I first saw pictures of the Microsoft Band yesterday and didn’t quite get it. I figured that it was yet another in a long line of wearables and wrote it off as such. Turns out there’s a little more to the story, and the Microsoft Band is only a small part of what Microsoft Health is, and it’s not even required.
First off, don’t think of Microsoft Band as a Fitbit or a Nike Fuelband. It actually has more in common with a smart watch than one of the aforementioned fitness trackers. That’s because the Microsoft Band doesn’t actually do the collection of the data. Rather, it receives the data that your phone is collecting and passes it along to you in a more efficient package so you don’t have to take your phone out of your pocket to check your vitals or your stats for the day.
Microsoft likens its Band to a personal trainer. It tracks your heart rate 24 hours a day, knows when you’re sleeping and keeps a log, maps the routes you take with the GPS while you bike, hike, or run, and let’s you save your favorite routes, and it can even guide you through workouts. Because the Band connects to your phone, it can also alert you when you get an email or have a calendar event, it can set a timer or alarm, and you can ask it things via the Cortana software, which is Microsoft’s version of Siri. It even detects UVs and will let you know if you should put on sunscreen when you head outside.
The surprising thing about all of this is how open it is. The Band works with Windows phones, Androids, iPhones, smart watches, and even certain Jawbone products. Microsoft Health has support for a variety of services, such as MyFitnessPal, RunKeeper, and MapMyFitness as well.
I was listening to The Vergecast podcast today and they spoke about some of the possibilities of Microsoft Health. One example was the app could see that you have a meeting later in the day and that you tend to get tired later if you exercise earlier, so hold off exercising until after the meeting. Or, it could see that if you have a big dinner followed by coffee, you have trouble sleeping, so don’t eat so much and pass on the coffee. Because of the integration with services like MyFitnessPal and the ability to see how well you sleep, Microsoft Health will have access to such detailed information. The ability to integrate with the above services along with the fitness-tracking features of all phones is exciting.
But will I get a Microsoft Band? That remains to be seen. I’ll hold off and wait for the reviews. I don’t see myself as a smart watch kind of guy, but if it works as well as Microsoft says it will, then I might just have to bite the bullet. At the very least the Microsoft Health app sounds great, but for it to get information about what you’re eating and drinking, you’ll have to manually enter that stuff in a service like MyFitnessPal. I don’t think I have the time or dedication for that unfortunately.
The Microsoft Band is priced at $199, which is $50 less than the new Fitbit Surge, and it has a better (and color) screen, and seems to be able to do so much more. The new Fitbit actually looks old and dated in comparison.