An update on Microsoft Band

by Volker Weber

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I have been using Band now for a week. Performance has been solid and Band is more comfortable than I expected. I am now wearing it with the display facing outward, which is a bit awkward when checking messages. I find it more comfortable and it's easier to check the time.

The software on iOS still needs a lot of tweaks to make it work internationally. My iPhone uses English (US) as its language with a German locale. The app is confused about decimal point (US) and thousands separator (German). In some places it reports the time correctly as 13:56 in 24h format, in other places it will say 1:56 nachm. for 1:56pm. It no longer fits the total steps for a week since it went above 100k steps. Kilometers travelled will always report three digits, so it rolls over at 9.99 to 10.0 and from 99.9 to 100. I guess I am walking more than the developer. ;-)

Sleep counts as an event. The app only show you the last sleep event. If you sleep for 6.5 hours during the night and for one hour at noon, it will report either 6.5 or 1 hours of total sleep, depending on whether you look in the morning or the afternoon. There is no accumulated view for sleep during the week. I also find that the sleep report is way off the actual sleep. It will report deep sleep at times when I was awake, and light sleep when I am completely spaced out. Overall, sleep tracking looks like an afterthought. But I'm fine with that, since I no longer need sleep tracking.

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Step counting is on the conservative side. The iPhone records more steps than Band and it can vary step length depending on your cadence while Band seems to derive step length from your body height. It records your pulse around the clock if you set it to. It's not on permanently, but it works in intervals to save on battery power. When it starts acquiring the pulse, it always seems to start with higher values than realistically could be true and then settles in on the correct pulse. That is the case when you wear the display to the inside and the outside of the wrist. The values it logs seem to be reasonable. Calories burnt, as reported through the app is about 20% lower than Withings. I have no idea who is right. Smoke and mirrors. I get a "battery low" warning after about 36 hours if I keep the clock display and pulse tracking on. Therefore I need to recharge every single day.

Microsoft keeps sending me promotional mails on how to work better with Band and those mails do not contain an unsubscribe link. Need to find out how to stop this spam. On the upside there is no "Clippy" in the app. It just gives you the data and does not try to coach you. (This is an area where Jawbone fails so miserably. "It looks like you log more steps when you sleep longer". No, dummy. When I sleep longer, I am on vacation and have more time to walk.)

After almost a week, I am comfortable to keep Band. I would not return it if I had bought it. Having said that, Microsoft still needs to invest a lot of work into the software. I have a feeling that this product was rushed to the market, well before the software was ready. While they are collecting data from existing customers, they can continue to make better software. The other players are currently years ahead.


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