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Microsoft Band 2 vs. Apple Watch

Smartphone versus smartphone is boring — wearables are where the real interesting action is happening, and there's no more interesting comparison in that rapidly-expanding category than of the Microsoft Band 2 versus the Apple Watch.

CategoryMicrosoft Band 2Apple Watch
OSMicrosoft Wearable ArchitecturewatchOS
MaterialThermal plastic elastomer silicone vulcanateAluminum / Stainless Steel / 18kt gold
Screen Size32mm38mm / 42mm
Screen Resolution320x128272x340 / 312x390
Screen TypeCurved AMOLEDOLED
SensorsOptical heart rate, accelerometer, gyroscope, GPS, ambient light, UV, galvanic skin response, barometerOptical heart rate, accelerometer, gyroscope, ambient light
ConnectivityBluetoothWi-Fi, Bluetooth
CompatibilityWindows Phone 8.1 or greater
iPhone 5 or greater running iOS 8.1.2 or greater
Android 4.4 or greater
iPhone 5 or greater running iOS 8.2 or greater

These two devices take radically different approaches to the wearable computer, even more so than the prominent differences between the approaches of Windows 10 Mobile and iPhone. Where the Apple Watch aspires to be a fashion device, Microsoft's first crack at the Band was so utilitarian that it was remarked during version 2's unveiling that they literally rounded the corners. The Apple Watch tries to be a mobile computer on your wrist, complete with a growing selection of apps, while the Band is an advanced fitness tracker first and brings notifications and a bit of interactivity to your wrist second.

They're very different visions of the wearable computing. Apple's approach seeks to make the wearable as independent from the phone as is reasonable, while Microsoft ties the wearable into an inextricable relationship with your phone — which itself could be the center of your digital universe with the Continuum-powered Display Dock.

Heck, the designs of the two are wholly different. Apple crammed every bit of tech they needed into the casing of the watch, enabling owners to swap out bands at will, but also making a watch body that's somewhat large and thick. Microsoft opted to spread the components out across the entire circumference of your wrist, wrapping the display into a curve and distributing the battery, sensors, radios, and connections all around.

The Apple Watch stands as a more generally-capable device, but it tends more towards the jack of all trades than master of any. The Microsoft Band 2, however, focuses first and foremost on fitness and health, with a multitude of biometric sensors to keep tabs on your exercise and wellbeing, all enhanced by Microsoft's partnerships with more than 20 fitness and health institutions.

Smartphones and smartphone software have mostly converged onto one accepted basic design and we're simply seeing iteration of that theme. Wearables, that's where all the real action is.

For the rest of our NYC #Windows10Devices coverage head here:

  • Lumia 950
  • Lumia 950 XL
  • Surface Pro 4
  • Surface Book
  • Microsoft Band 2

Derek Kessler is Special Projects Manager for Mobile Nations. He's been writing about tech since 2009, has far more phones than is considered humane, still carries a torch for Palm, and got a Tesla because it was the biggest gadget he could find. You can follow him on Twitter at @derekakessler.

69 Comments
  • I dunno but this two works differently. Like the screen design of the band 2 but i like the functions of the apple watch.
  • Two different categories of devices. If I had to choose, I'd go with the Apple Watch (if I had an iPhone that is). I still hope Microsoft will give us a real smartwatch in 2-3 years...hopefully under Surface line.
  • Amen.
  • ^This!!! I like the Microsoft Band, but I am not in to the fitness/health life...I am geeky and productive, and needs the benefits of an actual smart watch. Please Microsoft...make a damn smart watch already!
  • To make an smartWATCH makes no sense. It does the same as one calling it a band makes more sense than calling it a watch.
  • It does not do the same as a smart watch...keep in mind, they refer to is as a fitness tracker first, productivity tool second. I have no issues with the band, and I think its a great device...a great device for people who revolve around fitness. As for the people who prefer to be productive, a smart watch is necessary...also, watches look for professional in a professional environment.
  • notifications of everything coming from your phone (be it email, sms, appointments, calendar entries, etc., etc.) are all fed to the band. throw in cortana in there too. even the band has its own digital clock. everything you said is in the band. other than your subjective taste on how "professionals" should look, what is "productivity" in smartwatch even mean? your watch is even more expensive for what its worth.  
  • And what exactly would it need to do that would make it a smartwatch then? Have you ever used either a Band or an iWatch for more than  minutes? I own a band and it's perfectly fine for my needs. The iWatch users I have spoken reall do not do anything with it I can't do with my Band. Also, the Band is a standalone device, it does not rely on a phone to work (but does sync with one when nearby) The Apple Watch wil not really do anything without a phone tethered to it and then that must be an iPhone. All those going on about how the Band woudl be great if it were a smartwatch, I dare you to tell me why yu say that as in general you will be doiing so because you heard others make that statement, not because you know what you are talking about.
  • Amen! Preach it! Apple Fanboys always gotta justify why they got suckered into paying so much for a device that really doesn't do much more than MS items. I mean, who cares if you can draw a smiley face on your iWatch and send it to another person. How often would you really do that after the initial interest wears off?
  • You know what is intresting about your comment, you say there is nothing the Apple Watch can do that the Micrsoft Band cannot, and then you give an example of something the Apple Watch can do that the Microsoft Band cannot. And than you try to write it off as something not useful.  Everyones use case if different, I for example use the draw featrue on my Apple Watch to send littles messages to my girlfriend's Apple Watch throughout the day, just because a feature isnt useful to you doesnt mean its not useful to someone else. Also I wasnt suckered into paying for an Apple Watch, I paid for it because I wanted it!  
  • They could still do a band, but with bigger screen... Like gear S of samsung. I love that form factor. Don't really like the apple watch and the new gear s2.
  • It should be before then as I think Panos is already working on it. I think they have to save something to announce in the new year outside of the surface phone. There will be a surface watch as well because surface screams premium!
  • Oh no
  • Cant really compare them but if you do, apple watch wins hands down
  • Lol good joke.
  • Well, apple watch is kind of tacky, and you can install apps for? What? I find the band has more sense. We really, reallly... Don't need another crapp that installs apps. Band is more like a union among devices, that so called "smartwatch" is? Useless in so many ways. Tacky and probably who buys it will have it stay in a drawer after 2 mounths;).
  • Agreed. What MS did was crate an actually useful (imho) piece of technology, the Apple Watch is (again imho) nothing more than an pointless fashion accessory (the design isn’t that amazing either), but to each his own.
  • @eddp77. Really, how?
    Battery life on the Apple Watch is Woeful and has less sensors than the band. It's locked to an iphone whereas the band is platform agnostic. With better battery life and hellova lot more sensors. Not to mention it is waaaaaaaaay more cheaper than a wanna be watch. If I was going to spend the same amount as the apple "watch" as a fashion accessory, I'd rather get a quality time piece that will do what a watch does - tell the time without having to recharge it every day. Heck it might even appreciate in value whereas the value of Apple watch will deprecate y-o-y.
  • That’s exactly my thinking, the band is a superb fitness tracker, and if what was shown at the unveiling is accurate … well it’s one of the best if not the best tracker on the market, imho. It might not be something noteworthy, but having the band tell me my VO2 Max (even if it’s not perfectly exact) it’s something I as someone that likes to run (and run a lot) a truly amazing accomplishment … especially if you consider the alternative. In addition, as you stated, Apple watch is nothing more than a fashion accessory that isn’t even that fashionable and far too pricy for what it does, imho. Btw there are far better looking watches and even smart watches out there for the same or lower price of the Apple watch.
  • WHy?
  • ...and its time to charge your apple watch again.
  • No comparison. One is a band, an extended fitness band and the other is a smartwatch, a watch that has apps and I can check instagram and make a phone call on with a mic. Also some other smartwatches can take pictures.
  • Indeed, one is a superb fitness band/tracker; the other is a fashion accessory.
  • If its a smartwatch, why does it need a phone to do the things that you said it can do?
  • ...it's a pity that the band doesn't run a version of windows 10 :/
  • It runs on Windows 10 IoT.
  • Is there any trusted sources with this info? I want W10 IoT on band, but ATM it is only a rumor :( With W10 IoT it may be standalone device (simple "local" programs and data from internet through BT connection), but presentation had no mentions of them. In any case preordered 2 (1 for gift) and will hope for better.
  • No contest, I can buy one of them, the other one apparently my country isn't good enough for. Which is a shame because I already own a watch so I don't need a digital one, I'd much prefer a fitness band.
  • I'm fairly certain that I will purchase a Band2 (assuming that it comes to Canada this time).  I don't need a watch, and I haven't worn one for the last 9 years even though I used to feel "naked" without a watch on.  The fitness tracking aspects, sensors, and the golf feature of the Band are appealing features that I could put to good use. I also really prefer the "band" design of the Band over a smart watch that just looks like an old school watch.  Again, if I wanted or needed a watch, I'd still be wearing an actual watch.
  • Lol, haven't worn a watch for along time too. Pity the band 2 doesn't support swimming as it's not water proof. Would have elevated it to the next level in my opinion.
  • Really ? Why even bother comparing them ?  The BAND / BAND 2 are FITNESS BANDS, NOT WATCHES. The Apple watch is a WATCH. No question, if the Apple watch would work with Windows Phone for $350 for the base one I would buy it, because Microsoft does not provide what most people who have a WP want...
  • Why would you go so far and say"most people want"? I don't!!! I find it useless and tacky. Something people pay money for and forget it in a tools drawer;). Wake up people, this things are sooooooo unnecesery and tacky. Well, at least band has a purpouse much better defined...
  • David, if you want a watch for that amount of money... There are much better alternatives out there lol.
  • Jack off all trades master of none, is better than the master of one.
    Just saying. Lol.
    But I preordered my band and can't wait! I'm too utilitarian for only a smart watch anyway.
  • Is it? Depends how important that one trade is to you — if you're a fitness buff that's into big data, I'd tell you to get a Microsoft Band or Fitbit before I'd suggest an Apple Watch.
  • Pretty sure the Microsoft band won't be a rip off like the apple watch
  • I really think its up to user preferences. For me wearables are useful only for fitness and that's why I bought one. For doing anything else I use a smartphone. And in this respect the MSB is one of the best choices for me.
  • It comparision of two diffrent species.... MS Band is not watch or Apple Watch is not fitness device. I personally would prefer MS Band becasue the phone is not necessory.
  • Band is a watch.  It can tell time longer than an Apple Watch could.
  • Oh come on now this is comparing oranges to apples. Put this against the Fit Bit Surge or something. Lol Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Hopefully next announcement they will include a SmartWatch.
  • Am I reading it right that the Apple watch has a bigger battery???
  • Yet runs out quicker :P.
  • The band is fitness only, I'd take apple if it worked by itself. Needing a phone for either one to work is ridiculous.
  • No different then the other bands and smart watches out there.
  • I think that the Microsoft band 2 signify that it is a fitness watch but has the elements to be a smartwatch like the essentials apps we use(outlook, calendar, Cortana,etc ). I feel that the apple watch is a smartwatch but doesn't great in any of the scenarios. I could see myself using the Microsoft Band because I know what it can be used for.I think that with gadgets at the next step of development, they should make a gadget a gadget. I think what apple ,Google are doing is that they want their gadgets to be center piece and eventually replace phones. I hate to break this ,but a gadget can never replace a phone,smartphone, tablet. It was never designed too in the first place and never will.
  • Yay random html! ;-)
  • As a current Band owner, and married to an Apple person with the watch - it's a wash.   For me, my band does what I need it to do.   And it does have a mic on it - I can tell it to make a call, get the weather, etc.   It just uses Cortana on the phone.   Example, if I ask for the temp outside, it will show the temp on the band, but on the screen of the phone it will bring up the weather for me.  I can askhow long it will take me to get home, and it will display on the band and the handset. And it's a watch - it does tell the time on it.  Either by pressing a button, or placing it in watch mode. Does many things, just not (again, like the WP itself) apps. When you want the Apple product, the Win device is a poor choice.   If you want the Win product, the Apple isn't it. FWIW - I will be buying the Band 2 only if this current model dies.   And it's been rock solid, much like my phone.
  • The Microsoft store in baybrook mall had the band 2 and SP4 complete with accessories today. I have to say that all are great and the band 2 is miles ahead of band 1. Guess what, the the bands on B2 are interchangeable. There is also going to be premium interchangeable backs for the 950XL which will allow it to compete design wise with the iPhone and galaxy lines. This wasn't covered during event, but I guess over the next few weeks we will see them. I can attest that the band 2 is very thin, comfortable, and sleek looking. I preordered 2 of them today after seeing and wearing B2 today.
  • Thanks for the info! Damn it if only it was water proof!
  • It's water resistant. Just like pretty much every device. Water proof isn't really used as a term anymore outside of very specialized equipment.
  • If they just put NFC on it so I can make mobile payments, it would be perfect. Without that feature, I'm not sold.
  • So, no speaker to hear Cortana or take quick short calls, but hey - we got a barometer! That will be useful, said nobody ever. So disappointing they keep focus on useless sensors instead of proper app support, speaker and other non gym stuff.
  • Somehow you seem to have missed the point of this product. It is a fitness/health device.
  • @someoneinwa. Yes, the op and others have missed the point completely. I swear some are just getting moronic day by day, why would want to call through a smart watch when you're carrying a phone in your pocket!?!? Especially with the back ground noise no one is going to hear anything lol. If you're going to use a head set or hands free kit, when not use them in conjunction with a phone as opposed to a smart watch... Smh.
  • <p>I take calls on my Apple Watch sometimes. I&#39;m walking around the house, phone is upstairs, I am downstairs. I look at my watch and see I do want to answer the call. I can either run after my phone, or his &quot;answer&quot; on the watch and then casually talk as I walk to get the phone and handoff the call back to my handset.&nbsp;</p> I was actually impressed with how well it worked.
    <p>&nbsp;</p>
  • Using an apple watch for a call is the most ridiculous thing ive ever seen since your perfectly good phone is nearby.  "Lets make a smartwatch and make people look dumb" said apple engineers.
  • am using TomTom multisport and going to replace it with Band2  Yeahh!
  • I like and support MS more than the average guy, but the Watch blows the Band away in form, if not function. I say this as someone who has owned and worn a Band for the last year. While I enjoy it's functionality, I just can't get used to the fitness band styling. The Band 2 makes some stylistic (and substantive) improvements, for sure.
  • From a fitness perspective... For me Apple Watch wins for one reason. Music. The ability to put my workout playlist on the watch and pair my headphones directly to the watch is huge for me. I love hat I don't have to carry my phone around a weight room and everything I need such as timers, music, etc. is right there.   
  • This band lacks the sync of basic apps, answering calls and many simple features that Android and apple have
  • Apple's approach seeks to make the wearable as independent from the phone as is reasonable, while Microsoft ties the wearable into an inextricable relationship with your phone
    Yes and no. An equal case can be made for exactly the opposite. The Apple Watch is essentially useless without its attached iPhone. It doesn't even have a GPS receiver onboard and to a large degree it acts as a terminal to an iPhone. By comparison the Microsoft Band is a mix of terminal to a phone AND standalone functionality that just uses a smartphone as a communications hub when it needs to upload data to the Microsoft Health servers for analysis.
  • Microsoft Wearable Architecture? Not Windows 10 IoT?
  • <p>The most significant difference for me is the in built GPS which means you don&#39;t have to take your phone with you on that run, cycle, etc.</p>
  • So Microsoft isnt allowing any other smart watch on their system so people will by the Band 2? I have a Pebble Time and I am not buying another watch.
  • thats a Pebble question.
  • microsoft band 2 here i come lol
  • Lots of promise in the title and then a puff story. 
  • The Apple watch has memory tho to put music on.