FEATURE REVIEW: Microsoft Band – Part 2

I like what is being done here, but I’d much rather Band just “know” what I’m doing. In other words, if my heart rate has jumped from my “average” resting heart rate, and Band can tell that I’m moving and traveling at 2-5 mph, then I’m likely jogging or power walking, and it should automatically record the activity as running or walking. This should be easy to do since the device has both GPS and heartrate sensors built in.


Band should work more like this for all of the activity tracking it does. It has the means to distinguish running from walking and exercise from running based on its GPS and heartrate sensors. This is a software problem and not a hardware issue; and the root cause – having to tell Band that you’re running or working out – is part of what is going to prevent users in the US from adopting it.

Sleep Tracking
If there’s one thing that Microsoft Band does and does well, its Sleep Tracking. The way that it presents data is easy to read, easy to see and out of the bands that I use, one of the most accurate.


Microsoft Band uses its heartrate sensor, gyroscope and accelerometer to determine your state of consciousness. The only problem that I see here is that you have to specifically tell Band that you’re headed off to Dream Land. Band should monitor your heart rate and movement and determine that you’re sleeping based on time of day, a profile that you create and set (I work 1st/2nd/3rd shift and usually sleep during the following hours…) and then automatically determine that your lack of any real motion and a low heart rate indicate that you are likely asleep.


The big problem that I have with its sleep tracking is how it differentiates and calculates:

  • Light Sleep vs. Restful Sleep
  • Sleep efficiency
  • Calories burned

Those last two vary a lot day to day, and I haven’t been able to determine how the algorithm(s) function just yet. To be blunt, some of it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Microsoft needs to do some more work to make certain that everything squares away and that it’s easy for the user to understand how movement is recorded, counted and sorted. In other words, they need to explain it in words that everyone will understand, regardless of the status of your PhD program application (or lack thereof…)


Like its Exercise and Run/Walking Tracking, however, you also have to tell Band that you’re going to bed. Depending on how long it takes you to get to sleep, or if you plan on reading or watching TV until you nod off, you may have a large block of time at the beginning of the sleep session marked as “awake.” While this isn’t horrible, it does effect the stats when they’re calculated at the end of the session.

Additional Problems and Issues
There are a lot of good things going on with Band. I’ve also outlined a number of issues that Microsoft is going to have to work HARD on to fully resolve. The last thing that I need to address, though, isn’t a technical issue; and I alluded to it in the Battery Life section –


Band is great, but you can’t buy it anywhere. It’s been out of stock on the Microsoft Online Store since late November of 2014. Four months later, in late February – early March 2015, not only are the devices still out of stock, but all of the accessories (USB cable) are as well. I’m not certain if that means that a newer version is going to come out or if Microsoft is thinking of scrapping the project, or if they’re waiting to see what Apple Watch does in April.

Any way I look at this, it leaves me shaking my head, wondering what the heck is going on with Microsoft and with Band. I’m at a complete loss here… Anyone..? Anyone..? Bueller..??

Believe it or not, there’s a lot here to like. There’s also a lot here that needs to be worked out, worked through or developed yet. While I was writing this review, my friend, Paul Thurrott published a review of Microsoft Band.

Paul’s review is very much on target, but is also very much a negative rant. Paul’s been working with Band for a bit longer than I have, and it’s no lie that there’s a lot here that needs to be improved. The Microsoft Band is very much a 1.0 product right now; and that fact is hurting it a great deal.

I agree that much of what is wrong with Band can be fixed with the right kind of software update – either a device firmware update on the device itself – or via an update to Microsoft Health. It really feels, in many ways, that the software and the Band, and the vision for this whole project have somehow gone in every direction possible.

When you go back to the original vision of Apple Watch – define and market the quantitative self, track health attributes to help consumers get a better handle on what they’re bodies are doing in a post-ObamaCare world – and the purpose for the release of Microsoft Band to the market first… long before Apple Watch… it was to establish Microsoft Band as the device to beat. Microsoft has clearly done this, but the way Band wears and functions it kinda makes me wonder if someone thought, “beat with a stick,” as opposed to “beat to market” or “beat to your bank account.”

Band is a decent device; but it wears on your wrist funny. Its big, bulky and can be painful, especially if it fits poorly on your wrist. Band’s connectivity problems can often prevent it from effectively communicating with your smartphone and its battery life will certainly want you to pick up an additional USB cable…which by the way, have been out of stock (along with Band in general) since just after Black Friday, 2014-11-28.

Band’s sensors are decent enough and do a decent job of monitoring UV exposure, and your heart rate, for example, but the latter’s sensitivity is a bit wanting. It takes a very long time for Band to lock in your heart rate, and you’re left wondering if they are accurate and if so, how accurate (they are, comparatively, but I’ll be addressing comparative issues in a separate article, at a later date).

The device’s notifications are spot on, and function as you would expect them, with the minor exception of the dismissal issue that I mentioned, above (dismissing a notification on Band does not dismiss the notification on your phone, and it should…); but connectivity issues prevent the continual updating that you need for device accuracy (especially when it comes to calendar events and appointments).

At the end of the day, Microsoft Band is not a bad smartwatch, and IF you can get your hands on one, you should be happy with it, provided you can get by with its size and bulk, and with its 1.0 software issues. I *DO* expect Microsoft to resolve most if not all of those with an update, and prior to the release of Apple Watch (expected in April of 2015), as it wants to be ready for the competition that it is likely to get from what is likely the most anticipated wearable piece of technology to be introduced in the past 5 – 7 years.

What are your thoughts on Microsoft Band? Is it the wearable for you? Is there another on the market that you’re excited about, or have invested in? Are you waiting for Apple Watch? Join me in the discussion area below and give me your thoughts on this device. I’d love to hear what YOU have to say…

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