Microsoft's latest wearable, the Microsoft Band 2 is now upon us with pre-orders open and general availability on both sides of the Atlantic in the next month. The wearables market is busier than ever and Microsoft is just one player in it.
One of the other big dogs in the yard is Google with its Android Wear platform. Unlike with something like Apple Watch we can't just compare devices, since Android Wear is a different beast. The software platform is constant across devices, it's the manufacturers who decide what to do with it from there.
So, Microsoft Band or Android Wear, then? Here's a few good reasons you should go with Microsoft.
Cross-platform is Microsoft's gig
Of Apple, Google and Microsoft it's once again the team from Redmond that can boast better platform support for its products. The Apple Watch is useless if you have an Android or a Windows powered phone, and Android Wear requires either an Android or an iPhone in your pocket. Even then, iPhone support is greatly reduced compared to pairing your Android Wear watch with it compared to an Android phone.
Enter Microsoft Band and just as with the first iteration the new one supports Windows Phone, iOS and Android with the Microsoft Health companion app. Further still there are also desktop apps for Windows and OS X as well as a new Universal Windows 10 app on the way.
Functionality is mostly on par across the platforms, too. Cortana is currently exclusive to folks paired with a Windows Phone, but with that headed to the others sometime soon as well, who knows what the future holds.
More fitness focused
Smartwatches are great but if you want to track your fitness activities you need a fitness band, really. Android wear has things like Google Fit built in and support from a bunch of third-party apps, but most of the devices on the platform are watches first. And they're getting fancier, too. The Huawei Watch probably isn't the sort of thing you're going to strap on and hit the gym with.
Microsoft Health has already grown into a superb platform for tracking your health and fitness related activities. Guided workouts, cycling, built-in sleep tracking, even tracking your Golf game if that's your bag. And all this while still showing you the time, weather, notifications, paying for your Starbucks and soon with the new one, even hailing an Uber.
And believe it or not, you still can't officially pay for Starbucks using Android Wear.
The Microsoft Band 2 is a great hybrid of smart features and fitness. And both of those are only going to continue to get better over time.
Priced to compete
Not all Android Wear smartwatches are more expensive than the Microsoft Band 2, it's true there are some that are cheaper, like the ASUS Zenwatch 2. But at $249 in the U.S. and £199 in the UK it's definitely competitive.
Sure, price also comes with whether you want to wear a band or a watch and some of the latest Android Wear watches are getting really fancy looking. But if you're on the fence, don't let price put you off.
This is a big one for the outdoors types who want to accurately track their activities. GPS on Android Wear is pretty sparse at present and if it's a must for you you're not left with many choices. The Band 2 has it among its vast array of sensors, which all links back to its enhanced fitness focus over Android Wear.
But if you want it, Band has it.
A lot of it will come down to the type of device you want. But what's clear is that the Microsoft Band 2 offers a great deal of flexibility. It's not prejudiced against which phone you have in your pocket, it'll still give you your email and messaging notifications, Twitter, Facebook, and soon call you a ride home.
But it's also packed with technology to help you track your active life and assist you to get to where you want to be with your own health and fitness. The trade off is the appearance. It's not ugly, but it won't look as nice with a suit as something like an LG Watch Urbane.
But is it such a trade off when you consider everything else you get?
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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