Microsoft Band: The Polished Prototype

Update: My take on why the Microsoft will be discontinued.

microsoft band

An earlier draft had a lot of words on how very few gadgets excite me anymore given the frequency at which new features are added, and how the Microsoft Band had me sold on it being cross-platform and having a Heart Rate monitor. I deleted the part where I had a friend in NC traveling to NYC grab me one on her way back as chances of getting one on Thursday in NYC were slim to none. I deleted all that as none of that matters as far as the capabilities of the device. [See what I did there?]

I’m a sucker for self-data, that’s the reason I wanted a health tracker. The ones before The Band weren’t exciting as they lacked a Heart Rate monitor. Why do I care about it? Well, shouldn’t I? How many steps I took in a day is a useless metric by any standards. It means nothing. But my Heart Rate, now that’s something that I can use to gauge my on and off workout sessions, as well as know how’s my heart doing.

Microsoft Band First Impressions:

  1. It’s big – the screen region is thick and as a result the rest of the band is thick for ergonomics.
  2. It’s easy to setup – despite some Bluetooth network issues with my iPhone, my tiles showed up quick and I could see my Heart Rate (HR), steps and calories in no time.
  3. It’s Microsoft’s first step in their grand plans self-data (I’ll take credit for the term).
  4. Microsoft’s retail operations are terrible. Though this has nothing to do with The Band itself, but it highlights a larger issue.

Microsoft Band thoughts after weeks of use:

It works as advertised: With notifications such as text on the wrist, I have reduced the number of times I take my phone out. This helps tremendously when I’m walking and jogging. A quick glance and I know whether I need to take my phone out to respond or bother with the notification or not.

Payments: The Band has a Starbucks app that allows you to pay at Starbucks through the Band. It works well. The way I see it, the feature is a prototype of the Band’s capabilities. Having your boarding passes show up on the screen is another way the Band can help you limit the use of your phone on the go. Also, having Credit Cards synced with the phone and show up as bar codes to pay at CVS, one can dream, right?

My Sleep is my sleep: This device is all about collecting self data. Sleep, run, walk, etc. I love the Sleep metrics:

  • I’ve learned that my average sleep is 5 hours irrespective of when I sleep.
  • Most of my sleep is light sleep.
  • I wake up at least 3-5 times per sleep cycle. It’s fascinating.
  • And here’s the kicker about my sleep, I can burn more calories through 5 hours of sleep than 40 minutes of brisk walking on a treadmill.

Heart Bleed: Contrary to my belief, my client meetings don’t get my heart pumping any more than normal; which is a good thing to know.

Calories, calories, calories: A few months back, I went to a health-doctor(?) who promised to tell me how many calories my body needs to function on a daily-basis. I had a mouth-piece to breathe into for a 15 minutes and that spat out some metrics. My body needs 1200 calories to function. I’ve been told that seems less, but I tend to trust technology so I’ll go with 1200. I set my calorie burn goal as 1400 on the Band, and surprisingly, I easily hit that metric daily with a lot of ease by not doing a lot of activity. The key to weight loss as I’m told is consume lesser calories than you burn and with these numbers backing me, I’m on my way to losing weight. If only I can manage to stop eating fries and pizza.

Microsoft Band Potential:

I haven’t had to use the UV sensor yet, I wouldn’t care to be honest. But the one sensor that really has my attention is the Emotional Stress Sensor. The current hardware of The Band, has one but the software doesn’t support it just yet. At some point, I’ll be able to tell the amount of emotional stress my Senior Manager causes.

The next hardware version should at least be slimmer as this version can’t be worn under a dress shirt with the sleeves buttoned. No way. And if you have to go through TSA, your best bet is to keep your sleeve unbuttoned.

Microsoft Band Weaknesses:

  1. Ergonomics, most definitely.
  2. Screen orientation: The convenient way, for not just me, to use The Band is to wear it facing down. A lot of this style has to do with the ergonomics, but also with the fact that using the button and screen with the screen facing up seems un-intuitive. A vertical screen orientation would definitely alleviate this as I can then use The Band as if it were a watch.
  3. Data is locked: As I explained above, I got this device for the data, unfortunately the current software doesn’t let me export this data into a spreadsheet and run some metrics of my own. I want to be able to extrapolate what is my heart-rate on a travel day vs. normal day vs. weekend. Do I have more hours of restful sleep when I’m at a hotel vs. home . Those are some questions I want to know about myself. Unfortunately, the current software doesn’t allow that.
  4. Microsoft Retail: First off, getting one was a painful experience. Microsoft Store’s inability to let me pay for it online and pick it up at the store annoyed me to no bounds. It’s almost 2015, Microsoft. I then lost my charging cable, and there is no way to get one immediately. You have to order it online.