Band 2, the latest version of Microsoft's fitness-focused wearable, has learned a new trick to help runners and cyclists track their workouts longer between charges. An update to the Microsoft Health companion app allows Band 2 owners to switch on a new power-saving mode.
"You can now extend the battery life on your new Microsoft Band for up to four hours when you run or bike with GPS," wrote the Microsoft Devices team in a blog post last week. "To make this goal a reality, we enabled a new feature that lets your new Microsoft Band's GPS sample your location in intervals, rather than continuously, by turning on GPS Power Saver."
The app's mapping capabilities remain intact, assured Microsoft.
"Even with GPS Power Saver turned on, Microsoft Health will still map your route in the mobile app and web dashboard. Get to the finish with your full performance summary and observations, even on those long runs or rides," stated the company.
The update also includes a new weight-tracking option.
"Track changes to your weight, and get a current approximation of your BMI [body mass index] with the Microsoft Health app's new weight-tracking feature," stated the Devices group. "Enter your weight regularly into the Microsoft Health app, then view in one or three month charts—or see your complete history to-date in the Microsoft Health app," they instructed.
Microsoft first unveiled the Band 2 fitness wearable in October during a Windows hardware event in New York City. Packed with 11 sensors—one more than the original Band, namely a barometer—the company's latest entry into the growing wearables market can track a user's heart rate, skin temperature and changes in elevation, like those resulting from climbing stairs or going on a hike.
Though full-featured, the Band 2 faces renewed competition from Fitbit.
During this the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last month, Fitbit unveiled the Blaze, a device that blurs the line between fitness bands and smartwatches. Priced at $199.95, the Fitbit Blaze features a color touch screen, guided workouts and automatic workout tracking.
Fitbit claims the wearable, which is available in March, can last five days between charges. Multiple watch faces along with interchangeable bands and frames are among the Blaze's customization options.
Apple, meanwhile, has emerged a wearables leader despite its short time in the market.
After the April 24 release of the Apple Watch, the company quickly became the smartwatch maker to beat. By the end of 2015, Apple claimed 52 percent of the market, according to new data released by IT research firm Juniper last month. "We expect Apple to remain the largest single player, as it has been the most heavily-marketed smartwatch to date and iOS users typically have more disposable income to spend on devices like smartwatches," Juniper research author James Moar told eWEEK's Nathan Eddy.