Microsoft Band Second Impressions

Microsoft Band Second Impressions

Still more questions than answers

Even after less than a day of use, it's pretty clear that Microsoft Band is big, bulky, uncomfortable and complex enough to dissuade many from using it. Which is too bad, because there is real magic here. Both in the Band itself, which provides an unprecedented number of data-gathering sensors. And in the underlying Microsoft Health services, which are more comprehensive than anything seen in other health and fitness platforms.

First, the basics. Physically, the Band itself will prove too unwieldy for most. I'm going to try and stick it out for a variety of reasons—Microsoft Health being the biggest and most obvious—but I wish Microsoft had made a few nods towards comfort in a device that is designed to sit on your wrist 24 hours a day. I don't notice a Fitbit while I'm playing basketball, walking, typing, or whatever, but I notice the Band when I'm just sitting here motionless. It's ... obtrusive.

Yes, the screen is big and bright. But it's also flat, and not curved for your wrist, so it sticks out in odd angles and gets caught on things all the time. It's like wearing handcuffs, and you're always aware that the device is there. My Fitbit disappears from my mind until I want to check on something.

And yes, that big and bright screen can and does provide a lot more information than any Fitbit, and of course it's touch-enabled so you can actually work with it in more sophisticated ways. And while I realize this is just the first of many devices, I'm hoping for a smaller, lighter Band with a similar sensor array and a less capable, Fitbit-like screen. You know, before a year from now.

That screen oddly does too much in some cases and too little in others. If you're going to have this complex and capable system, why can't it handle an "at a glance" mode and light up when you bring your wrist up towards your face? Other fitness bands do that. But on the flipside, the Band vibrates all day long as emails and other notifications arrive. Yes, you can disable that, and configure which things trigger notifications, but it's just another thing to manage.

And boy is there a lot to manage. And learn. The device itself is teaming with information, tiles, screens and sub-screens. And the mobile app you need to use on a smart phone is likewise chock full of information and things to do. This is good, on one hand, because Band and the Microsoft Health platform really are comprehensive and amazing. But it's also overwhelming, too much so for the typical user, I think.

I question the need to read emails on a fitness band. But Microsoft Band actually lets you do that. It's something I'll probably turn off. Eventually.

One mistake I made was to remove my Fitbit yesterday and replace it with the Band. Today, I'm putting the Fitbit on my other wrist (you can configure it to handle such a change) so I can compare the data both gather.

This occurred to me because I used the Band's sleep monitoring functionality last night. The results were not inspiring, in part because I felt like I slept well—though I did wake up very early—and I would have liked comparing it to the Fitbit's sleep monitoring results. I will do that this evening. But according to the Band, I got only 4.5 hours of "actual sleep" last night, 1 hour of which was restful. (3.5 hours was "light sleep," and I woke up seven times, for an efficiency rating of 87 percent.) That's not good. So I'll be watching that and, as important, comparing it to Fitbit.

One thing I'm particularly interested in is the Band's constant heart rate monitoring, a measurement that Microsoft tells me will provide a true metabolic heart rate. If you've ever gone to the doctor and received a horrifically high heart rate reading—as I have, apparently because I'm at the doctor and am nervous—you know why getting a more realistic rating is both interesting and useful. I can glance at the Band face (well, after turning it on) and see my current heart rate—it's 67 bpm as I write this—but only if I know to configure the default view to show that. And I can see that my heart rate while sleeping last night was 60 bpm. But ... I don't see any tally of my average heart rate anywhere. Not on the watch, and not in the mobile app. Maybe there's a weekly report. I don't know, I just got the thing.

Now it's 74 bpm. I must be getting riled up. :)

Anyway. I'm not really sure how to handle this thing from a coverage perspective. There's obviously a lot of interest in it, and I'm personally interested due to my never-ending quest to lose weight and get healthier, and I feel like Microsoft has done something special here. I think I'm going to have to start deep-diving into individual features until I can arrive at some broader understanding of everything that's available—again, a lot of stuff­—and can provide some advice that would actually be helpful to people considering the Band.

Time to get moving. Literally.

TAGS: Office 365
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