The original Microsoft Band might not have won many fans for its industrial design but it was a solidly functional thing with a decent and regularly-improving software stack sitting behind it. This pace of updates has continued with the Band 2, which is a lot better to look at and is proving to be more comfortable to wear, as well as more functional. Currently trading in Blighty on Microsoft Store & Amazon for £200, though it has been available for £30 less before Christmas.
As if an optical heart rate sensor, three-axis accelerometer, gyrometer, GPS, ambient light sensor, skin temperature sensor, UV sensor, capacitive sensor, galvanic skin response and a microphone weren’t enough, the new Band also finds room to include a barometer. This means the device can track your steps, location, heartbeat, sleep quality, burnt calories, elevation (courtesy of that new barometer) and more.
Phew. Time for a lie down already. Band 2, like its predecessor, is cross-platform, so potentially appeals to WinPhone users as well as Appleites and Googlers.
The Microsoft Health mobile app has had a bit of online heat because (as it’s been regularly-updated) it’s now more of a Band-specific thing rather than a generic health-monitoring app for Windows Phone users, but it’s gotten a lot more functional in conjunction with the web-based Health Dashboard.
In December 2015, a slew of software updates were pushed out to the Band, such as the ability to control the music playing on your phone from your wrist (so when running, you could change tracks without fishing your phone out of a pocket) as well as a bunch of others – like an activity reminder that senses if you’ve been sedentary for too long, and suggests you get up and do something.
The original Band’s exercise tile/app would help your record activity that could be reviewed on the dashboard, tracking you on GPS and measuring your heart rate. This has improved further with Band 2 and with the recent updates to both the firmware, the Microsoft Health app and the online experience: one notable change being the ability to create your own custom workout sets.
The Band 1 & 2 both offered guided workouts from 3rd parties (such as Nuffield Health) but now you can also build your own, though you can’t add your own exercises (you need to search against a predefined list, with some of the naming maybe catching you out – eg press ups are listed as pushups).
You can share your custom workouts with other Band users too.
So, on that next business trip, keep neighbouring hotel room occupants guessing as you grunt and thump your way through sets of Tabata circuits, your band prompting you with each exercise and timing the durations or rests between.