Microsoft has been rumored to be seriously releasing a smartwatch of some kind for months now. Really, the rumors even go back to 2013. But as of this past Thursday in what was a surprise announcement, Microsoft officially announced Band, the tech giant’s first entry into the wearable arena.
Touting the benefits of wearables, Microsoft pitches the Band in their video by telling us, “Life is made up of moments, you better keep your head up, your eyes forward, and your hands free…so you can catch them all.”
As far as the design of Band, Microsoft chose not to go too bold and keep with a black rubber band. However, inside the band is where Microsoft has chosen to put itself at the top of the pack. Similar to the newly announced Fitbit Surge, the Band comes packed with GPS satellite tracking to monitor distance during a run. Additionally, it comes with the ability to track heart rate, sleep, steps, and calories burned, making the Band a top contender when it comes to fitness trackers.
However, the decision for Microsoft not to release a smart watch as opposed to a smartband seems a bit like semantics, as Band really offers multiple features that bring it more into the competitive arena of connected devices like smartwatches than just the traditional fitness tracker. While Band contains access to notifications from text, Facebook, email, as well as bar codes for paying, Microsoft wants to make a clear distinction that Band isn’t a smart watch. In fact as Microsoft’s corporate vice president for devices and studios Yusuf Mehdi bluntly puts it, “we’re not trying to replace your watch.” Instead, Microsoft is taking the top capabilities of fitness trackers, and combining it with a competitive pricing ($199) to get more users in the door, all the while adding quick access to the important information throughout your day.
On top of all that, the device works with iOS, Android, and Windows Phone, getting rid of the exclusivity that might prohibit some buyers from buying particular wearables. The Band’s app, shown above, boasts some sleek UI that connects with Microsoft Health, which of course now pings Microsoft directly against Apple’s HealthKit, Google Fit, and Samsung.