Microsoft Re-Enters Smartwatch App Market with Band

November 9, 2015 - 2 minutes read

Microsoft unveiled an update to the Microsoft Band this week, including some new features that make it an intriguing alternative to the more expensive Apple Watch. The device is surprisingly feature-heavy at the $249 price point, giving smartwatch developers at the New York launch event plenty to talk about.

Microsoft arguably “almost” created the smartwatch phenomenon when they released the original Band in 2014. The original may have predated the Apple Watch but it curiously featured more similarities to a FitBit than what wearable enthusiasts would label a smartwatch in the current market.

Although some NYC mobile app developers might consider a device halfway between a smartwatch and a fitness tracker odd at best, the capabilities of the device combined with the slim new appearance actually bring a lot to the table. To be fair, a device that’s tougher and cheaper than a smartwatch while offering more hardware than a fitness wearable has some pretty compelling use cases.

The Band has a special focus on health activities like cycling and trail running and sports super-strong gorilla glass to stand up to the elements. “Live healthier and achieve more” reads the slogan on the Band’s stat page, although “takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’” seems to be what they’re getting at. Since the new device’s most powerful features focus on fitness it’s no doubt that Microsoft intends to stick to that angle.

Self-tracking enthusiasts will be happy to see that a dizzying array of sensors come built in — including a barometer. Wearers can access data on everything from elevation changes to their golf swings, tracking progress, weak areas, and personal bests. There’s a sensor for almost everything health-related.

What really makes the Band special, however, is the compatibility; the device is designed to pull in notifications from not just Windows phones, but iOS and Android as well, suggesting interesting cross-compatibilities for mobile app developers on any platform.

The Microsoft Band is set to launch on October 30. Pre-orders are currently underway.

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