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Mobility Digest Review: Microsoft’s Band is a beta smartwatch

Yes, I ordered the Band as soon as it was available and before I even knew what it did. I’m a fan boy… I’m ok with that. And it’s awesome in a lot of respects.  In fact, I can’t ever go without a smart watch again. The glancibility is the game changer for me. I don’t need to check my phone every time an email or call comes in. It lets me prioritize things. So if I’m with my family I don’t pull my phone out 25 times. I can see the first few lines of an email and see if its urgent or not. Don’t tell me to ignore everything – I don’t want to lose my job. And honestly, even in this short time, there’s no going back. It’s a dramatic change to how I live. With that said, this is very much a beta device and I doubt I will have it in a year.

To be fair, I didn’t buy it to track fitness. I bought it as a smartwatch. They designed it as a fitness tracker. I get it. But with that…

The dimensions are off. You’d prefer a traditional shaped watch that fits 2×2 tiles and gives more room. Now, it’s a stretched  screen that’s odd and fits a little odd on your wrist as well as you need to train yourself to hold your arm out to view it “normally”. And if you were planning on wearing it with a dress shirt then move on. It won’t fit because of its bulk unless your sleeves are really loose. The ability to glance is nice but it only goes one way so a text message won’t be marked read on your phone for example. Emoticons don’t come through nor do pictures, so you’re still taking out your phone. And you can’t send an image from your phone storage through the Band either. Music controls to change what’s playing on your phone? None and no internal storage for remotely playing music either. And I hear it’s a two day battery. I don’t wear it to sleep (I actually put it in airplane mode) and so far it hasn’t been unable to make it through the second day without dying. It may be the number of emails I get (which turns on the backlight), but this is without a workout and I have to charge it every day and it’s a proprietary charger. There’s also an issue when you walk away from your phone and when the Bluetooth connection is reestablished it doesn’t push those missed messages. Cortana integration exists, but dictating a text is a few steps and really isn’t practical.

It’s ultimately a second screen. I love a second screen. But there will eventually be a true Microsoft smartwatch that is more than just a second screen. I don’t fault the Band. They made it clear what it did and I’m outside of that range. But I really hope this is just a test to make a true smartwatch. However with all their noise about Microsoft Health and licensing their 10 sensors I fear that this fitness tracker is the only watch they’ll be releasing for some time. And with that said, I just got my low battery warning. Awesome