It's 2019. Wearables, while still not everywhere, have proven somewhat popular. Apple has one, Samsung has one, Fitbit has loads, and many smaller companies have their own as well. It's a market that has found its niche and is proving to be a success for at least some of the companies building these devices. One such company that ventured into this market early on was Microsoft, with the surprise Microsoft Band released in 2014 and Microsoft Band 2 released in 2015.
It was a short stint, but it was a unique look into a world where Microsoft was part of the wearables market, and with a product that was really quite good for the time. In 2015, the wearables market was still new, and nobody had found their feet yet. Apple had not long launched its first-generation Apple Watch, to mixed reviews. Android Wear devices were not very good at the time either. Fitbit devices were exciting but were almost 100 percent fitness-oriented at the time.
That is why Microsoft's Band 2 was an exciting product. While by all accounts it was also a fitness wearable, it did an excellent job of merging both smartwatch and fitness tracker. Unlike Fitbit, which even today is still mostly a fitness tracker with a few smartwatch features tacked on, the Microsoft Band found a happy balance between smartwatch and fitness wearable, meaning people in both product categories would be satisfied with a Microsoft Band 2.
The original Apple Watch wasn't amazing. Things improved with Series 2, but I'd argue it wasn't until Series 3 when the Apple Watch became the staple wearable in the industry. Before then, there wasn't an outright winner. Fitbit was, and is, a close second, but what if Microsoft was still in the game. Would it be number two, or number three? Could it have ever been number one in the wearables market?
The Microsoft Band 2 wasn't without issues. To many, it was too expensive. Retailing at $249, it was indeed a premium device, and for that price, the durability of the wearable was not up to scratch. Many people's Bands fell apart, requiring them to get replacements from Microsoft on multiple occasions. That is unacceptable and likely plays a huge part in the reason the Band doesn't exist today.
Band really was a quality product
With those issues aside, if Microsoft had held out just a couple more years in the wearables market, it could have been onto a winner. Assuming the company figured out the durability issues, the Microsoft Band 2 would have been a fantastic wearable. It had excellent fitness tracking, superb smartwatch features like replying to texts and invoking voice-assistant related tasks, and a beautiful curved OLED screen.
The software was smooth, beautiful, and elegant. I'd argue most wearables on the market still don't get the software side of things right, like the Microsoft Band did. If Microsoft had kept the Band going, it would've been interesting to see how that ecosystem grew. Would developers jump on with support for the Band? We know the Band 3 was going to be waterproof, but would a Band 4 support NFC payments? These kinds of evolutions would've been a natural progression for the Band competing in the wearables market.
It's very likely that the primary reason the Band was killed was that at the time it wasn't making any money for Microsoft. I've heard through numerous sources that Microsoft was selling the Band 2 at a loss, even with its high $250 price tag. If true, Microsoft would have had to hold out for longer before that tech would fall in price and become cheap enough for the company to manufacture and sell at the $250 price. But the wearables market was moving quickly, and Microsoft had shareholders it needed to please, especially with the impending death of Lumia and Windows 10 Mobile looming.
If Microsoft had decided to take a chance on Band, and had it failed, we could've been looking at another Windows 10 Mobile for Microsoft, which would've been a nightmare. So, it was safer for Microsoft to jump ship when it did, before it poured too much money into Band. Maybe it would've been successful, maybe not. It would've been fascinating to see where things went, though. It seems the Band's fate is sealed, as Microsoft is pulling support for the service that powers it in May.
Rest in peace.
What are your thoughts? Should Microsoft have stayed in the wearables market? Let us know below.
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