A Few Days With The Microsoft Band

Wearables are a hot topic at the moment. I haven’t really be enamored with any one particular wearable device as of yet—I’ve found most of what’s currently available to be clunky and of minimal use–but decided to take the plunge a few months back anyway. I made a decision to lose some weight and get in better shape, and with that as my motivation, I picked up a Fitbit Flex and gave it a shot.

I preface that by saying that I knew next to nothing about losing weight and properly getting into shape, over and above the general concepts we’ve all learned over the years—eating right, exercising, getting a good night’s sleep, etc. But if I went for a walk, I didn’t really know how far I’d traveled. If I rode my bike, I didn’t know how many calories I’d burned. And how well was I REALLY sleeping?

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It’s one thing to count calories, be mindful of the types of food you eat, and to exercise, but it’s difficult to actually quantify all of those variables, which is where I’d hoped the Fitbit would come in. Like most of you reading this I have to work to pay the bills and can’t dedicate countless hours to remain physically active. If I was going to make a go at getting in shape, I wanted (and needed) to be as efficient about it as possible. To do that, I needed data to be sure what I was doing was effective and worthwhile.

The Fitbit proved to be a rather useful little device. Using it, I found that four laps around the cul-de-sac where I lived would equate to roughly 4.2 miles. And that along with my walks, taking regular breaks to complete some chores around the house (I work from home), would get me to my daily 10,000 step goal. The Fitbit also showed me how poorly I had been sleeping. I’d be in bed long enough most nights, but my sleep wasn’t particularly restful. With that information in hand, I did some research on the right types of foods to eat (or avoid) for a restful night’s sleep and was able to improve that as well.

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I like the Fitbit Flex, but ultimately it’s a rather basic tool. It estimated calories burned based on general activity it monitored and the body specifics manually entered into the app. It didn’t actually monitor heartrate or have any advanced sensors. I got a Microsoft Band as a gift for Christmas, however, and am currently enamored with all of the data this thing provides. In addition to all of the fitness-related sensors and software tools, the Microsoft MSFT +2.23% Band is also a decent little smartwatch—it syncs with my phone (a Lumia 1520) perfectly and I’m finding the notifications rather handy.

What I really like about the Band is the actual heart rate data, calories burned, and the sleep detail it provides. As I’ve lost more weight, I’ve upped my physical activity to the point where I’m now taking Title Boxing classes a few days a week. Before using the band I knew the workout was rather grueling (at least for someone like me), but now I have an actual number on how many calories I’ve burned, where my heart rate peaked, average heartrate, and areas I still need to work on, or at least need to do more research on to learn how to improve. That’s motivating for me.

The Microsoft Band itself seems rather well built and sturdy, but it’s fairly large in my opinion. It’s not too big for me, but I couldn’t see a small guy or petite woman with thin wrists being comfortable with the Band—it’s just too big. The Band’s feature set, however, is pretty darn nice. It offers 24-hour heart rate monitoring, a step tracker, built-in GPS, calorie tracking, sleep tracking, guided work-outs, timers and a stop watch, a UV monitor and all of the alerts and notification of a typical smartwatch. Because I’m a Windows Phone user, the Band also offers Cortana for taking voice notes or setting reminders. There are weather and finance related mini-apps for the Band as well, and it’s got a myriad of customization options too.

I’ve only been using the band for a few days now, but my initial impressions are very good. It clearly offers more actionable data than the Fitbit Flex I had before, and that’s just the thing a geek like me needs to help stay motivated.

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