Round-up of coverage of the Microsoft Band 'prototype'

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Launched a few weeks ago in the USA was Microsoft Band, with a distinct air of 'Let's release this and see what people in the USA think before we inflict it on the rest of the world'. As a result, we at AAWP haven't so much as even glimpsed the accessory and have had to make do with experiencing the pros and cons through the eyes of others in North America. So, in the absence of first hand review material, here's a round-up of what others think from the Land of the Free....

First, though, from our own launch story:

Unfortunately for those in the rest of the world, Microsoft Band is only available in the USA (and in limited quantities), though it does look very promising and, especially for Windows Phone owners (due to the tight integration and testing with Microsoft's own mobile platform), looks to be the best wearable solution right now. Cortana is, for example, demonstrated being accessed on the Microsoft Band in the video above.

The Microsoft Band has a capacitive 1.4″ TFT full color (320x106 pixel) display, and sensors for heart rate, skin temperature and galvanic response and UV light, plus accelerometer, gyroscope and ambient light. Plus, slightly worryingly, a power-draining GPS - or perhaps this will turn out to simply be GPS support via the connected phone? There's no speaker, though there is a microphone (for Cortana). Battery capacity is 200mAh total and it's estimated that you'll need to charge the Microsoft Band every two days.

Microsoft Band

So - definitely something different, even if this also includes a rather rigid and bulky (on smaller wrists) front face. Everytime I see this, I think 'prototype'. But let's see what other sites around the world think of the latest, Windows Phone-centric (for once) smartwatch-fitness band hybrid.

The Verge rightly made a big deal out of this being just part of the big Microsoft Health push across all platforms:

The Band is the first hardware iteration of Microsoft Health, an ambitious and cross-platform attempt to centralize and utilize all the world’s fitness data. Microsoft hopes to integrate it first with devices and apps and then with our calendar and email, to tell us everything about how we’re living and how to live better. It’s supposed to be the One True Source of health data. 

Health is the trunk, and the $199 Band is the first branch. I’ve been wearing one for more than a week, and I’ve learned a lot. About the Band, about wearables, about health and tracking, about Microsoft. About myself....

...We’re a ways away from a full-on health revolution. The Band hardware needs a lot of work, and the software needs to be fully realized and tuned before we’ll even begin to see its full potential. If you’re in the market for a fitness tracker right now, this probably isn’t the one to buy. It's a prototype, and an expensive one. It's a first try, because Microsoft had to start somewhere....

The company has all the right ideas — be multi-dimensional, be prescriptive, be everywhere — and the company readily admits the Band is just a first step. You have to start collecting data somewhere, right? It’s not all that compelling yet, but Microsoft Health is going to get better, fast. I’m not using the Band anymore, but I’m dumping data from my Jawbone Up24 into Microsoft Health, because it’s already the easiest way for me to collect the most data about myself. I suspect that suits Microsoft just fine.

Ah yes, the 'p' word was in there again, but Microsoft Health is indeed 'where it's at'. I can see a point where this is the dominant catch-all service and with the Microsoft Band '3' (the third version!) the poster child accessory.

More review coverage, this time from C|Net:

Microsoft has taken the first step toward a promising fitness wearable, but throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the Band has resulted in a product that does some things well, others not so much, and ends up feeling too uncomfortable, too high-maintenance and a bit too confusing to use easily.

There's hope for a next generation of the Microsoft Band: better battery life, better live suggested coaching, and an app that serves insights more usefully could make the next Band a real winner. It's an interesting experiment, and runners who want a smart band might want to take a closer look, but those who want to add a little more fitness to their lives will probably find this isn't the experience they're looking for.

It's perhaps no real surprise that a first version of a 'stab in the dark' product (that's as much a rethinking of the wearables concept as was Windows Phone of the smartphone market, back in the day) should be rough around the edges (no pun intended!). Look at Samsung, Pebble, LG, each is iterating in order to find the optimal combination of style, size, features and performance - and the Band will be no different. Look to a 'Band 3' around this time next year, shipping worldwide, with a flourishing Microsoft Health ecosystem, and then the concept will take off.

Here's a quote from Apple Insider's in-depth take on the accessory, which is fully iOS-compatible:

Priced competitively at $200, the Microsoft Band is clearly not trying to go after the same market as the Apple Watch, or even Android Wear. This is intended as a fitness and health device, and it's very much first-generation hardware, with a clunky design that may not appeal to all.

In the space it occupies, competing with products from Jawbone, Fitbit, Basis, Nike and others, the Microsoft Band offers enough to stand out. Anyone currently in the market for a wearable fitness tracker should definitely consider Microsoft's offering.

In many ways, Microsoft Health feels like the star of the show, tapping into the hardware features of the Band to offer a wide range of health and fitness data. This, along with the deep day-one compatibility with iOS, only bodes well for the Band and future wearable fitness accessories from Microsoft.

Of course, those looking for a more full-featured smartwatch should wait. Regardless of how well received the Apple Watch is when it launches in 2015, few could dispute the likelihood that the wearable devices market is about to get shaken up in a big way.

But a $350-and-up multifunctional wearable device isn't for everyone, and that's where the Microsoft Band carves its niche. As a first-generation product, it's a respectable entrance into the wearable market that seems to signal even better things to come.

Finally, from Engadget:

Despite having spent the last three years in development, the Band still feels like a proof of concept. The abundance of tech crammed inside makes it seem like Microsoft was focused on showing off all the capabilities of its new health-tracking platform, rather than on building a consumer-friendly wearable. If Microsoft were to sell the Band as some sort of demo unit for OEMs or a developer device, its physical faults would be forgivable. But the company insists that the Band is also a consumer-ready product and we couldn't disagree more. 

That being said, Microsoft seems to be on to something with its Health platform. The software still has some kinks, and it's unclear how close the company is to delivering on its ambitious promises. But the focus is right. Rather than worrying too much about how many steps you took or how many calories you ate, Microsoft Health aims to provide insight into your broader well-being. That could mean helping you avoid skin cancer, or taking care of that balky knee you insist on running on. There's obviously room to grow, but compared to its primary competitors -- which happen to be locked to a single mobile platform -- Microsoft Health seems to have the most promise.

Which is an inspirational note to end on!

There's plenty of consensus above, at least, most of all giving Microsoft valuable feedback as to what to improve for the next generation. Watch this space, I'm sure we'll all be at least getting hands-on with a Band (2 or 3!) in 2015.