The Microsoft Band is just in its second iteration, but is already a fantastic device. For the money, it’s a worthy fitness wearable competitor, and outperforms most wristlets in its class. Microsoft took customer feedback during the first iteration and improved on the gadget for its second release. Band v2 was announced in early October and shipped to early adopters in November. Based on rumors and known customer wants, shortly after launch I dug through and rated Microsoft’s ability to meet customer feature demand. Read that here: Does Band v2 Live Up to the Rumors?
Many customers (or potential customers) were anticipating some movement from Microsoft on supplying a waterproof version of its wearable. Some want the capability to be able to monitor and report on swimming activities, others just want to be extra lazy and wear it while showering. Whatever the case, as I outlined in in my ratings article, the Band has some physical disablements to waterproofing. Specifically, there are pin-sized holes in the wearable, one for the Cortana microphone and the other for the new Barometer sensor, that make waterproofing impossible.
So, based on that rumors list and my self-imposed ratings, one of the biggest customer asks was dismissed out of hand. Or at least it seemed like it.
I was digging through the United States Patent Application office (USPTO) last night and found something interesting. Microsoft filed for a patent (published on December 3, 2015) called Battery Compartments for Wearable Electronic Device that is described this way (I’ll bolden the important parts):
The battery box is comprised of a cover, battery, a structural housing sized to hold the battery, and a polymer rim. The battery box is enveloped in thermoplastic elastomer molecularly bonded to the polymer rim. The polymer rim, thermoplastic elastomer, and cover of the battery box cooperatively resist fluid ingress into the battery box.
The patent application was filed on May 30, 2014 (a few months prior to the silent overnight release of Band v1) and includes images from Band v1. Take a look through the images and specifications yourself: Battery compartments for wearable electronic device.
The patent application was clearly submitted for Band v1. But, talking with sources recently, Microsoft wasn’t completely able to accomplish the feat of a battery box that could completely resist fluid ingress. One problem that plagued Band v1 and caused the majority of customer returns and support swaps was due to a deteriorated thermoplastic elastomer that was molecularly bonded to the polymer rim. In more meaningful terms: customer sweat penetrated the Band’s protective layer causing battery problems (and other issues).
My sources also say that Microsoft is still trying to work out how to make Band v3 waterproof, hoping to fulfill the biggest customer request. Stay tuned swimmers (and those who like long showers). If Microsoft is able to accomplish manufacturing a waterproof Band, the traveling Microsoft Device Night could become a whole lot more interesting.