Microsoft may get as many misses as they get hits, but when they hit, they really nail it right. That seems to be the case with the Microsoft Band, Redmond’s own take on a fitness tracking wearable.
While all the other big guys are busying themselves with smartwatches, Microsoft is fixing its attention on fitness monitoring. Sure, this will have some basic smartwatch capabilities as well, but the real focus is tracking health and activity.
The Microsoft Band is a 10-sensor fitness tracker that bundles the usual set other fitness bands use to gather their data (3-axis accelerometer, gyrometer), along with an optical heart-rate monitor (for 24 hour heart-rate monitoring), a GPS for tracking your routes without a phone in tow, a UV sensor to keep track of your sun exposure, and a galvanic skin response sensor to measure stress. Made from thermal plastic elastomer, the band comes with a tiny 1.4-inch touchscreen (320 x 106 resolution) that can display three lines of text at a time, an adjustable fit clasp, and two full days of battery life (less if you use the GPS heavily). Aside from standard activity and calorie tracking, it can perform guided workouts (e.g. you can download workouts and the band will recognize each exercise being performed), provide sleep analysis, and give actionable reports courtesy of Microsoft Health, Redmond’s cloud-based system that crunches fitness readouts into real-world advice.
Beyond fitness monitoring, it supports a whole load of smartwatch-style notifications, including phone calls, emails, SMS (you can even reply, but only with canned responses), calendars, social updates, and more. Even better, it’s platform-agnostic, so it can work with iOS, Android, and Windows Phone. Microsoft faithful do go get bonus, though. If you use Windows Phone, you can access Cortana directly from the band, allowing you to bark orders to your virtual assistant without having to pull out your phone.
Available now (but already sold out online, so you'll have to hit physical stores), the Microsoft Band retails for $199.99.