The Microsoft Band actually looks very promising

Written By Michael Maunda on Saturday, November 8, 2014 | 11:22 PM

When I talk about Microsoft in the mobile world, my articles often have an undertone of pity. It's not that I think Microsoft can’t accomplish anything, but it’s clear that over the past few years, when it comes to Microsoft’s position in the mobile world, it’s not nearly as overwhelmingly well-received as Android or iOS has been. For that, I have sympathy on the company and the struggling mobile OS. I really would like to see Microsoft succeed with Windows Phone more than it has been able to recently.

While Windows Phone may be struggling to catch up to the popularity of Android and iOS, though, one area where I believe Microsoft can rise above the rest in the mobile world is with its latest wearable: the Microsoft Band. Although I’ve been leery of smartwatches and fitness bands as of lately, I am actually rather intrigued by Microsoft’s addition to the wearables market.

To put it simply, Microsoft has managed to make a smartwatch/fitness tracker hybrid that does just enough of each to make it worth checking out.

The other day I asked whether you guys thought whether fitness trackers were worth the money or not, and many of you came up with some compelling answers. Between my lack of proper enthusiasm for fitness and health and my cheapskate tendencies, I currently haven’t found much of a desire to purchase a fitness tracker of my own. I’ve also talked about smartwatches and how only one of them seem worth the money for me in the end. However, after doing some more research on the Microsoft Band, I think that this wearable gives users the best of both worlds for a few reasons.

First and foremost, the fitness aspect of the Microsoft Band is just packin’. All of those things that cost a pretty penny in a lot of designated fitness trackers are all included in the Microsoft Band, including pedometer, GPS, heart-rate monitor, UV sensors, calorie burn, and sleep tracking. We’re off to a pretty good start here, and that’s just covering the fitness aspect of this new wearable. Combined with the Microsoft Health app, you’ve got yourself a pretty nice set of fitness features.

Then you have the smartwatch aspect of the Microsoft Band. A lot of smartwatches, I feel, are trying too hard to be complete smartphones without actually being able to work independently without a smartphone. The Microsoft Band has a few nice features that work with your smartphone, but I don’t feel like it’s trying too terribly hard. You basically have, well, the basics: text message, e-mail, and social media previews; visual incoming call and voicemail notifications; and finally you have calendar alerts as well. You also have the added bonus of being able to use Cortana, which can benefit you more if you use a Windows Phone. She still works if you use other platforms as well, though.

Which is another great bonus about the Microsoft Band: you can use it whether you’re an Android, iOS, or (of course) Windows Phone user. (Although, unfortunately this still leaves BlackBerry users in the dust once again - sorry, guys). Still, three out of four isn’t bad considering most only work for Android and iOS - but we could have assumed that Microsoft wouldn’t leave out its own mobile OS for its smartwatch. Either way, it’s still a decent investment if you’re looking for a smartwatch because you know that your Band will still be compatible with other platforms should you switch sometime in the future (again, unless it's BlackBerry). That’s pretty neat.

Finally, the last thing I like about the Microsoft Band is the design. Not everybody will agree with me here, but I’m attracted to the slimmer screen of the Band (also the same design seen in the Samsung Galaxy Fit). I’m hearing that the actual weight of the Band is pretty bulky, though, so maybe in future generations Microsoft can focus on making it a little more lightweight - but when it comes to the screen and the way it looks, I prefer it over the square face that a lot of smartwatches (such as the Galaxy Gear or the Pebble) have been going with. This probably has something to do with the fact that my hands are usually on a keyboard or in front of my face somewhere and it’s convenient for me to glance at it and see what it’s saying without turning my head.

One thing I don’t think Microsoft did well was, of course, battery life. I can’t really give them a pass on it, either, because other smartwatches have been able to extend battery life to at least three or four days; Microsoft claims that the Band is only able to get 48 hours on a single charge. Pretty abysmal, comparitively speaking. Battery life is an extremely important component (in my opinion) on any electronic, and I feel that Microsoft dropped the ball here.

Otherwise, though, I think Microsoft is on the right track for being one of the top contenders of having a great wearable. I’m thinking that within the next two generations of the Band, should Microsoft continue with this endeavor, we could potentially start to see some real progress with it. It certainly seems to be starting off on stronger footing than Windows Phone did in the smartphone world.