A new Surface and new Lumia smartphones might be what everyone was waiting to hear about at today’s Microsoft event, but the company made it clear it’s still chugging along in another area: wearables.
Microsoft’s newest wearable is called Microsoft Band, the same name as last year’s activity-tracker. The new one looks sleeker than last year’s Band, with a curved, touch-sensitive OLED display coated in Gorilla Glass 3. It now has Cortana integration — if you miss a workout, Cortana will remind you (which could be both awesome and annoying). The new Band also has a barometer, to measure elevation for hiking and stair-climbing.
Like last year’s Band, it offers GPS, heart rate, calorie and sleep tracking, guided workouts and smart notifications. It works with iOS, Android and, of course, Microsoft Windows Phone devices. The new Band is available for pre-order today, and costs $249 — $50 more than the starting price of last year’s Band.
Microsoft says the Band is meant for both seasoned athletes and people who are just looking to improve their daily health and fitness routines. It records metrics like VO2 max, normally found in watches for serious athletes, and even includes automatic shot detection for golf. But, considering features like voice integration and support for apps like Uber, RunKeeper, Starbucks, Subway and Twitter, it is definitely a kind of hybrid device, a smartwatch that doesn’t want to be a smartwatch. Microsoft has thrown in everything but the kitchen sink.
The original Microsoft Band was introduced last fall, and along with it, Microsoft Health, a software platform for all of the data that the activity-tracker recorded. The Band was packed with sensors, let you pay for Starbucks from your wrist, and was even useful when not tethered to a phone (not many wrist-wearables offer GPS without a phone in tow). You could go running with the Band without your phone, and the Health app would later show you where you ran and even break down your run into fast and slow segments.
But the thing was unattractive and clunky, something that became only slightly more understandable when Microsoft said it was licensing its platform to other hardware makers. This new Band shows improvements both in design and in capabilities.
As with all of these early-stage health trackers, the real value proposition is not what they track,
but what they can tell you about yourself. This new Band has so many sensors and integrates with so many different apps that it might just be the most feature-filled activity-tracking wristband out there, so until we see what it actually tells us, we won’t be able to say what its true value is. Stay tuned for more.
MICROSOFT HAS THROWN IN EVERYTHING
BUT THE KITCHEN SINK