Microsoft Band: Everything You Need To Know

The latest big player enters the smartwatch battlefield

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So Microsoft has released its activity band – cunningly titled Microsoft Band – setting up an inevitable showdown with long-time rival Apple whose own smartwatch will launch a few days later on 24 April. Esquire has had its hand in one for the last week to see what the fuss is about.


So what is it?
The Band, which has been on sale in the US since the end of last year, is a discreet black, yes, band, that is principally a fitness tool and tracker with some additional productivity functions. With 10 sensors recording everything from heart rate, step count, calorie burn and sleep quality, the data it records is then synced to the Microsft Health app on your phone.

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Why should I care?
Because early signs are that it’s a step up from the existing batch of fitness/activity bands on the market right now, none of which has really stood out as a dependable all-rounder. Microsoft is bigging up the Band’s credentials at recording accurate data to help you make better decisions.

How will it help me exercise?
While it won't drag you out of bed and send you on a run itself, the Band can promise you the kind of feedback that will both inform and motivate. Aside from a constant monitoring of step count, distance covered and heart rate, its built-in GPS means it will also track your run stats and map out your route and stats within the app, without you needing to take your phone with you. There are also settings for cycling and weights workouts to get a clear picture of the relavant numbers for each workout.

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The other big plus point is the Guided Workouts feature. Microsoft has teamed up with Nuffield Health to provide a pretty extensive list of different workouts of varied lengths and styles which you can select in the app and send to your Band, which will then take you through a specific routine via on-band instructions and vibrations.

What about its non-fitness uses?
 calendar alerts, text messages, email (don’t worry, you can turn this off), Twitter notifications, even weather forecasts, without needing to pull your phone out. access to Cortana with Windows Phone

And how does the sleep tracker work?
Press the sleep button on your Band when you hit the sack and press it again when you wake up. The app will then present the data in all its glory – or horror. This reviewer managed only 37 minutes of deep sleep out of a total of 5 hours and 45 minutes. If it flags up the problem, but it’s up to you to try to fix it.

Anything else I should know?
The Band syncs with third-party apps like MyFitnessPal and Runkeeper, and more apps are expected in the coming months. Battery life is solidly in the 2 day bracket, and the Band will work with any smartphone including iOS. The Apple Watch on the other hand won’t work with Android.

The Verdict
If it's the fitness side of smartwatches that most appeals, the Band has a lot to recommend it. Discreet, easy to set up and use, and arming you with just enough of the right data to make it a genuinely effective way to record, hone and take more control of how much exercise you do. The Band also eases you in to the potential benefits of a smartwatch for wider lifestyle uses like email and meeting alerts without bombarding you with too many unnecessary functions. If the Apple Watch is promising to do it all in one high-profile package, the Band could well be a stealthier, more focused alternative for those wanting to dip their toe in the smartwatch water.

Microsoft Band will be available from April 15 but can be pre-ordered from Amazon, Currys PC World and Microsoft Store for £169.99.