Microsoft Gives Its Band Health Wearable a Massive Makeover

Take two. Microsoft unveils the golfer-friendly Band 2, a major update to the company's health and fitness tracking wearable.

Microsoft Band 2

Microsoft is taking another stab at wearable devices with the new and improved Band 2.

The original Microsoft Band was big on potential and loaded with sensors. Though capable and innovative in its own right, the device was often criticized for its bulk, stiffness and an unconventional screen that was meant to be worn on the inside of the wearer's wrist. It didn't help that the display's flatness was often an uncomfortable fit for the rounded contours of the human body.

Yesterday, during a Windows 10 device media event in New York, Microsoft addressed those shortcomings by unveiling a sleeker Band 2.

"When we set out to create this version, we had a couple of design principles, optimized for the individual who goes to work and enjoys working out," said Lindsey Matese, senior public relations manager for Microsoft Band and Health, while introducing Microsoft's latest wearable. "Make it breathable and flexible—no rigidity in any direction, no uncomfortable shoulders, no hard edges—and above all, it must curve nicely around the wrist."

As rumored, Band 2 has a curved display, providing a more comfortable fit. Gorilla Glass 3 helps protect the 1.25-by-0.50-inch (32mm by 12.8mm) OLED touch display. Battery life—another common complaint with the original Band—is rated at 48 hours. A full charge can be achieved in 1.5 hours.

Microsoft packed 11 sensors into the Band 2, compared with 10 in its predecessor. New this year is a barometer, added after the customers requested a way to track elevation. "Now you can track your fitness with even more precision by measuring your elevation changes in real-time, great for hiking, biking or just climbing stairs," Matese said.

Band 2 is also the only fitness tracker to measure VO2 max, or "the maximum amount of oxygen your body can process in one minute," explained Matese. "But what was once a trip for hard-core athletes to a serious training center [with] a bunch of straps attached to your face, [and] hopping on a treadmill, is now available on your wrist."

Similar to how Microsoft updated Health, the original Band's companion app, earlier this year with cyclists in mind, this time the company is targeting golfers.

The wearable's sensors enable automatic shot detection that can differentiate between practice swings and the real thing. "When I walk up to the tee box, it actually knows what tee I'm at; the distance to the green; the calories I've spent and my heartrate," said Matese. "It's like having your own virtual golf caddy."

Microsoft Band 2 uses Bluetooth 4.0 (low-energy) technology to connect with other devices. Supported devices include iPhone 5 and above with iOS 8.1.2 or greater, Android 4.4 (KitKat) and above, and Windows Phone 8.1 and above.

Microsoft is accepting preorders now. Microsoft Band 2 goes on sale Oct. 30 for $249, a $50 increase over the previous-generation Band.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...