We’ve been graced with the existence of Microsoft’s Band for 78 days, but after all the updates it has received and the updates around the corner, is it what we wanted from the start? Many Windows Phone fans began to drool over smart watch constructions such as Google’s Android Wear, Apple’s upcoming Apple Watch, and the eInk loving Pebble. Questions is – has the Microsoft Band delivered on our hopes and dreams or is it severely lacking?
It’s a watch.
Let’s start with the simplest of features – the watch. That’s where all this started, isn’t it? We wanted a watch, a device that we used to mock for being so single featured. Now, a watch can be so much more, so how does the Microsoft Band stand up to its competitors?
The Microsoft Band is limited to a digital time readout due to its rectangular screen shape – this isn’t a negative, but instead something to note for those who might be hoping for an analog style readout. In terms of the watch itself, Microsoft’s Band features a bright and easy to read display that can showcase times in either a 12 hour or 24 hour format.
The watch face has an extremely limited level of customizability, which is fine for those who are in love with Microsoft’s Windows 8 modern design, but a bit disappointing for those looking for more. Users of the Microsoft Band can change the screen’s overall theme, and preset background – that is all.
While we are yet unable to delve into the unreleased Apple Watch, both Android Wear and Pebble smart watches allow users to extensively customize their watch faces with a number of themes and customized designs. In summary, the watch functionality works great, but lacks customizable style.
It’s called style.
On the topic of style, Microsoft’s Band only comes in one design and one color. Don’t like black? Too bad for you. We do love the watchband Microsoft has designed, it incorporates an awesome “thermal plastic elastomer with adjustable fit clasp” – that translates into a band that is really easy to snap on and adjust on the fly.
However, other manufactures are ahead of the game by a long mile. Pebble is an individual startup, so it is fairer to compare Microsoft to a simple company than the plethora of Android Wear manufactures that are available to Google. The company that originally started as a Kickstarter campaign, offers their watches in a number of colors including orange, red, black, grey, and white. The company even offers stainless steel variations of their watch in two colors – not to mention a few leather straps.
Once again, it is a bit unfair to mention Google and Android Wear, but they do exist and in every shape in form. We love Microsoft’s Band, but hey, you can grab a Pebble or Android Wear watch in multiple shapes, colors, and materials – that’s all we are saying.
It’s the functionality.
This is where Microsoft really does win the game. Out of the box, Microsoft Band comes preloaded with a number of apps to help you get going. You can track your heart rate, log your day’s steps, measure distance walked, calculate calories, track sleep, measure the UV index, follow workouts, and much more. When you power up your Microsoft Band, you are ready to exercise with the aforementioned apps. Exercising not your thing? No problem – the Microsoft Band also communicates text messages, calls, calendar appointments, email, notifications, Facebook messages, weather, and finances – the list goes on.
Snap on your Microsoft Band and you are ready to conquer the world with your built-in apps. A few applications can even sync with the Band including RunKeeper, MapMyFitness, Gold’s Gym, MyFitnessPal, and Starbucks.
It's lacking an ecosystem.
I feel like I should be able to put on a record when I talk about Microsoft products and their ecosystems, but let’s just get to the point – there isn’t one for the Microsoft Band. Throw on a Pebble and you have a number of apps and games on your wrist, thanks to the new Pebble Store. Throw on an Android Watch or the upcoming Apple Watch, and forget about it – you have access to the universe.
Microsoft’s Band is by all reasonable aspects – a closed ecosystem. There is no app store, you can’t throw your favorite apps on your wrist. When it comes to the Band, live with the built-in apps and be happy – otherwise, get lost.
It's very compatible.
Another huge win for Microsoft’s Band is the amazing compatibility it presents across Windows Phone, iPhone, and Android devices. There is no other watch that works well with all three device platforms. As you might guess, Android Wear is locked to Android and the Apple Watch is locked to iOS. Pebble is quite good, but only supports Android and iOS for the time being.
If you need a watch that just works on every device, the Microsoft Band is a great choice. Android and iOS users can enjoy the majority of the watch, minus a few features, while Windows Phone users can take advantage of Microsoft’s Cortana voice assistant.
It's an excellent choice for some.
In the end, Microsoft has actually produced a wonderful wearable (let’s just call it a smart watch), that provides an excellent number of built in apps, along with a great way to tell the time on the move. We are a bit disappointed that the Microsoft Band doesn’t come in different colors at the very least, but Microsoft is just testing the water at this point in time. We highly recommend the Microsoft Band to Windows Phone users looking to up their high-tech wrist game, but iOS and Android users might want to stick to their own options, which offer more customizability.
Yes, we can say that Microsoft has delivered on what we wanted; now just give us a bit more options to customize the device the device we are wearing on our body all day long. The ultimate question, of course, is did you pick up a Microsoft Band, and if so, is it what you dreamt it to be?