I used a Fitbug Orb for a while. It did a good job of reporting steps & sleep back to an iPhone app but I got annoyed that it had a CR battery to replace (non-rechargeable) and the rubber wrist strap was annoying (it would come off in the night while sleeping). I was tempted to get a Fitbit purely to have a silent alarm, but I never went and bought one.
Microsoft’s first attempt at a wearable almost tempted me too, but it was clear that version 1.0 needed some refinement first. When a trip to the USA coincided with the release of the Microsoft Band 2, I had run out of excuses. Keen to make my very first visit to a physical Microsoft store, I walked out with a Small and their last Medium.
The Small was just a bit too snug on the biggest setting, so I changed to the Medium instead, which gave me much more room. I like the flexibility of clicking the secure metal clasp nice and tight when I want to ensure a more accurate heart rate reading, or loosening it off to be a bit more comfortable when the temperature and humidity rise. The screen is beautiful and responsive and curves comfortably across my wrist. The rubber strap is comfortable but wide. Information displays well in such a small space. My only hesitation in the design is the fact I’d never take it to the beach or on a rainy emergency services callout. I can see a grain of sand would be a nightmare for the metal clasp.
The first question I’m asked is usually “What phone do you use with it?” and my answer is “It’s irrelevant.” I use a Windows Phone. Hubby uses an iPhone. We both use the same Microsoft Health app for managing our Band settings & reading our health info (or via the online dashboard https://www.microsoft.com/microsoft-health/en-us) It also integrates with partners like MapMyRun, Strava, Gold with TaylorMade and My Fitness Pal https://www.microsoft.com/microsoft-band/en-us/partners-and-apps
My Band 2 gives me the following features on my wrist:
• New email alerts, including scroll read the first few lines.
• New SMS messages, including pre-canned replies or a teeny tiny keyboard
• Incoming call alerts
• Calendar reminders
• UV readings & alerts
• Steps, floors, calories burned
• Heart rate
• VO2 Max, for runners and cyclists (ie not me). I don’t know of any other fitness tracker that does this.
• The time! Rotating my wrist briefly shows the time on the display, saving the battery.
I’ve specifically excluded social media notifications. As much as I love to tweet, I don’t need my life interrupting because someone replied to me. I’ll check that on my phone when I want to.
The latest software update has also included controlling your phone volume from your wrist and an activity reminder prompt (the snail icon is cute).
So, it’s all pretty cool for a device that isn’t an Apple Watch. I’m glad now that I didn’t buy a Fitbit, because I’m really enjoying having the other notifications too.
The best part about the Band though is how it has changed my life.
I don’t walk around with my phone in my hand anymore. – Throwing it in my handbag, I used to miss calls & messages because I couldn’t hear it ring. Now the Band buzzes to alert me. You realise how useful this is when you text your husband and his phone is on silent .. but his Band still buzzes him. I can put my phone in my pocket and know that I don’t have to check it to see if I’ve missed anything important. I can choose to ignore the write buzz or glance at the email flash on screen to see if it’s something that immediately needs my attention. I can also tell the Band to not disturb me, because I really don’t want to see work emails on the weekend.
I’m more aware of my sleep quality. – I was shocked by how little deep sleep I actually get. It’s not unusual for me to get less than 30mins of deep sleep in a 9 hour period. No wonder I still feel tired! With that data being tracked, I can make lifestyle changes to improve that and see if they work. The average heart rate at night shows an increase of 10 beats per minute if I’ve been drinking. This formed part of my decision to not drink any alcohol this year (mostly).
I don’t leave the garden hose on too long anymore. – The Band has a reminder, timer & stopwatch which are all things that my phone can do, but the convenience of these on my wrist has made me more likely to use them on the weekends. I don’t have to go and get my phone to set a reminder and then ensure my phone is always in earshot.
My alarm doesn’t wake up my husband anymore. – Despite what my sleep tracking says, I’m hard to wake up in the morning. That requires my phone alarm to be at a volume level that also wakes up my husband. Hooray, Band 2 silent alarm!
I’m still getting used to the habit of charging it, seeing as I want to wear it at night too. It doesn’t quite last 48hrs and will die part way through night two, depending on how busy it’s been chirping away (please send me less emails, thanks). My best tip is charge it when you’re at your desk, working.
Does this all mean that you should go and buy one?
I have no idea. I’m not you.
Those features might be extremely useful. Or you might want a ton of third party apps on your wrist too (though Uber is coming to the Band 2). Or you might not even care about email notifications or steps.
But I can tell you that it is a purchase I have not regretted. It has actually improved the quality of my life.
After all, it’s not the technology that counts .. It’s what you do with it.
P.S. I’m prone to a little contact dermatitis from silver & stainless steel, including the back of my regular watch. No issues so far with the Band 2.
P.P.S You can now control your Volvo with your voice from your Band 2 http://www.theverge.com/2016/1/5/10710362/volvo-microsoft-band-on-call-app-ces-2016