Microsoft like to dip their feet in many pools and the smartwatch scene is no exception. In 2014 they released the Band, a fitness and smartwatch in one.
When looking for a replacement for my dying Pebble, the Microsoft Band looked a good option at a good price, so I bought a first gen Band.
Out of the box, the Microsoft Band feels a sturdy device. They come in three sizes and I bought a medium. It was a good choice. It fits very comfortably without irritation. The clasp is an excellent design (unlike early Fitbits) that clips in the end of the strap and can be adjusted whilst on your wrist.
Underneath the screen is the magnetic charge port and underneath the clasp are the sensors for heart rate etc.
Once charged the initial setup screen is simple as most is controlled via the Microsoft Band app on your phone - available for Windows Phone, Android and iOS. Pairing is simple and it worked first time. It is one of very few smart bands/watches that will work across all three platforms.
The Band is controlled via a small touch screen which mimics the Windows 8 tile interface and works very well on such a small screen. The tiny touch screen is very responsive, very bright and it doesn't take long to work out the layout. Being colour it can be a little tricky to read in sunlight.
It has two physical buttons. The larger one is the power/wake/lock button and the smaller one is a select button.
The screen isn't always-on but it can be set to display watch mode all the time if required (although this would impact on battery life). Once awake swiping left scrolls through tiles such as notifications, messages, social media, fitness and settings. Main control over tiles is handled on your phone.
I have been using it for about two days and it offers a lot more functions than my Pebble. Calls and notifications display bright on the screen. A neat feature for notifications that are longer than the small display is the 'read’ feature. By pressing the smaller button it will scroll through the words in large print making it easy to read.
It displays all notifications from the Notification Centre - with the exception of the eBay app which just doesn't show up on the Band for some unknown reason, yet everything else does.
The vibrate levels can be controlled and it offers a great buzz on your wrist - which is the main function I look for. It means I don’t have to pull my phone out of my pocket each time.
I didn't buy it for its fitness features, but it is nice addition. The sensor detects steps, distance, calories burnt and heat rate on the main watch screen. It can also monitor sleep and offer a summary in the morning. I have already found these new features interesting.
Out of the box it doesn't support music control playback (that was saved for the Band 2), but there are a few third party apps that can do it. I installed Media Controller and that does fine.
Additional tiles and features can be added and social media can be turned on. There is a small amount of customisation available with background colour and pattern being an option and the tiles can be rearranged to suit you.
This is no fully fledged smartwatch like the Apple Watch or Android ones, but it isn't supposed to be. This is a fitness and notification device similar to newer Pebble watches.
Battery life is obviously depending on use. I am averaging between two and three days and charging the device is quite quick.
I am not Microsoft's biggest fan and that initially put me off buying a Band. However I have a new approach to tech, if it doesn't what I need then it's suitable. Brand loyalty gets you nowhere and is just for show.
I have been very impressed with this Microsoft Band so far. It has excellent build and functions and battery life is as expected.
Unfortunately after the Band 2 Microsoft ended it's venture in to that market. It is a shame as they are great products.
I tried not to compare it to my first gen Pebble watch, - which it is hopefully replacing - I am saving that for another article.
Written by Simon Royal. Follow me at twitter.com/simonroyal