As we hit CES week, I was provided some photo memories of years past when I used to attend, and one of them was of the Microsoft Band. As I write this, it's been eight years to the day since I first picked one up, something I had to do while in the US because, at the time, it wasn't available in the UK.
I remember it well. As we were getting settled in Las Vegas, the Windows Central contingent took a stroll over to the local Microsoft Store. I needed to get a Microsoft Band, so I did it before CES got underway and wore it the whole week. It was the first tech product in a while I'd really coveted, with its initial regional exclusivity only adding to that.
I'm not really a very active person, but the Microsoft Band was just an awesome product. It was different from the other fitness trackers and emerging smartwatches; it was exciting and really grabbed attention. We got a sequel, of course, but like all amazing Microsoft products, it was destined for the scrap heap. I haven't really enjoyed a wearable since, with many being tried on my wrist and none lasting more than a few weeks. So let's remember the good times, shall we?
Different in design and truly cross-platform
For us Windows Phone nerds, the immediate draw to the Microsoft Band was that it was built to work with our favorite smartphone. But beyond that excitement, it was different. The horizontal display was far more convenient to look at compared to a thin, vertical one, and the fact it was designed to be worn with the display on the inside of your wrist was a first.
It was more comfortable to wear, more comfortable to glance at, and more comfortable to interact with worn this way. Or I thought so, at least. I wear a mechanical watch every day, but I rarely have to actually press any buttons on it; it's for telling the time and looking good. But wearables are designed to be touched a lot, and being horizontal and inside the wrist just made the Microsoft Band a dream.
It was also completely cross-platform, a feature I always enjoy. Even back then, despite being a Windows Phone fan, I carried either an iPhone or an Android phone as a secondary device. Being able to connect to whatever it was I had with me at the time was a massive bonus, as was the fact you could achieve basic connectivity and updates using a PC (or Mac). Microsoft absolutely nailed the basics of a good wearable on the first attempt. Compare that even today to the limited use of Android smartwatches on iPhone and the complete lack of support for the Apple Watch outside of the iPhone itself.
Microsoft had a good thing going here. A lot of the initial buzz may well have been from Windows Phone enthusiasts, but nobody can deny that the Microsoft Band was an exceptional product across the board. Innovative, different, brilliant.
Solid features and a great community
Naturally, it didn't take long for the developer community to get behind the Microsoft Band, and some great ways to customize your own experience soon started to appear. Some apps exposed sensors in the hardware that the Microsoft Health app didn't surface, there was (naturally) a third-party app that turned your wrist into a mini flashlight, and there were a heap of apps to add custom wallpapers.
The Microsoft Health app, the main source of collating all the data from the Band, had a sleek, minimalist design, and for someone like me that only wanted minimal activity and sleep tracking to look at, served well. Had I been more inclined, the guided workouts would surely have been useful, and I liked the chance to integrate it with Xbox Fitness, another long-lost Microsoft product.
Even the keyboard on the Microsoft Band was well executed (check it out in the video above). It really did feel like a device from the future, and one with a bright one at that.
The community really loved it, too. On Windows Central, we naturally built a lot of coverage around the Microsoft Band, but the response from the readers and in the forums was so exciting. At the time, it felt like another new platform for us to get our teeth into for years to come.
To this day, I never wanted a wearable more
We only got two generations of the Microsoft Band before the plug was pulled, and the dream was over. A third was originally planned, and we even managed to get our hands on one of the prototypes. You can check out our Microsoft Band 3 review to see more on what we could have had.
I stopped really caring about wearables after the Microsoft Band. I've tried a bunch of Android watches, and I've tried to enjoy the Apple Watch on a couple of occasions. On paper, both are better than the Microsoft Band, as are a host of other wearables from the likes of Garmin and Fitbit. But something about the Microsoft Band was just perfect.
Nothing has matched its design, and while we did have a thriving community of third-party support for it, the Microsoft Band was simple to live with. It never felt overbearing, and even for non-fitness freaks like myself, it had a welcome place in my daily life. I was happy enough just to be able to use it to pay for Starbucks!
In a perfect world, Microsoft would have revived it as the company refocused on Android after the death of Windows phones. But as we've seen, even that hasn't gone very well. Microsoft just seems destined not to exist in the mobile space, with the Surface Duo all but dead, Cortana has gone, and who knows what the future actually looks like.
But I've had fun remembering how great the Microsoft Band was, another product you could say was ahead of its time and one I know I'm not the only one with fond memories of. I want to hear your memories, though, so if you were a happy Band owner in years past, hit the comments and share your stories.
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Richard Devine is a Managing Editor at Windows Central with over a decade of experience. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you'll find him steering the site's coverage of all manner of PC hardware and reviews. Find him on Mastodon at mstdn.social/@richdevine
"...but like all amazing Microsoft products, it was destined for the scrap heap. "Reply
Like all amazing Microsoft CONSUMER products, it failed.
Because MS is not a consumer products company. That is why phones, MP3 players, watches, stores and music streaming services are all gone.
MS lost many billions of dollars trying to transform themselves into Apple. The real question is why (who?) thought they needed to do that at all.
Designing for/marketing to Fortune 500 companies is a vastly different game than designing for/marketing to consumers. Just because you are a great basketball player does not mean you will be a great baseball player. Ask Michael Jordan.
It was a great experiment, but it was also a spectacular failure. It is WAY past time to move on.
Loved my Band 2. Hated the durability issues with the actual strap part of it, but I'd have continued swapping in new bands if they had let me do so.Reply
I got my first band from the MS store in Honolulu. This was quite an event since t had been released in the US just two months earlier. (I live in Germany and was in Hawaii on vacation) What I really liked about the band was the Cortana integration. I could give a command, like “schedule a meeting with Tom for 2pm on Thursday” without needing to pick up my phone. Same for todos. Today I use an Apple Watch Ultra but Siri is just not as responsive. Got the band 2 as well. Build quality was really bad though. I replaced my band around four times. But as the article author stated, the band was quite unique for its day. One lesser known fact is that MS used the band as a sales vehicle for the sensor core and the associated Azure services. The plan was to offer sensor core to other manufacturers and it this way get them to shift the analysis workload to the Azure cloud. Very few got on the sensor core train. Sadly…Reply
Another abandoned Microsoft product that joined, and was joined, by several of its siblings.Reply
Hardware/gadget wise, this is what Microsoft is now known for.
I had both Band 1 and 2 and I enjoyed them at the time.Reply
I don't lose sleep over them and my many many many windows phones, cos I moved one and found my windows ecosystem in android and other aspects of the desktop OS. For my needs the new MS works great and I'm glad I can find what I need in the applications and services.
We all have our thresholds and sensitivities but holding on too tight to the past just makes one miss alot of the present and the many great stuff that has happened. It just breeds alot of negativity and myopia.
Reminiscence is nice, but moving on is healthy.
I just got a microsoft band 1 last year, and am using it.Reply
It still works, and I don't care about the tracking and other website stuff.
It gives me enough information on its own.
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Such great memories of this device. I still loved the band 2 to this day. If it wasnt for the wrist strap breaking on me I would have kept that for years. (3 years I held onto it) I wish they went along and made the 3rd oneReply
I agree, with the author/bot. It is the same for me. I had two Microsoft Bands, the second after the battery expired on the first. It was a great device, with like software to log workouts. When the original band was no longer available, and the product discontinued, I purchased a second-generation Band on eBay but returned it as damaged goods because the seller had removed an apparently cracked metal band and sent the device with only the rubberized underlay band. Unable to get a viable Band, I tried a Fitbit sold as a discounted accessory in purchasing an iPhone X; and it was a piece of junk. I bought an Apple Watch Series 3 several years ago, and it was little better. I could not end a workout because the tactile screen did not function with sweaty fingers or minimal moisture. I have considered Garmin and Samsung. but may eventually get an Apple Watch Ultra to maximize functionality with my phone and computer. I recall Microsoft sold the Band technology to Casio. I have never purchased from that manufacturer, but had hoped it would develop a new and improved Band.Reply