Battery life and charging times with the Microsoft Band 2

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Having used the new Microsoft Band 2 for a week now, I am as impressed with it as I am underwhelmed by it. Thus far, nowhere is this dichotomy more evident than its battery life.

In my weekend review earlier, I had nothing but stellar things to say about the battery life, as it had lasted the entire weekend on a single charge with plenty to spare. To follow up from that, during the weekend (and really all the time) my daily regimen involved either jogging or walking for up to 1 hour per day (and thus the only times where the GPS is active), 10 minute bodyweight exercises every other day, phone notifications enabled, daily heartrate monitor enabled, brightness on auto and haptic vibrate on high, and using the sleep alarm function twice a day.

Under this rather generic set of parameters the device’s battery life lasted a little under three whole days on a single charge. What’s very unnerving though is that unlike a laptop, Band 2 doesn’t vibrate or do anything to notify you it’s about to shut off. It just shuts off. The only way I even realized it was drained was through the piercing silence that followed after pressing the main button.

Of course, every problem is an opportunity in disguise. I broke out a new OneNote page and began recording battery charging times. I plugged my Band 2 into my new Surface Dock through the magnetic USB charger that comes with the Band 2.

The first 20 minutes netted me about 22% of battery life. The next 20 minutes brought me up to 42%. An hour in got me around 69%. The last 31% took 36 minutes, bringing a total of 1 hour and 36 minutes to charge from silent shut-off empty to fully charged. Not bad. As with most modern devices, it seems the last stretch of the marathon is always the hardest.

Now, to make things more interesting, a lot of people have asked me what the battery life of the device is like with the GPS locked on. Some have been concerned that the GPS would turn itself on during daily activity, thus causing unwanted drainage. This does not happen in my experiences thus far. The only time the GPS is active is if users explicitly enter an activity mode that takes advantage of the GPS. Such modes include biking, running, golfing, and hiking. Anything that covers distances.

Microsoft’s Band 2 support page explicitly states that the GPS, when locked on, consumes significant amounts of battery. To see just how much, after full charging I activated the running mode with the GPS locked, and just left it running, making sure to check very often of its battery state.

In total, it lasted around 5 hours and 40 minutes, very much in line with the 6 hour estimates I’ve heard. This feels exceptionally short to me (maybe in contrast to the exceptionally long idle battery life), but it’s hard to say whether this is acceptable or not. Seeing as how golfing, hiking, or biking sessions can last for quite lengthy times, I suspect this could really pose an issue especially if the device is not fully charged.

It’s also funny to note that during this faux running session, the GPS and sensors have apparently developed minds of their own. In my weekend review, I commented about how very accurate the sensors are in calculating distance. I might have to revise that now. During the first hour or so of this test, which involved me leaving the band on my wrist while idly doing work on my computer, I apparently jogged 0.05 miles (about 264 feet). Either the Band 2’s sensors are so accurate it can track the movements of my thoughts and hands, or it’s just spouting nonsense. In fairness, this seemed to happen only within the first hour, and it seemed to slow down in reporting false distances as time went on.

Look forward to more silly adventures with the Band 2 in the coming days.

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