great. (It seems weird to me that by default only two of the four reply slots are filled. Why not fill them all? Aren’t “yes” and “no” obvious default text replies? I use them way more than “I’m in a meeting.”) The feature that quickly displays every word in a row to read the text is pretty cool. The tiny keyboard for replying is adorable but useless.

Facebook messages: Useful, like texts. I don’t turn on any other Facebook notifications.

Calls: I don’t get tons of calls but it’s nice to be able to see who is calling, end a call or send a reply text from the Band.

Timer: I use this a lot, if I want to focus on something for, say, 20 minutes. I used to use my phone alarm for this and the Band is nicer—the vibration when the time is up is gentler. Plus, accessing the phone every 20 minutes to start and stop the timer just adds an opportunity to get distracted by everything else on the phone, like Words With Friends notifications. The Band timer is also nice as a backup kitchen timer when I need to time two things.

Calendar: I could take it or leave it. I prefer the color coded calendars I can see on my phone.

Run: I use this on most days to track walks. This seems to be something the Band is really good at measuring so I get a lot of data – duration, calories burned, elevation change, splits, pace, heart rate, etc.  I can see on the map of my route where I walk faster or slower, which is interesting but I’m not sure it’s useful. (I already know that I walk more slowly up a steep hill.)

Workout: I’ve used this to track exercise when I go to yoga or do a T25 workout. I can see on the app that I can choose “yoga” or “strength” or other options to label my exercise, though I don’t see how to choose those things on the Band when I start a workout. I can change in on the dashboard after the fact.

Bike: I tried this once and I liked it. I’m sure I will use it more as the weather improves and I can get out on my bike more.

Weather: Meh. Not enough details to be useful.

UV: I haven’t had a chance to try this but now that spring is here I’ll give it a shot.

AP headlines: Meh. Why does “AP Top News” have to take the top line of every story? There are only six lines. If it wasn’t there a lot of the stories wouldn’t have to scroll.

Band workouts: I’ve tried a few of these and they are good choices for bad weather days. I’m surprised the 7-minute workout isn’t an option. And a bunch have non-descriptive women’s names like “Eva” and “Barbara” so you have to drill down to see what type of exercises they include. “Overall strength” or “upper body,” for example, would be more useful. I might try building my own workout now that I see that’s an option.

Sleep: I tried this feature for a month. Mostly it made me second-guess myself. A night when I got a nice, solid eight-plus hours of sleep and felt well rested I apparently didn’t get any “deep” sleep. And the night I spent in the hospital, sleeping on a vinyl pull-out chair and awakened every hour I got the most “deep” sleep ever. [Our son spent a few nights in the hospital back in January. –Paul] Also if I sit still for a while (like watching a movie) the Band “detects” that I’m asleep. I’m pretty sure I didn’t fall asleep during Star Wars. [Are you? –Paul] I got one useful takeaway from this feature—I stopped hitting snooze so much in the mornings and set my alarm 20 minutes later.

What’s New: I only realized this was a thing when I looked at all the tiles to write this review. So it might prove useful now that I know it is there.

Activity alert: I like the little snail that tells me to get moving if I’ve been sitting an hour. Is there a place to see inactive hours on the dashboard? I couldn’t find it but that would be useful.

Overall: I like that there’s a lot of data, but I wish there was more analysis and advice. I don’t know what to do with a lot of this information. For example, I can learn: “Your daily resting HR is 11 BPM more than the typical person in this group.” What does that mean? Is it good or bad? What should my resting heart rate be and how should it change over time? Or, under, “How are my workouts impacting my fitness?” I can see they are “improving” it. So that’s good. What’s next? Add distance? Add speed? It’s like the focus is on everything that happened in the past, with no context for what to do in the future to improve fitness.

There’s not much (any?) focus on important parts of fitness that the Band can’t measure, like strength or flexibility.

For things like steps and runs it would be nice to have a “year to date” or “lifetime of tracking” measurement, something longer than a month, to get an idea of overall trends. It’s hard to compare month to month because the scale of the graph is different depending on the measurements of the month.

I don’t have much to add, but it’s interesting and perhaps not surprising that her central take-away—that Band collects a lot provides little in the way of analysis and advice—is exactly what I’ve been saying all along. That she provides specific examples is even better.

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