Microsoft Band v2 Preview

Microsoft Band v2 Preview

What could possibly make Microsoft’s fitness wearable better? Almost everything. Though I’m an avid supporter and user of the Microsoft Band, I am honest enough to admit that a lot of work was needed to be done. The concept of data collection and services behind the physical device was sound, but Microsoft skimped on functional fashion the first time around.

I’m one of those unique journalists that actually uses the Microsoft Band as was intended – for exercise and fitness tracking and lifestyle improvements. So, I generally have pinpoint commentary on the matter backed by personal experience. I’ve written quite a number of articles (see HERE) on the first iteration, focusing more on the fitness aspect and decidedly less on the almost grotesque bulk of the device.

As an aside, we’re planning a new wearables feature section here on Supersite, of which I’ll be contributing, so you can count on the Microsoft Band getting plenty of moments in the spotlight. But, I’ll also be covering other vendor offerings, in hopes of exposing the leader in the space. It seems that some buy a fitness band thinking that just wearing it will cause weight loss and improve overall health. But there's no easy way out - getting fit takes work. I'll take you through that journey. Stay tuned.

Version 2 of the Microsoft Band, announced at the launch event in NYC on October 6, is an evolution. Its form and style have been improved, but really not much more than that – except for one new partnership (Lose It) and one new sensor (barometer). But, after trying the new version on and wearing it right after the launch event Tuesday, the improvements are immediately noticeable. The balance is better, the fit is flush and comfortable, and the Band just seems to disappear into your being. I truly wish you could experience the feel of version 2 to understand what I’m talking about. And, apparently you can. Some Microsoft Stores have already been outfitted with demo units.

I got used to it, but the original style was too rigid, making me feel like I was being cuffed to be thrown into the back of a cop car instead of preparing to track an exercise session or run a few miles. Not that I know what the back of a cop car is like, mind you.

Here’s how version 2 shakes out:

  • Material: Thermal plastic elastomer silicone vulcanate (same as v1)

  • Display Shape: Full-color curved display (v1 sported a flat screen)

  • Display Size: 32mm x 12.8mm (v1 was 33mm x 11mm)

  • Display Type: AMOLED (v1 was TFT)

  • Display Material: Gorilla Glass 3

  • Resolution: 320 x 128 pixels

  • Battery Life: 48 hours of normal use (same as v1)

  • Battery Type: Li-Polymer (v1 was Lithium ion)

  • Battery charge time: Full charge in less than 1.5 hours (same as v1)

  • Operating Temps: 14F to 104F

  • Operating altitude range: -300m to +4877m

  • Sensors: Optical heart rate sensor, 3-axis accelerometer/gyro, Gyrometer, GPS, Ambient light sensor, Skin temperature sensor, UV sensor, Capactive sensor, Galvanic skin response, Microphone, Barometer (new to v2 - measures elevation changes when you’re running, biking, or climbing stairs)

  • Additional technology: Haptic vibration motor and microphone (same as v1)

  • Buttons: Two physical buttons (same as v1)

  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0 (same as v1)

  • Support platforms: Windows Phone 8.1 update, iPhone: 4S, 5, 5C, 5S, 6, 6 Plus, iOS 8.1.2, Android 4.3-5.0 phones (same as v1)

  • Water Resistant (not water proof – same as v1)

I’ve already pre-ordered mine. Band v2 is available for pre-order for $250 and will start shipping on October 30, 2015.

I’ll be putting the new version through its paces including running, biking, walking, sleeping, etc. I might even throw in a round or two of golf (though I’m a horrible golfer). For v1 owners, v2 looks to be a worthy upgrade on the fashion improvements alone. For those new to Microsoft’s wearable, the $250 price (v1 was originally $199 but is now discounted to $129) will cause some pause, I suspect. Sitting next to devices from Garmin, Fitbit, and Samsung, the Microsoft Band v2 will need to look gorgeous and hit a value point the others can’t match. That’s going to be tough, but the cross-platform support and depth of services and partnerships might be enough.

There are some things though that will only be exposed from wearing and using it – as intended. So, my foray into v2 will take a more methodical approach than most. My coverage will be continuing, hoping to find that the sensors work better, that the sensors don’t corrode over time, that the material doesn’t disintegrate from sweat, and that the desktop sync doesn’t stop working just because the connector is damaged from normal use (all v1 complaints). It’s one thing to break open a package and ooh and aah, but quite another putting it through its paces. And, a device like this can’t be reviewed overnight, particularly when the intent is to make it part of your life.

So, stay tuned. This should be good.

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