Fixing Microsoft Band

Posted on May 10, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft-Band with 0 Comments

Fixing Microsoft Band

With Spring belatedly making its appearance in my corner of the world, I’ve been walking more again. And as I did so this morning, I started thinking about how I’d update Microsoft Band 2, the wearable I use and recommend. What should a Microsoft Band 3 be like?

As you may recall, I selected Microsoft Band 2 as my wearable of the year for 2015. It delivers, as I wrote at the time, exactly the right mix of functionality and design, and works nearly identically with Android, iPhone, and Windows phones.

But Band 2 isn’t perfect. And to address issues with the current design, I’d love to see Microsoft implement the following, in this order of need.

1. Removable straps

While I’ve been lucky and have not experienced this, the rampant build quality issues that dogged the first Band have apparently been an issue with Band 2 as well. That is, many people are seeing issues such as tears along the seem where the Band 2 strap meets the body, rusting screws, detaching buckles, and the like.

The solution here is simple and elegant: Design Band 3 so that the straps detach from the body. Today, the Fitbit Alta offers exactly this design. There are a number of benefits to this change:

  • Warrany repairs. If something goes wrong, Microsoft doesn’t have to replace the entire Band, and if the strap is the issue, you just keep your device and you’re good to go.
  • Out of warranty repairs. If your Band breaks and you’re liable, the repair cost will be cheaper. That’s true if the problem is the Band itself or just the strap.
  • Replacement straps. As Apple has seen with the Watch, people like to swap out straps. Microsoft could create a market for first- and third-party straps, and Band 3 could be fashionable and useful.

And so on.

2. Battery life

I’m not sure how Microsoft solves this problem, exactly, but the 1- to 1.5-day battery life of Microsoft Band 2 is only good if you compare it to more full-featured smart watches. That Fitbit Alta I mentioned above? It’s rated at five days of battery life, and even if that’s on the high side, it still delivers 2-3 times the battery life of Band 2.

Tied to this is Band 2’s need for a non-standard charger. This thing should use a standard micro-USB or USB-C port for charging. That way you don’t have to worry about leaving behind a special charging cable when you travel or commute.

3. Lower price

Microsoft has had sales in which the Band 2 sold for $75 less than the normal retail price in each of the previous three months, bringing the price down from $250 to a more reasonable $175. Band 3 should sell for under $200 (at the end high), and again I’ll just point to the Fitbit Alta, which costs just $130. $250 is just too much for this kind of thing.

And while we’re at it, Band 3 needs to be distributed more broadly. There are people all over the world who would love to own these devices. But Band 2 is only sold in a few locales for some reason.

4. Smaller, lighter

At the risk of turning this into a “hey, maybe we should all just get a Fitbit Alta,” there is something to be said for smaller and lighter. Band 2 is a significant form factor improvement over any smart watch because it’s angular strap design keeps the screen facing up. It’s just a bit too big and heavy.

Rectifying “smaller, lighter” with “better battery life” is of course an issue for Microsoft—and physics—to figure out.

5. Windows 10

I assume that Band 2 runs on Linux, like Microsoft’s wireless display adapters, but with the big Windows 10 push to IoT and other non-PC form factors, one must assume that the firm is heading in this direction for Band as well. But getting Windows 10 on Band 3 isn’t just about ticking off a bullet point on a list. It’s about getting the UWP app platform and the vast developer experience in that platform behind yet another device type. With Band 2, we see some nice functional extensibility coming from third parties. That would explode with Band 3, especially if that device is more elegant and cheaper than its predecessors.

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