I’ve been using the Microsoft Band 2 for a few weeks now and I can say I’m thrilled with it. In comparison to the original Band, it’s significantly better by leaps and bounds. If you’re in the market for a health tracker/watch, the Band 2 is my best recommendation. It’s probably everything the first gen should have been, but Microsoft had to learn hard but valuable lessons having gone through the first version. I have not tried the Apple iWatch nor the Samsung Gear S2 – so to be fair, I can’t comment on the latter two. However, I’m not leaving the Band anytime in the near feature.
- Significantly larger (taller) screen with a slight arc. The first screen was tiny by comparison and completely flat. It didn’t hug your wrist very comfortably. Now, the new Band 2 fits me perfectly and I imagine the same for other users.
- Significantly better recharging interface – first time works every time. Prior version was extremely difficult to get charging. I hated charging the first Band because it took numerous attempts to just get it just right to recharge. The previous Band would take eventually latch correctly or you’d have to clean out the interface with a cloth or tissue it would connect and start recharging but getting it to reliably charge took too much time which shouldn’t be the case. With the Band 2, they’ve clearly fixed this issue.
- Watch mode – now just turn your wrist and time will display. I believe this feature was added to the initial version as well through a software update, but I never used it. What’s nice is you can configure the Band 2 to let it know which wrist you use it on and in which orientation (inside or outside) on your wrist. At times, I’ll see the time flash because it thinks I’m looking at it, but all I’ve done is simulated that action that will trigger the watch mode to appear. Within a few seconds it disappears which is great for saving battery life.
- Recharge time seems slightly faster as first generation was pretty fast but Band 2 seems to get quickly charged. Seems like 20-30 minutes faster. Full charge used to take 2+ hrs but now it seems to need around 1.5 hours.
- Intelligent sleep alarm clock – I’ve tried this several times and I must say, each time it was easier to wake up compared to my prescribed time. I haven’t used this feature enough to say for certain that it’s rock solid, but as a heavy sleeper I may resort to using this more intelligent alarm clock.
- Stair counter is “off” or just can’t figure out (immediately) if you’ve walked stairs or not. Even after several weeks the stair counter never seems to get my stairs at home or at work right. It seems I have to really swing my arms to get the stair counter to pickup the flight of stairs. When I’m at home, it seems to only pickup a handful of times I’ve gone up the stairs. At work, there are more stairs to climb between floors and yet it still doesn’t register. So I guess the change in pressure for the barometer and the number of steps being taken isn’t exactly enough to merit walking a flight of steps. It definitely needs fixing, but I wouldn’t be surprised of a software update solving that problem.
- Battery life can last from 1.5 to 2 days depending on how many functions are being used. Enabling bluetooth for example, lets you view all your emails/tweets/phone calls as they come into your phone but that has an energy cost. If you disable bluetooth, you can squeak closer to 2.5 and possibly 3 days. This isn’t a fault with the Band per se, but this is just a limitation that people may view as a big problem. But having a color display, bluetooth, GPS, cortana, etc. are all energy consumers so it should be of no surprise to anyone.
There are other pros or features worth mentioning (GPS for one), workouts, golf, paying for Starbucks, sleep tracking which I use every night and probably a handful of other features that I’ve never used. All-in-all, the Band 2 packs in a lot of features. I personally think that Microsoft doesn’t get enough credit for the health dashboard. The portal allows you to see all your data that’s been recorded represented in an easy but comprehensive view – and it’s the best part of owning a Band. The graphed data and the observations give you more meaningful insight and to be able to make changes to your habits/activity based on prior patterns is very powerful and it is an eye-opening experience to see what you do over the course of days/weeks/months.
I’ve used the FitBit for several years before they became mainstream and while I liked FitBit for it’s tracking, stats and long battery life (mind you this was their first version), it definitely had it’s drawbacks too. The Microsoft Band from where I stand is primarily an excellent health tracker and then an excellent watch. It has a number of other features that most trackers probably don’t have or similar combination of email, twitter, cortana, GPS, and so on. It’s been extremely useful for those moments when I get an email, phone call or even a tweet – rather than lugging out my phone every time, the Band 2 notifies me and I can quickly see if it’s worth attending to or not.
One of the great features of the Band 2 is it’s ability to work with non-Microsoft phones. Both iOS and Android are supported. I’ve used the Band 2 on both my Lumia 928 and on my new iPhone 6s+ and from what I can tell, there’s no difference in the experience. Funny that both Apple and Google are now the monolithic empires that lock-in users to their own ecosystem while Microsoft is cognizant of their market share. Being able to work with Apple and Google makes perfect sense given the Windows Phone market share currently is reportedly between a paltry 2-3%, but I think some kudos is due to Microsoft as the Band 2 is clearly a step in the right direction regardless of their phone.
So if you’re looking for a health tracker or watch with some neat functionality, I think the Microsoft Band 2 is the tracker to get. It’s design, fit and features are solid and with the modest price bump from $199.99 to $249.99, it’s worth the additional cost. Will this change your life significantly? Maybe, maybe not. That’s up to you. For me, it’s raised my awareness of how bad my sleep patterns are and just how I need to improve. I am working on changing my habits by leveraging the data taken from my both of the Microsoft Bands that I own as all the data resides within Microsoft’s dashboard. I don’t think I could’ve gotten this depth and quality of analytics on any other platform.