Stepping up from the Fitbit to the Microsoft Band

Microsoft Band

I was getting bored with the Fitbit Charge: kind of plain and it doesn’t track my heart rate. Just having turned 50 (I think of it as upgrading to version 5.0), and having a chat with doctor, it was time to get a device that monitored my heart.

The last time I looked at the Fitbit HR Charge, $199.99, it still didn’t have an app for my Windows phone. And it’s still boring.

This is the problem with most fitness trackers, people get bored with them.

I started looking for something else. I’m already hooked into the Microsoft platform because of my business so I checked out the Microsoft Band 2. Huge price drop from December, now down to $249.99.

For $50 more than the Fitbit HR, there’s more functionality. It synchronizes with my phone so I get text messages, emails, call display (handy if your phone is across the room) and calendar reminders. And I can dictate notes and reminders. Works great with my consulting business.

I can customize all the tiles and colours (unlike the Apple Watch or Fitbit). The Microsoft Band 2 comes with Gorilla Glass which is important to me because it took me only two week to put a little chip in the corner of my Fitbit Charge. The clasp is easier to work than the Fitbit (the Fitbit could be very difficult to get on and sometimes I just couldn’t be bothered fighting with it). Full colour display makes it lively.

Personalize Microsoft Band

What about fitness on the band?

It’s got 11 sensors to measure what you’re doing (and UV, not sure why you want a UV sensor). Microsoft has seen fit to supply certain default activity tiles like steps, runs, biking and golf. Why golf? I know tons of folks who walk, run and bike for exercise but no one who counts golf as their exercise.  Not only is golf as default tile on the Band, it is default on the phone app and shows up on the browser based dashboard and you can’t get rid of it.

I was fascinated by the differences in how the Band measured the same walk compared to the Fitbit. The Band recorded about 200 more calories burned but Fitbit counted walking up the same hill as more flights of stairs. I noticed that Fibit was generous with the stair count even before I upgraded.

Here’s what the phone app and the browser based dashboard look like:

Microsoft Band phone app screen
Microsoft Band dashboard

The dashboard also offers workouts for you. I was disappointed that the emphasis is on “Bodyweight” workouts. How about some Heart Health workouts or Stretching? And of course there were golf workouts.

How easy to setup?

The band is not a quick setup and there was a big gotcha. The band has to be paired with your phone. And it insists on running updates immediately. This is the gotcha. You can’t finish the update before you register the band but you can’t register the band via the phone because it’s running the update.

Perfect loop of frustration. The fix I found was to manually register my band through the dashboard web site. I restarted my phone and the band setup and it finally worked.

Did I mention you also have to have a Microsoft account to set up the band

Total setup took about an hour including charging the band for first use. It does require leaving Bluetooth turned on your phone (something I used to keep off). So far using the band with the phone hasn’t been a big battery drain. The Microsoft Band battery lasts for about two days.

The Microsoft band works not just with Windows Phone but also with Android and the iPhone.

And it does some cool graphs of your heart rate
Heart Rate Stats Microsoft Band