First look: Heart rate tracking $199 Microsoft Band connects to Apple's iOS & OS X, will integrate w

Posted:
in iPhone edited November 2014
Microsoft issued a surprise on Thursday when it launched a new hardware product dubbed the Microsoft Band, a fitness-focused wrist-worn device that connects to both iOS and OS X, and will also integrate with Apple's HealthKit service and Health app for iPhone. AppleInsider offers a first look at the new wearable device.




The Microsoft Band is very similar to Samsung's Gear Fit, offering a thin watch-like device that wraps around a user's wrist. Up top is a rectangular color touchscreen that displays content horizontally, which can be somewhat awkward when holding a watch in front of your face with your elbow at a right angle.

A unique, resizable clasp is at the bottom of the Microsoft Band, allowing users to find a size that's most comfortable for them. The device is also sold in sizes of small, medium and large.




Inside the band loop is a magnetic charging attachment up top, while a heart rate sensor is at the bottom, pressed against the inside of a user's wrist. The monitor tracks a user's heart-rate 24-hours a day, giving users more precise information on calories burnt, sleep patterns, and peak and resting heart rate.

Microsoft advertises that the Band will offer two days of runtime on a single charge. While the color display will automatically turn on for notifications, it's turned off the rest of the time, and requires a button press to be enabled.

The Microsoft Band also features integrated GPS for run tracking, offering pace and distance data to users who may prefer to run without their iPhone strapped to their arm. Most notably, the upcoming Apple Watch does not feature integrated GPS.




The new Microsoft Health platform will tap into functions from device and service partners including MyFitnessPal, RunKeeper, MapMyFitness, Gold's Gym, and Starbucks.

AppleInsider has also been informed that Microsoft intends to support Apple's HealthKit platform in the future. A spokesperson for the company said that Microsoft Health is intended to connect to all health and wellness data sources for the benefit of customers.




One of the more interesting fitness-focused features of the Microsoft Band are "Guided Workouts." With this, users can select from a variety of pre-set workout routines and plans, and the device will walk users through every step of the exercises.

For example, we selected a bodyweight workout routine, which we could then select from the watch. Initiating a workout would give instructions on what exercise to do, along with a timer showing how long to do it.




Once the time for a particular exercise was up, the Microsoft Band would buzz on our wrist, letting us know it was time to take a break. Users could view their heart rate at any time during the workout, and short cooldown periods are provided with an indication of what exercise is up next in the routine.

For the "bodyweight" routine that we sampled, activities included jumping jacks, squats, planks and crunches.




Entire routines are also provided, including activities for certain days and different types of exercises. The "Beginner Home Workout" option includes days with bodyweight exercises, days with running intervals, and designated rest days as part of a basic three-week routine.

Another unique feature of the Microsoft Band is a UV monitor, which allows users to obtain the UV Index at their current location. After scanning the environment, the Band will inform users of their estimated time to burn in the sun.




The Microsoft Band also features the usual array of fitness-focused features, including a pedometer, estimated calorie tracking, sleep tracking, and customizable goal setting.

Like many other wrist-worn accessories, the Microsoft Band also offers some so-called "smartwatch" functions. Notably, the Microsoft Band is cross-platform compatible, connecting to Apple's iPhone, as well as Microsoft Phone devices and handsets running Google's Android.

By default, tiles shown on the band are Messaging, Mail, Calls, Calendar, Run, Exercise, Sleep, Alarm & Timer, and Guided Workouts. Each of these can be arranged or disabled altogether. Smartwatch functions work as expected, lighting up the device when a notification comes in, and also buzzing on the user's wrist.




Users can also choose to enable Weather, Finance, UV, Starbucks card, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, and all alerts from the iOS Notification Center. From our tests, these alerts work as expected, providing users with prompts from their phone when connected via Bluetooth Low Energy.

Users can also personalize their Microsoft Band, deciding not only what notifications come through to their wrist, but also how the device looks. An array of color styles and wallpapers are available by default.




All of these customization options can be selected from a dedicated Microsoft Health app available for iPhone, which is also used to sync fitness data with the free service. Using Microsoft Health requires a Microsoft account.

Finally, the Microsoft Band can also sync with a dedicated OS X app named Microsoft Band Sync, available for free from the Mac App Store. Unlike the iPhone app, which connects wirelessly over Bluetooth, the Mac app requires a connection over USB, allowing users to charge and sync at the same time.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 100
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,451member
    More inexpensive that I would have expected for the features. Actually looks like something health-conscious consumers might buy. Maybe post-Balmer Microsoft is going to be a lot more competitive. Perhaps.
  • Reply 2 of 100
    Is it me or is the new Microsoft getting smarter? It appears to be a well laid out device for sports-speific training and logging. Certainly more advanced than Nike or FitBit offerings (for the moment). Cross Platform, IOS friendly.... the winds are a changing.
  • Reply 3 of 100
    Not as cool as Apple's watch but actually rather good. It might even meet my needs better than AppleWatch and I like the price.

    I'm probably getting the AppleWatch though - who am I kidding?
  • Reply 4 of 100
    It looks big and ugly...
  • Reply 5 of 100
    paul94544paul94544 Posts: 1,027member
    What I like about this is that its not trying to create its own ecosystem but is seamlessly fitting in to whats out there already and play nice! I think many companies might learn something from this especially MCX, and in some respects Apple too. Being a disrupter is fine but it does have some negatives too like for instance the Apple watch must be paired with an iPhone and the Apple Watch doesn't have GPS. So right there Apple has limited its apple watch sales to only iPhone (17% of the global smartphone market users)! I thought Apple was smart, how could they miss something THAT obvious! Unless they add GPS and support for Android in a later Apple watch. That right there is I believe a big fail for the Apple Watch because anyone who just wants to go walking, cycling or running doesn't have to take a phone along with them. Also it will pair with any smart phone. Sorry to have to say this guys but Microsoft is being very smart with this strategy. I wish we still had Balmer as CEO
  • Reply 6 of 100
    davendaven Posts: 514member

    Looks like Microsoft is getting its act together. If I were the competitive fitness guy I was up until my 30s I'd consider it. I still keep fit but not to the point where I need to monitor my progress. A good addition would be an oxygen sensor. I think a lot of people would then use it as an informal PulseOx for sleep monitoring.

  • Reply 7 of 100
    tundraboytundraboy Posts: 1,613member

    Microsoft finally facing realities in the mobile computing industry.

  • Reply 8 of 100

    I bought one today - I'll be testing it while hiking this weekend.

     

    They gave me a $5 gift card to Starbucks with it I have no idea why.

  • Reply 9 of 100
    I ordered one. Looks to be a neat little unit.

    Starbucks card is because it has a barcode purchase thing for Starbucks you can load up. No where near Apple Pay, but Starbucks have always been open to customers buying anyway.
  • Reply 10 of 100
    This made me go and look at the Apple watch again. The missing point here is that with the exception of the UV meter, everything it offers is either already done by the Apple watch or could be done via 3rd party apps. Something also missing from MS' offering. While I expected Apple might do a band too, they clearly went up market to provide their solution. It leaves space for the ecosystem to grow and not compete with them directly. The person who would buy an Apple watch would not consider this instead of it. They may see it as an accessory. I'm not sure if I could make it a day with a display at 90°. It's like having your phone locked to portrait while reading in landscape. I may be fine for everyone else, but it bothers me just looking at it. For the record, I think this coexist with the apple watch just fine. I could even see it in the Apple Stores.
  • Reply 11 of 100
    paul94544paul94544 Posts: 1,027member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by tundraboy View Post

     

    Microsoft finally facing realities in the mobile computing industry.


    And could well have hit  home run with this if it reliable and good enuf quality. Apple is late to the game way too late

  • Reply 12 of 100
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by cfugle View Post



    Is it me or is the new Microsoft getting smarter? It appears to be a well laid out device for sports-speific training and logging. Certainly more advanced than Nike or FitBit offerings (for the moment). Cross Platform, IOS friendly.... the winds are a changing.

    GOOGLE: We fear ads / spywares integrated within so-called products we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.

    :smokey: 

  • Reply 13 of 100
    I like the idea. The telling part will be the execution of it. For me this is more useful than the Apple Watch will be. If I bought one it would be for the fitness aspect (the uv thing is nice) and this seems far more suited to that than the Apple Watch. I'll wait and see. The cross platform, built in GPS and battery life of twice Apple's says a lot about the maybe new wiser Microsoft
  • Reply 14 of 100
    tjwolftjwolf Posts: 271member
    So either you get a crook in your neck, hold your arm vertically, or learn to read sideways to operate this thing?

    Does anyone know whether it can be taken swimming?
  • Reply 15 of 100
    It was hardly a surprise, as this has been mentioned on many mainstream technology news sites. But then again AI is a fanboy site versus a technology news site.
  • Reply 16 of 100
    spoopspoop Posts: 10member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by tomhayes View Post

     

    I bought one today - I'll be testing it while hiking this weekend.

     

    They gave me a $5 gift card to Starbucks with it I have no idea why.


    Go into the settings on your Band app on your phone and scroll down the list of tiles until you see the Starbucks tile. Enter the number on your card into your phone and sync it with your band. Then, when you open the Starbucks tile on your Band it will display a barcode that can be used to pay for your drink

  • Reply 17 of 100
    spoopspoop Posts: 10member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by tjwolf View Post



    So either you get a crook in your neck, hold your arm vertically, or learn to read sideways to operate this thing?



    Does anyone know whether it can be taken swimming?

    Or you can wear it on the bottom of your wrist

     

    And like the Apple Watch it is water-resistant but not water-proof

  • Reply 18 of 100
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    Hey Microsoft fanboys have invaded AI. :D
  • Reply 19 of 100
    tleviertlevier Posts: 104member
    I like it, but can it be worn upside down? With the screen orientation the way it is, it does look a bit awkward - but if the screen were on the inside of the wrist it would be pretty correct like looking at your palm.

    Also - while I think I've come along on the idea of Apple Watch, there's no way I'll buy Gen 1 as it currently is. Gen 2 maybe if they include stand alone GPS and I can go for a run without my phone.

    I'm pretty tempted to buy this MS version, but think I want to wait until the integration is better developed. Who knows? Maybe by the time they improve the integration, a Gen 2 model will be released and I'll have foregone wasting money on an early adoption....
  • Reply 20 of 100
    Great review. I think this may be the most in depth review I've read on the Internet about this device and kudos to AI for doing this.

    I really do like the MS band. I can see myself buying this now (after a week or so of real user experiences) but still buying an Apple Watch next year. I think they both serve very different purposes (no way am I taking the watch running without GOS and I am not running with a phone). If MS feeds health data from both to their Health service, that would basically cover tracking my entire health status all day.
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