#MicrosoftBand review; What I like, what I’d like from it in the next revision

I have been sporting the Microsoft Band for a bit now. I am an avid #fitbit user and I love #MyFitnessPal. I am apparently the target audience for the band – I run 13 miles daily and I am mostly careful about what I eat.

For more context, I had given up wearing watches for 12 years now – initially because I would forever be looking at the time to stop meetings and other discussions abruptly, but also because it became inconvenient. The watches I wanted only told time and I preferred to have my cell phone to do that.

The band was recommended to me by several folks and I initially resisted, but caved in after I was told it would be a good way to see if it solves my “data entry” problem with fitness.

There are 3 primary things I wanted from a fitness device initially and 3 things I really would love to have:

1. Track all my activity accurately – not just walking or running – sleep tracking should be “automatic” instead of me having to tap a button or remember to do it.

2. Integrate with my other apps – MyFitnessPal at the least, but also MapMyRun if possible.

3. Provide me relevant recommendations – look at my eating preferences and tell me if I am eating less protein, more sugar and suggest what I should be eating based on my patterns.

I have used the FitBit Flex, Nike Fuelband and also tried the Jawbone Up before. I am still not 100% comfortable with the wrist form factor for many reasons, primarily because it feels like a load on my hands and gets “stuck” when I take off and wear on my jacket / sweatshirt / hoodie.

Anyway, I am mixed on the Microsoft band. What I like:

1. I love the crisp and multi-mode display. The display size provides me quick access to 2 things at the same time – time and one more thing – either my steps, distance, heart rate or calories burned. Compared to my fitbit zip, where I have to tap to get more than one thing.

2. I really like some of the notifications: Especially the short text messages I get on the band without having to reach for my phone. Emails are more difficult because most are more than 1 or 2 sentences, but I like the news alerts, and some of cortana’s notifications.

3. I am happy with the accuracy of the steps tracking. All 3 of my fitness bands are within 2-3% of the steps at any point of time, so I think they are all good in doing the basics.

4. I love the heart rate monitor. It gives me a great way to ensure my levels of activity are measured.

What I am not too thrilled about:

1. Battery life: The device needs charging almost every day. This is one more charger I have to carry and remember to charge. It does charge rapidly – 2 hours is usually enough, but I have to time the charge. If I am sitting in one place for 2 hours (I never do that at all), I could perhaps charge it, but that’s rare, so I have to charge it in the night, which leads me to the next point.

2. I cant sleep with it – so the point of sleep tracking is lost. It is bulky on the wrist and that’s the only time I think I can charge it.

3. The display gets roughed up quickly and the dings and dents are very visible. With “normal” usage my band was dented and dinged up within a week. The clasp is wearing out as well. The build quality on the display needs work. Even after a year of usage, my fitbit flex looks “like new”. Although the flex has a much smaller display and only shows “one thing at a time”.

4. The email notifications are pointless because you cannot respond at all. Even if I could use one of 4-5 standard responses I’d be thrilled, but that’s not possible. I do like that you can respond to incoming calls with a message saying “I’ll call you later”.

5. I dont like that I have to “switch it on” even to see time. The device display is normally off “to save battery life”, so you have to “switch it on” to see time. That small, yet normal gesture means I might as well pick up the phone. It should be gesture based so it can detect a swift movement of the arm from its “down” position to a “view” position and turn on display to show time. Else it should have a backlit “eink” display for time, which should be on everytime.

6. It does no recommendations at all. I think if there were integrations with MyFitnessPal, which already knows what I am eating, the band can recommend (1-2 sentences) what I should eat at snack time based on what I ate at lunch and dinner and my preferences, so I can be “reminded” to avoid something with sugar, since my sugar intake for the day has been high.

7. I have to wear it “inward looking” instead of wearing it like a “normal watch” since the display is rectangular. Which means my normal gesture of wearing a watch had to be a pattern I changed.

Overall I am mixed as I mentioned. It feels like there’s more promise than its current avatar.

Would I recommend it – only if you have not used any device for fitness tracking at all before. Even then only if you still need text and email notifications in addition to tracking fitness. There are cheaper pure cloud-enabled fitness trackers.

If you have however used the fitbit flex or fitbit zip before, I would skip this.

In fact that brings me to the Android Wear watches and the upcoming Apple Watch. I suspect they will be the same – bulky, needing constant charge and “awkward” on your wrist. Although having seen the watch, with its ability to “action” notifications, I suspect it will be good, but that remains to be seen.

I have seen folks use the Android watches and hear they were not thrilled with it either. I am currently of the belief that human beings are so primitive that they still think that “digital watches are a pretty neat idea“.

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