Walkthrough: Microsoft Band’s Leaderboard and Activity Challenges

Microsoft is pretty proud of the new community properties built into its Microsoft Health mobile app. The leaderboard and activity challenges feature rolled out with a slew of other enhancements as part of the April 2016 Microsoft Band update, but only delivered an announcement about the community integration just prior to the week of Build 2016. The announcement came a little over a week before it was actually released. I heard that the announcement needed to be made prior to Build 2016, but I assumed that was because we’d hear some news about Microsoft’s Health platform at the developer’s conference. Interestingly, there was very little to hear about Microsoft Health or the Microsoft Band at Build 2016. So, why the early, early announcements? I’m still clueless and my shoulders are aching from the constant shrugging.

As you’ll see in the slideshow and commentary above, I’ve spent some time with the new social pieces to hopefully give you some insight into a feature that’s already pretty solid but needs some work. But, it does was it was developed to do – it spurs you on to take extra steps or perform additional fitness activities to try to move up the leaderboard. Prior to the Facebook friends integration, I have been using Inkin as a social motivator for the Microsoft Band and I admit that these types of services really do build a competitive drive to perform better and do more.

This is obviously a first iteration for the Microsoft Band and I fully expect to see improvements and refinements along the way. But, with anything new like this there will be annoyances.

Here’s my two biggest complaints:

  1. Facebook only. I understand this one, but not entirely happy that the social features are dependent on a Facebook connection. I’m not the only one to complain about this, but Facebook represents the largest online social congregation. It was smart for Microsoft to start here. For those who are still trying to avoid Facebook like it’s some political and social statement, your friends list is either small or vacant. Those I’ve talked to would love it if Microsoft created its own social network just for fitness since everyone that owns a Microsoft Band already has a Microsoft account, but I suspect that’ll never happen. Microsoft is content just to integrate and partner. Why recreate the wheel?
  2. Microsoft Health app only. C’mon, Microsoft – stop forcing us to connect to your Cloud every time we open the Microsoft Health app! Due to the added features over time, it takes longer and longer for the Microsoft Health app to even open and sync, let alone check social leaderboards. The Microsoft Health app should give users an option to store at least 2 weeks of data on the smartphone. So, performance for checking friends’ progress is degraded and there’s no other way to see this information except through the app. Hopefully, Microsoft will provide a way to check leaderboards and challenges online in either the Health Dashboard or on Facebook. So, really this is less of a hack on the new social feature and instead a growing disdain for the horrid user experience of the Microsoft Health app.

If you’ve been using the new features already, what’s your favorite part? What’s your least favorite part?

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