Microsoft Band has hidden capabilities

Submitted by John Derry on Tue, 04/05/2016 - 11:10

If you’re familiar with FitBit or dabbled with tracking your calorie intake or exercise with multiple apps and gadgets, you’d naturally be interested in an all-in-one solution.

Microsoft Band 2 is exciting for me because it packs more sensors into a single device and it can be controlled via a nice interface, which is also competitive with the Apple Watch. I chose it over FitBit and Apple because it basically has all the fitness elements without the hype. Oh, and Apple Watch can’t do GPS without being tethered to an iPhone.

I am also attracted to the heart-rate monitoring, the UV and stress sensors. I can keep counting my steps but also enjoy cycle tracking and guided workouts, which is indeed another valuable advantage in having a Microsoft Band 2.

The icing on the cake, I thought, would be the bonus sensors: UV, body temp and galvanic skin response. However, while the UV sensor is a useful reminder about sun exposure, the latter sensors have proved to be a puzzling inclusion.

They could present data on your stress levels and the Band could even be capable of mimicking a lie detecter, as it has two out of the four sensors used to make up a polygraph. But frustratingly, it seems to collect the data but does nothing with it. 

Using a third party app like Band Lab you can see live sensor data on your smartphone. Viewing the raw numbers from the skin resistance and skin temp sensors clearly shows the potential for a stress level metric, however, it’s completely useless without a tile on the device screen or a chart in the app to interpret it.

It’s a great way to frustrate your customers - produce an innovative technology and then make it dormant.

I can only speculate why the capability of Microsoft Band 2 is not being fully developed. I think the design of the hardware and interface is incredibly good. The device also has great specs yet the intelligence of the operating system and Microsoft Health app are not on the same level. My guess is that the software engineering team simply have not kept up with the design team.

Small updates keep bringing new features, many which I think should have been ready prior to launch such as auto-pause, but while they are still working on it, I hope that a major software update can unlock the full potential.