Is the Microsoft Band the must-have wearable this holiday season? If you can get your hands on one, I think it is. Over the past few weeks with the Microsoft Band, I've come to appreciate it more and more with each passing day. Here's a love letter to the Microsoft Band and a mini-review of the device after using it for a month.
Battery life is never an issue for me and my Band. A quick charge of about 30 minutes will fill up your Microsoft Band battery to 80%. To get an extra 20% you'll need to leave it on the charger longer, but 80% is more than enough power to get through your day and any run/workout you do. Of course, your individual battery mileage will vary. For example, a really long run with GPS-tracking enabled will make you reach for the outlet when you're done.
For day-to-day use, the battery has never been an issue. I find it useful to just place the Band on the charger anytime I'm in the shower. By doing that over the past month, I've never run out of battery power. Well, during the second week there was one time I missed not one, but two charge opportunities (showers) and it died during a workout. But that was total user error and could have been prevented if I charged it. My bad little Band; it won't (and hasn't) happened again.
Comfort is very subjective, which is why I recommend you try it out before buying it. Not only does this ensure you get the correct size, but it gives you a chance to see if you find it bulky. One complaint you've probably seen by some reviewers and users is that the Band is big and can be awkward.
I haven't had any issues with the Band and don't find it heavy or uncomfortable at all. At least not more so than any other watch or fitness tracker you might wear. I think part of that discomfort comes from wearing the display on the outside of the wrist and not the inside. For the past month I've only worn the Band with the screen facing inwards, and that could help alleviate any comfort issues. First, the display section of the Band is flat and doesn't fight you when you wear it on the inside. Second, I think viewing and interacting with the Band's display works best when it's on your inner wrist.
However, I do take the Band off when I'm at the keyboard. But that's not the fault of the Band. I've never found it enjoyable to type with something like a watch or fitness tracker on my wrist. But that's probably because of poor typing form. Brad Sams at Neowin recently interviewed the Band team and learned that a poor typing experience with Band is remedied by using proper typing techniques. I need to step up my typing game.
When I'm not typing and using the Band, I hardly notice it's there. While I recommend trying it out before buying, keep in mind that you might need a few days with the actual device to have it disappear into the background. Or habituation as neuroscientists call it.
Believe it or not, but I've been looking at my phone less and less since getting the Band. Initially, I only cared about the fitness and health aspects of the Band, while the notifications were there as a cool afterthought. Boy, was I wrong.
Before Band, my phone would buzz or vibrate in my pocket. I'd then have to pull it out, swipe down the Notification Center and see what that last intrusion was all about it. It could be important: text, email, etc. or not very important: another attack on my castle in Age of Empires or Swarm alert.
After Band, my phone primarily stays in my pocket after a vibration or buzz. I just need to glance quickly at my Band to determine if the notification is important enough to warrant me pulling out my phone and acting/responding. It may not seem like a huge difference, but it adds up to minutes saved during the day, which then add up to hours over the course of the past month. OK, my math may be off just a little bit, but it's hard not to appreciate having Band for notifications. It's also one of those things that you might not truly appreciate or get until you've actually used it for an extended period.
Where's my actionable data?
My biggest complain about the Band? After one month, we still haven't seen the power of all this data being collected. We were promised actionable data with not just the Microsoft Band, but Microsoft Health. The tagline is "Actionable insights for healthier living".
It's coming; I'm sure. But it would be great to see all this data collected over the past month do something. Right now I know I slept decent last night, but so what? It doesn't help me beyond making me feel guilty to get more or less sleep the next night. And while that's helpful, it is something that isn't unique to Microsoft or the Band.
The Band, in Microsoft's words, was designed to showcase the power of Microsoft Health. So far, we haven't seen that. I want to see it soon.
There are no major scratches to report after a month of use. I didn't apply the included screen protector and decided to risk getting a scratch. Microsoft opted to not use scratch-resistant material in the display of the Band, which is a kind of a boneheaded omission if you ask me. The Band is going to go through more physical abuse than your phone, like when you're working out. Using a screen protector is lame and hopefully addressed in Band 2.0.
That said, I've been careful and don't have any major gashes in my display. However, there are those minor little scuff marks on the display after a month of use. Those are the kind of marks you expect after an extended period using a screen, so it's a little disappointing to see so soon.
The rest of the device is holding up well. The rubber band doesn't show any wear and the metal clasp is still working like it did when I first opened it. I'm curious to how the rubber band will age over time as it gets sweaty and cleaned and sweaty again.
Cortana doesn't get much action on my Band. I'm glad they included Cortana, but the integration could be a lot better. You can set reminders with Cortana on your Band, but the action activates Cortana on your phone and turns the display on. It's a rather clunky integration at the moment. Asking Cortana the weather is possible, but again turns the display of your Windows Phone on and you can just check the weather with the app pre-installed on Band.
There's a lot of room for improvement between Band and Cortana.
Biggest love: Anything fitness on the Band
I bought the Band primarily for its fitness focused features, and I'm happy to say it lives up to those expectations. Guided workouts are probably the coolest feature on the Microsoft Band. I detailed Guided Workouts a few weeks ago, so go read up if you're curious. I would have like to see more Guided Workouts added after a month, but so far it looks like the selection is the same. You'll find workouts from Microsoft, Gold's Gym, Men's Fitness and other fitness brands on your Microsoft Band. The Band will then walk you through the workout, and it's an amazing feature.
The ability to track your heart rate, time and more during a generic workout has been beyond useful with regular days at the gym just lifting. I can just glance at my wrist to see time elapsed between sets while keeping an eye on my heart rate. Even while lifting I like to keep it above a certain threshold. Band helps me do that. Seeing the recovery time for exercise is a neat feature. This might be where we see a glimpse of the actionable data promised with Microsoft Health. The Band will tell you how long you should rest when you complete a Guided Workout, workout or run. It's cool, and it's never the same. It'll be interesting to see how it improves over time.
I love you Band
Keep doing your thing and improving.
How about you?
Banditos and Banditas (that's anyone with a Microsoft Band) tell me what you think of the Band after a month of use. What's your favorite feature? Least used feature? Biggest surprise? Biggest disappointment? Oh, and yes, we're painfully aware that the Band needs to be available in more markets, but that's a topic for another time.