Last year, Microsoft dived straight into the wearables market with an ambitious device that unfortunately didn’t live up to its promise. Here’s round 2, the new Microsoft Band.
The new Band is a more premium product than before. It’s got a curved screen, capped by some Corning Gorilla Glass 3.
The new Band inherits the tracking features from the previous band, including GPS, UV exposure, steps, and heart rate monitoring. The Band adds a new barometer, which can track your elevation.
As with Microsoft’s other Windows 10 devices, there’s a focus on Cortana integration. It’s supposedly improved this time around — that’s welcome because Microsoft’s assistant was a little too slow to be useful last time around.
As with the last edition, the big promise of the Band is the integration with Microsoft’s cloud-based Health platform, which can crunch your data and give you meaningful insights.
Microsoft is pushing the fitness smarts of the band really hard: not only was the presenter moonlighting as a half-Ironman triathlete, but the new Band can even estimate your VO2 Max. That’s a measure of your body’s maximum capacity to use oxygen, and is an incredibly important number to know if you’re participating in intensely aerobic sports.
To learn your VO2 Max requires completing an awful treadmill test while wearing a mask and a bunch of wires. (I’ve done it, it sucks: they make you wear a harness so that when you fall off the treadmill due to exhaustion, you don’t die.) But the Band promises to estimate your VO2 Max using nothing more than the built-in heart-rate sensor, and some clever algorithms.
Again, this isn’t brand new: some of Garmin’s fancier workout devices can do the same thing. But those require you to shell out hundreds on a complicated watch, then go do a specific series of tests while wearing a chest strap. Microsoft’s Band is promising the same thing with nothing more than fancy jewellery.
The new Band starts at $250 in the US. We’ll let you know how it fares when we try it.