10 Months with the Microsoft Band 2

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Back in October of 2015, the new Microsoft Band 2 was first released. Our review was based on only about 1 week of usage and we felt that every complaint about the original Microsoft Band had been addressed. It really felt like a huge improvement. Last year in August, we also revisited our review of the original Microsoft Band with a 10 month later wrap up of how the band fared with a good amount of real health-tracking usage.  So today, we’re going to do another wrap-up about how the Microsoft Band 2 has held up to 10 months of all sorts of health tracking. We’ve seen quite a few software upgrades to the device in that time as well.

New Features

In December of 2015, the Microsoft Band 2 gained a good number of features including:

  • Activity reminders
  • The What’s New Tile
  • Exercise Tile improvements
  • Music controls for Microsoft Band 2
  • The ability to share custom guided workouts via email

Music controls were a big one. With that, you could double press the power button on the band to connect it to your phone via Bluetooth and load music controls that would let you change the volume, skip/rewind tracks, pause/play, and even see the name of the song and artist. Unfortunately, that only worked if you activated it BEFORE connecting Bluetooth headphones or speakers.  If you were already connected to Bluetooth stereo headphones/speakers, the Band 2 will not be able to connect and take over the music controls.

Activity reminders were great too. Those would appear periodically if you had been sedentary yet awake for a specific period of time. This is a great tool to keep you moving.

In February of 2016, weight tracking came to the Microsoft Health app along with an excellent GPS power saving mode and a golfing tournament mode. The GPS power saving mode significantly increased the battery life you could get while tracking a GPS run or bicycle ride. The disadvantage is that the GPS power saving mode was much less accurate for tracking your route.

In March, we got an auto-pause feature for GPS tracking. This was great if you took a break while bicycling or running as it wouldn’t count your time in the bathroom or resting on a bench as part of your workout.  In April, the Band 2 was updated with the ability to add up to 20 tiles.  Presumably, the tile limit was due to memory constraints before, so there must have been some significant code optimization to get more functions in there at the same time.

microsoftband2_explore

In May, the “Explore” feature arrived. This was a great new feature for hiking and walking. It tracked your route, flagged the places that you stopped to rest or enjoy the view, and kept a map of the route on your band.  It even provided notifications for re-hydration reminders and ultraviolet radiation precautions!

The "Explore" feature is great for long hikes.

The “Explore” feature is great for long hikes.

Then in June we got the awesome heart rate zone indicators. With this turned on you could easily tell how hard your heart was working by the color of the border on the Band 2’s screen.

New Problems

As mentioned, our original Microsoft Band 2 review was based on only about 1 week of usage and we felt that every complaint about the original Microsoft Band had been addressed. That was pretty great, but it turned out there were a few new problems with the new design.

One morning in April I noticed the band had torn while I was asleep.

One morning in April I noticed the band had torn while I was asleep.

I posted this photo to Twitter and quickly received an email from Microsoft asking if they can send me a replacement.

I posted this photo to Twitter and quickly received an email from Microsoft asking if they can send me a replacement.

I didn’t even have to go to the Microsoft store to get it replaced as some of my Twitter followers suggested. A new Microsoft Band 2 came in the mail directly from the team in charge of making them.

On June 30, 2016, my second Microsoft Band 2 suddenly lost its connection to the battery.

On June 30, 2016, my second Microsoft Band 2 suddenly lost its connection to the battery.

One minute I had 80% battery, and the next it was zero. Suddenly the Band 2 couldn’t turn on and wouldn’t accept a charge. All I could get it to do was show the icon above. I trip to my local Microsoft Store ended up in a replacement very quickly. The employee tested it by plugging it into a charger, recognized that it had stopped working, and had a new one in my hands within minutes.

My third Microsoft Band was ruined when I got hit by a truck while bicycling.

My third Microsoft Band was ruined when I got hit by a truck while bicycling.

Surprisingly and completely unexpectedly, the Microsoft Store replaced this Microsoft Band 2 as well. It’s not a problem with the Band 2 itself, but it’s a big testament to Microsoft’s commitment to making this health tracker a good experience for its customers. In case you’re wondering, my heart rate when getting hit by a truck on my bicycle was 192 bpm.  Of course, I’m sure not every Microsoft Store is going to give such great customer service to everyone that has an issue with the Band 2, but at least from my perspective they’re putting a lot of effort into customer satisfaction.

We’re not sure when we might see a Microsoft Band 3, but what other features might you like to see in the next version?

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About The Author
Adam Z. Lein
Adam has had interests in combining technology with art since his first use of a Koala pad on an Apple computer. He currently has a day job as a graphic designer, photographer, systems administrator and web developer at a small design firm in Westchester, NY. His love of technology extends to software development companies who have often implemented his ideas for usability and feature enhancements. Mobile computing has become a necessity for Adam since his first Uniden UniPro PC100 in 1998. He has been reviewing and writing about smartphones for Pocketnow.com since they first appeared on the market in 2002.Read more about Adam Lein!