Microsoft’s new wearable, known as the Band, is a sensor-packed, understated wearable that provides both solid fitness tracking and limited smartwatch functionality. It might be a little late to the wearable tech party, but it looks to be a good option whether you’re a Windows Phone user or not.
In terms of aesthetics, the Microsoft Band looks similar to Samsung’s Gear Fit, with a 1.4-inch, 320 x 106 display and fairly low-key looks. The device is fitted with dual 100 mAh batteries that the company claims can be fully charged in less than an hour and a half. Once fully juiced, the band will reportedly run for 48 hours before it needs plugging in again.
The device packs a total of 10 sensors including built-in GPS. It’s capable of tracking steps, distance traveled, calories burned, as well as duration and quality of sleep, and users can set themselves daily step and calorie goals. One other interesting feature comes in the form of a UV monitor, which provides a quick read of the UV index, helping the user decide whether they need to apply sunscreen.
The product will work with a new cloud-based Microsoft Health service that uses the company’s Intelligence Engine to provide users with personalized fitness information and advice. The company has partnered with RunKeeper, Gold’s Gym and MyFitnessPal, allowing users to sync their accounts and access stats through their preferred service.
While we’ve seen recent fitness trackers take notable steps towards smartwatch functionality, the Band goes a little further than most. Microsoft’s wearable isn’t too picky about its owner’s choice of smartphone, connecting to Windows Phone 8.1 handsets, as well as those running iOS 7.1 and later, or Android 4.3/4.4. Once the Bluetooth connection is established, it will show email previews, calendar alerts, incoming calls, real-time weather and other notifications.
Users can view text messages on the device, replying with pre-set responses. Windows 8.1 users will also get access the company’s Cortana personal digital assistant right on their wrist, providing information on driving directions, stocks and more. There’s more good news if you’re a coffee-lover, with the device acting as a scannable Starbucks card.
All things considered, Microsoft’s new wearable appears to be pretty well equipped to deal with user’s fitness tracking needs, while providing some significant smartwatch functionality. It’s available in three sizes for US$200 online and in Microsoft stores starting today.