These are my first impressions of using the Microsoft Band during a 5K race.
Let me start by saying that I didn’t find the Microsoft Band the least bit uncomfortable. However, I am a relatively big person with large wrists (6′ 3″, 205 lbs.), so others may have a different experience. This was also my first 5K race in over 10 years, so don’t knock my performance too much!
My current verdict
The Microsoft Band is a well-designed fitness tracker with great app integration and real-world value. I can already tell that is was a worthwhile gadget investment and is leaps and bounds a better experience than the FitBit Flex that I used to wear.
Here’s how it went…
Little preparation was required. The band just needed a little charge this morning before I left the house, so when I got up this morning, I charged my Band for about 40 minutes. It started with 40% charge and was at about 80% when I took it off the charger. If you plan to use the onboard GPS chip to enable GPS tracking for your runs, it is important to note that you need enable GPS for your runs by opening the run app and swiping to the right to the toggle.
During the Race
You start a run by opening the run tracking app on your Band and pressing the action button. From there, you can press the action button again to pause the run and then ether resume or end it. This is a pretty standard user experience for these types of applications. What I failed to see was the prompt asking if I wanted to start tracking the run while it was still trying to lock a GPS signal, which required a second press of the action button, so I didn’t actually start the tracking until about .25 miles into the run. I suppose it would’ve helped to read the instructions beforehand. My preference would be for it go ahead and start tracking and then add GPS when it has a lock without requiring a second interaction.
After I got the run tracking enabled, the Band, by default, showed a nice display of calories, heart rate and total time elapsed – if you swipe down from the top, there is a little overlay screen that shows GPS status, pace time, and distance.
Something that I think I noticed (I could be crazy) was that the Band gave me a nice little haptic buzz at every mile marker. I don’t know if this is only done during GPS tracking or it will also happen during a normal run, but it is a good little reminder of how you’re progressing through your run. This replaces the audible function that most run tracking apps have and is a nice touch.
You end the run by pressing the action button and selecting “End”. It took me a few seconds to remember to End the run after crossing the finish line. What can I say? I was in the zone.
After the Race
This is where I think the Microsoft Band and its integration with the Microsoft Health app really shine. After I retrieved my phone from my car, I let the Band sync with my phone and then opened the app on my Nokia Lumia 1520. To my elation, it had a very detailed recounting of my run starting with a summary that included a map of my run. Presumably this map only shows up after runs with GPS tracking enabled.
If you tap on the map, it opens it full screen. The really nice part of the map, is that it has a color map of what your speed was like during the run. You can see where I turned up the heat on the last stretch. It also has mile markers, so you can see where exactly those distances were achieved. The snail and cheetah icons in the color map key are also a nice touch.
The other screen is splits, which is figures out for you automatically, which is nice. Other apps I’ve used leave it up to you to split manually.
One other note on the run summary screen – all the way at the bottom, there are three options – share, delete and rename. I chose to rename the event, so I can log it officially. I also chose to share it on Facebook and I am perplexed as to why Twitter sharing is not available. Hopefully, that will show up in a future update.
Also, I noted that at the beginning of the race my Band had a charge of 79% and afterwards, had dropped to 71%, so it would seem that GPS tracking does drain the battery much faster as expected and is stated in the product manual.
Overall, color me impressed from my first outing with the Microsoft Band in a fitness scenario. The integration between the Band and the Microsoft Health app is top notch and I found the band to be both comfortable and very useful for tracking my run. I can see how using the Microsoft Band and the accompanying app will lead to greater insights into my training to becoming a better runner. Based on my experience this time around, I think it is time to retire Runtastic and finally stop lugging my giant phone with me on runs.
Plus! I stopped at Starbucks on my home and used the Starbucks card app to pay. It works flawlessly and usually starts up a conversation with the person working the register and anyone behind or in front who happens to see you use it.