Sunday 1 July 2018

Microsoft Band… Is It A Good Replacement For A Pebble?

I have been a wearer of the original Pebble smartwatch for a number of years, but with their demise and my Pebble starting to fail I looked around at something similar to replace it. I ended up with a first gen Microsoft Band, but how does it compare and is it a good replacement?

The first gen Pebble was released via Kickstarter in 2013 and the Microsoft Band was released in 2014.

You can read my full review of the Microsoft Band first gen here.

The smartwatch world is full of touch screen all-singing all-dancing devices and in comparison the Pebble looked a poor option, but it came with some major advantages.

I loved the simplicity of the Pebble. It featured a mono e-Paper screen which was always on and readable in any light. Its lack of fancy screen meant battery life was amazing at between 7 to 10 days on a single charge.

The Pebble is really just a notification device. It shows system wide notifications and phone calls, but it did feature changeable watch faces and you could even install apps on it and a few games, controlled by the three physical buttons on the side.

The Pebble was well built and I found the rubber watch strap very comfortable - although I know a few people who found it irritating. A bonus was it uses standard strap pins so you could put any watch strap on you like.

It was also waterproof and I wore mine 24/7, even showering and swimming. It was great for controlling music on my phone whilst soaking in the tub.

But like all good things, mine began to fail. Pebble had a great replacement policy. If yours broke they would swap it for a new one. However, now Pebble are no more this isn’t an option any longer.

So I wanted a similar alternative and the first gen Microsoft Band looked good.

The Microsoft Band is both a similar and totally different device to the Pebble.

The Band falls in to the fitness band and smartwatch genre. It sports a colour touch screen around a rigid band strap laced with numerous sensors. The Pebble has a mono screen and no sensors.

The colour touchscreen offers more control on the device, but it does mean it is hard to read in direct sunlight. The higher quality screen impacts on battery life, meaning you get around 2 to 3 days between charges vs the 7 day plus out of the Pebble, but both the Pebble and the Band charge very quickly.

You cannot customise the watch face on a Band, but you can change the colour of the background and menu system.

The Band doesn’t allow you to install apps - other than tiles for further controls, but no games and only a few extra fitness based tiles.

Both devices are controlled via an app on your smartphone, but the Band can be used without but does come in to its own when paired with the app.

Both devices offer phone notifications - the main reason I wear such a device - and both vibrate, both performing equally as well at this.

The Pebble doesn’t have a microphone, but the Microsoft Band does - although for use with Cortana this requires a Windows Phone - I haven’t found any other use for the mic yet which renders it a bit pointless.

The Band has a lot of fitness controls due to its extra sensors, which the Pebble lacks - but if these aren’t for you then it is a pointless addition.

Both devices have their advantages and disadvantages. The Pebble is a basic device with incredible battery life. The Band is a more advanced device with reasonable battery life.

Is it a good alternative to the Pebble? For me it is. I like the notification options of both, but I am loving the colour touch screen and fitness features of the Band even though it reduced battery life.

For all you Pebble holdouts out there, the Band is a good alternative.

FitBit took over Pebble and have not produced anything that replicates the simplicity of the Pebble. The Microsoft Band first gen can be bought for a tiny amount. I paid £15 for mine and it was brand new and sealed and at that price it is a bargain.

I am loving my Band and all it brings, but I do miss my Pebble.

Written by Simon Royal. Follow me at

Microsoft Band Review

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