I’m still healing after a failed relationship with an early version Fitbit Flex. There’s only so much step-counting and sleeping analysis you can do before you realise that you already knew, generally, how much you were stepping or how well you were sleeping in any 24-hour period. Call me high maintenance but I want more than just a data report – I want something that will help me exercise more effectively.
Welcome to Microsoft Band. It’s on the pricey side but, wow, it does a lot. And it’s positively cheap if you compare it and its capabilities with the price and output of my old bedfellow. I’d argue that it’s well worth the investment but let’s take a look at the on-boarding process for this new piece of kit and some of the finer details so you can make your own mind up.
As I generally do with new gadgets, I took the band and the USB charging cable straight out of the packaging and plugged it in to my Mac. These things are designed to be fairly intuitive right? No. I was soon asked for login details to my Microsoft account, which I don’t have, and there was no other option or advice to direct me further (even in the Quick Start Guide) – just the same message asking me to login. Sounds common sense to go and set an account up online but it felt like I was guessing. Got there in the end. As an aside, I found it a little odd that I didn’t get a welcome email to the Band until over 2 days later though!
Band firmly on wrist, I carried on with my work day and very quickly began to realise just how powerful this thing was, even if I wasn’t exercising. Vibrate function to alert me to my phone ringing on my desk while I was a few metres away, appointments coming up in my diary, even the odd text. I’d watched all of the slick videos and read about all of the functions on the website – thought they looked awesome – but there’s always a cynic inside saying, “Yeah, I bet it’s not as a good as that”. But all of these things worked and added some value from the outset even if I didn’t really need them to, and my mind started to wander as I started to figure out just how much this band could help me when I really needed it – when I’m exercising.
I don’t like running with music, I don’t like running with my phone on an armband – I like to feel uninhibited when I’m exercising – but I still want to track what I’m doing, see afterwards what I’ve achieved and set myself goals for next time. Unfortunately my Nike Running app on my iPhone means I have to take my phone with me and wear earphones to listen to my split times. Maybe this Band was been designed with an athlete like me in mind?
Off on a run after work, left my phone at home, and for the first time felt free – but still in control and kind of connected with the rest of my world. I saw a missed call, followed up by a text, and I knew I had a little longer to stay out and about before I’d have to return home. Brilliant! And that’s without talking about all of the data I was collecting on my route. The following day, I had a weights session with my personal trainer and we worked together to figure out how the Band could bring us more value in my sessions. Combined in one place, my exercise periods, resting times and heart rate – awesome for my trainer and for me in so many ways.
There are so many other functions on this brilliant Band – built-in GPS, UV monitor, weather display, and partnerships with MyFitnessPal and Nuffield Health. I don’t think I’ll ever use the sleep tracking – maybe a slight hangover from Fitbit Flex but also because the band just isn’t that comfortable. It’s functional but that’s what we want from these things in the first instance isn’t it and I’m sure the design will improve with time. Unfortunately I can’t use the Cortana functions as I don’t use a Microsoft phone but there is plenty there for me to have fun with – not least the Starbucks payment link-up, which is perfect for my weekend runs in the park.
Nice work Microsoft – the ideal fitness buddy! All I’m waiting for now is a handy place to put my house keys…
The Microsoft Band retails at £169.99.