Smarter looks, a curved display and more fitness metrics make the Microsoft Band 2 look ideal for exercise addicts
Microsoft’s New York launch event might have focused on the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book (and rightly so) but the company also took the opportunity to update its first piece of wearable technology with a second generation model. The original Microsoft Band impressed us with its fitness tracking abilities and curated workouts, but there was no denying it was a seriously ugly gadget. That’s not the case with the Band 2; it ditches the flat display for a curved OLED screen that better fits the curvature of your wrist, thinning the whole thing down into a device you won’t mind wearing 24/7.
The curved OLED is protected by Gorilla Glass 3, which should hopefully be less prone to scratches than last year’s model, which quickly got scuffed after only a few weeks of use. This is crucial, as Microsoft has always insisted it can be worn like a watch on the top side of your wrist, or on the underside for easier access when running.
The biggest new addition is Cortana integration, which can notify you if you miss a scheduled workout – we’re not sure if this is a handy new feature, or if it will quickly become annoying when you’re away from home and have no access to the gym. It will also be able to tell when you’re at the golf links, becoming a digital caddy that can track your location, distance to the green, calories burned and heart rate. When you’ve finished your round, it can generate a score card for you. Whether this will work with specific golf courses, or will use GPS and mapping data to work anywhere in the world remains to be seen.
As with last year’s model, the new Band includes built-in GPS for phone-free run and cycle route tracking, a heart rate sensor, calorie and sleep tracking using accelerometer data, guided workouts and smart notifications from a paired phone. It’s compatible with iOS and Android, as well as Windows Phone devices. New for 2015 is the addition of a barometer, which will track elevation when hiking or stair climbing. All that data will be correlated in Microsoft Health, the company’s free app, which can integrate with popular third party services including Strava.
The second generation Band will be going on sale in the US later this month, with pre-orders starting today. American customers will have to pay $249, which is $50 more than the original model – here in the UK, with tax and VAT, we’re expecting the price to be closer to £200.