FEATURE REVIEW: Microsoft Band – Part 1

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Battery Life

To be very honest, the battery life on the Microsoft Band just plain sucks.

My good friend, Paul Thurrott said it best when he strongly urged users to develop a charging strategy

My experience indicates that depending on how much you’re doing with your Band, you’re going to be lucky to get more than 24 hours from it. It certainly won’t go two days without a charge. So you need to develop some kind of charging routine where you allow your band to charge before you go charging through your day. Some suggestions that I’ve seen (and work for me…) include charging your Band

While you’re in the shower (remember, the device is NOT waterproof or water resistant)
While eating a meal
During a regularly planned and scheduled event
Overnight, if you don’t use its sleep monitoring functionality

A final word on battery life… it still sucks.

If you, for any reason – life intrudes, you forget, etc. – don’t charge your Microsoft Band according to your charging strategy, you could be out of luck. As I mentioned, the battery life is extremely short, and since Microsoft’s Online Store is out of the Band’s USB Cable, it’s nearly impossible to address the need to charge anywhere else OTHER than next to your main PC…that is, unless you want to carry your USB cable with you everywhere you go; and who wants to do THAT all the time?

Connectivity

The Microsoft Band uses Bluetooth and Bluetooth LE to connect to your smartphone (both profiles will be present in your Bluetooth Settings…). I’ve found that there are issues with this, most of the time, on my iPhone 6, running the current version of iOS 8 (currently iOS 8.1.3, as of this writing) as well as other Bluetooth enabled accessories and devices that I use.

Simply put, the Microsoft Band often drops its connection with my iPhone 6 multiple times throughout the day. Getting the device to reconnect has been, at times, a real challenge. In some cases, I have to cycle Bluetooth on/ off on either my Band, my iPhone 6, or both to get them to connect with BOTH protocols. In some cases, I’ve had to delete and repair the Band with my iPhone. In one instance, I had to unregister and reregister my Band completely, as for some reason, it decided to be obstinate one day and simply refused to connect with either protocol.

Unfortunately, I run into connectivity issues with Band quite a bit, especially due to the following issue – it interferes with the call features of my car radio. I have a Kenwood BT952-HD car radio. It has an iPod connectivity feature, and as the model number indicates, is a Bluetooth hands free unit.

I admit at the outset, this unit isn’t 100% compatible with my iPhone 6. There are issues with it being used as a USB source. The pause and play functionality on the volume button don’t work. The song forward/ backward functionality on the volume button doesn’t work consistently. Most annoyingly, the Bluetooth connectivity is a bit flakey, too. It takes a while for the devices to pair, and then, call audio doesn’t always come through the radio, requiring me to pull the face plate and/ or turn Bluetooth on/ off on my iPhone and reconnect and restart everything. The phone and radio also drop connections between each other on a regular basis.

This isn’t fun when you’re driving, and honestly, isn’t recommended. However, when you’re on a call and/ or need to make a call while driving, you have to do SOMETHING to resolve the issue. This happens often enough that pulling over and going through the whole gambit of pulling the face plate off and trying to connect, turning the iPhone Bluetooth radio on/off and trying to reconnect, or any combination of repeats and in betweens, isn’t really an option. If I did that every time my phone and radio refused to connect, I’d never drive anywhere…

Now, how does this relate to my Microsoft Band..? GREAT question. I am COMPLETELY unable to connect my iPhone 6 to my radio if my Microsoft Band is connected to my phone. My iPhone keeps wanting to shuttle call audio to my Band. I have no idea why. It only does this when my iPhone is connected to my radio AND to my Band at the same time. In order to use the HFK features of my radio, I have to turn Bluetooth on my Band, off.

Come back next time when I’ll dig into the software used by Band as well as Microsoft Health, Band’s companion Smartphone software. I’ll also wrap things up in part two as well…

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