Yes, I am a little bit excited because my shiny Band 2 has arrived. Billed as a fitness tracker, the device appears to have taken some design inspiration from, ahem, *other hardware manufacturers*. It's a pretty funky looking piece of hardware.
Now, in the old days, that last statement alone should have been enough to send an army of hardcore athletes speeding towards Amazon or PC World. Fortunately for online and offline retailers, the trickle of customers generated my previous comment is unlikely to swamp their servers or stores.
Okay, let's go on with it.
Microsoft Band 2: Look and Feel
Go back a couple of years and you would have found me dismissing the idea of any kind of smartwatch. The early Samsung models were too clunky for my likely. And ugly.
But times have move on. The Band 2 looks pretty cool and it's a definite step up from the first version which looked pretty like a manacle. The latest version of Microsoft's fitness tracker seems to have taken appears to have have a shot of cool injected into its sleek chassis. A combination of metal, rubber and a pretty large touchscreen combine to give it the professional look you'd expect from a company trying to capture large market share.
I have to admit that it's not the most comfortable device to wear and Microsoft could really do with offering a variety of straps. But it's okay - no worse than my Garmin GPS 410 when I first bought it.
At this point, let me clarify something: I've only had the Band for a few days and I'm guessing it'll 'give' over time.
How Accurate is the Band 2?
It's pretty good - comparable to my tried and tested Garmin GPS 410 (which, although now a few years old, is still a great training aid). The big advantage the Band 2 has over its big rival, the Apple Watch, is a built-in GPS - straps or pouches for you handset are not required thanks to some thought on Microsoft's part.
One thing that did irritate me was the time to acquire a satellite lock. Comparing my GPS 410's results to the Band's on one particular session I found a 500m difference in overall distance. Not a huge amount, but enough to put a dip in my, so far, improving times. The easy remedy would be to leave the GPS function always on, but this drains power and I'm prone to taking off at the drop of a hat for a run or pulk pulling session - flat batteries aren't helpful.
The Microsoft Health App
Now this I do like! Built-in mapping on the splits, calorie counter, session duration, HRM and all the usual features you'd expect are there. But there's more. There are downloadable training plans (running, cycling, weights, etc) and these can all be accessed via the app. In addition, the app will give you an indication as to how your fitness is improving.
The Health App is available for the Lumia range of phones, iPhone and Android. That said, there's significantly less functionality available on iOS or Android. For example, you can use the Band to control various setting, including the Lumia music player and this feature isn't available on non-Microsoft devices. Not an issue as you can download your iTunes/Google Play library to your Windows phone.
That's All for Now
I'll leave it at that, for now. There is still much testing to be done on the Band 2 and I'm looking forward to giving it a trial run in Norway (scheduled for late January). There'll be refreshed post soon after I return.