We’ve said this before, and we’ll say it again: wearables are the hottest market in the tech world in 2014. First came the fitness tracking bands, small and lightweight, but with little functionality. Then in the last few months came the explosion in the so-called ‘smartwatch’ market of highly capable, wrist-worn computers. Until now however, there was one major tech player who was yet to release a wearable: Microsoft.
And now it seems to have been worth the wait.
Today Microsoft debuted their first ever wearable device: the Microsoft Band. While this device is nominally a smart-band, effectively it combines the best of both worlds (band and smartwatch) into a single device. This device retains some of the best features from both products and combines it into a single, easy to use and cross-platform wearable.
The Microsoft Band itself is a wrist worn band which prominently features a small LCD display on its front surface. This display is touch sensitive and a user makes use of it control a number of health, fitness and productivity functions. The Band itself is packed with a large number of sensors which can detect heart rate, steps taken, distance travelled and location through GPS.
As well as this, the device synchronizes with your phone to display and respond to notifications and alerts. Through a smartphone app, a user can set alarms, program runs, and monitor all kinds of data delivered by the device’s sensors. As well, the device also works with Windows Phone’s Cortana voice assistant to deliver information and undertake tasks on the Microsoft Band.
While these are features that are quite common from competing smartwatch devices, there are two things which set the device apart from its competition. The first is cross-platform compatibility. The Microsoft Band is able to be used by iOS, Android and Windows Phone devices. This gives it a much bigger market than devices made by Apple or Samsung, and provide people with a second option for those not happy with the Apple Watch or the Gear series.
The second reason why the Microsoft Band could see large-scale success is its battery life. By knuckling down on what people actually need a wearable for, Microsoft was able to make a device with a smaller screen, and thus a longer battery life. While most smartwatches have a battery life of less than a day, the Microsoft Band reportedly can last a full 48 hours without needing another charge.
These factors, combined with the competitive price point ($199) and the fact that the device is available on the market right now, mean that this could be potentially be the first wearable device to see mainstream adoption. Certainly it represents a turnaround at Microsoft and re-establishes the company’s reputation as a tech heavyweight.
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