Denise Goldberg's blog

Sunday, March 22, 2015

on my wrist

Hey! What's that on my wrist?

At some point last year I started looking at fitness bands thinking it would be a good way to track my everyday movements and potentially a good motivator to do more. The bands typically pair with phones; I stopped looking when I found that for my Windows Phone I needed version 8.1 - and Verizon hadn't yet pushed that update. I didn't forget about the bands when my phone upgrade was completed in late December but I also didn't actively start looking again.

Early this year one of my colleagues stopped by to show me his Microsoft Band. Sold! The features looked right to me, including tracking of heart rate, calories, steps, the ability to track runs (for me that means walks), bike rides, other exercise as well. It can also be used to monitor sleep, a truly essential function. The Band also adds the magic of Cortana and notification of emails, texts, and phone calls. Oh! That looks good.

The Microsoft Band is designed to be used with a phone although some functionality is supported by using a USB connection to a computer. It supports use of Windows Phone 8.1, Android, or IPhone operating systems.

The bands were first released in October, apparently in very short supply. After looking, placing himself on a waiting list at the Microsoft Store, waiting, David received his band. I went through essentially the same process, getting mine just before Microsoft made them generally available at 3 retail outlets in addition to their own stores.

When not using the functions of the band I have it set to show the current time, day, and date. This shows against a black background. When the power button is pressed the background changes to the color I selected (purple for now!) and the current time is shown along with indicators with the current values for heartbeat, steps taken, distance traveled, and calories. The values other than heartbeat are automatically reset at midnight so you are always seeing the current day.

Microsoft Band funtions

More details can also be seen by swiping sideways and clicking on a tile representing the activity.

running activity tile on Microsoft Band

Even without selecting an activity to monitor the band records steps taken and calories expended.

I've had my Microsoft Band for less than a week and I've used it to track walks and to track sleep.

Both the run and bike functions allow the selected use of GPS to map the route taken. There are warnings on the web site that GPS uses a lot of power (and I've seen that to be true). Even without using GPS the distance and speed to tracked. With GPS those numbers may be somewhat more accurate and the generated workout statistics include a map of where I've been.

When walking the band vibrates each time I have completed another mile. I was surprised at that during my first walk but I quickly came to expect that feedback.

The band synchs automatically with my phone. If I am impatient I can open the app on my phone and start the synchronization process. Once it is done I can see the results of my activity on my phone.

results of a walk

... or on the dashboard of when I am logged in:

results of walk on

What fascinates me even more is the ability to track my sleep. I already knew that I really need to target an earlier during the week bedtime but that absolutely slapped me in the face when I looked at my sleep time on a weekday morning and found that I had less than 5 hours of sleep. Yikes!

sleep time

The dark purple longer lines represent restful sleep while the lighter purple shorter lines show light sleep. The red lines are awake times. Hmm... I think I need to figure out how to have more restful sleep.

The image above is a screen shot taken from my phone; there is additional information below that can be seen by scrolling on the phone. The full set of information can also be seen at when I am logged on to my Microsoft account. A screen shot from that application is shown below.

sleep time from

I love the ability to see how far and how fast I have walked or biked, the ability to see my total steps for the day, to see my heart rate, and to watch the quality of my sleep. I think this is going to be a very good training tool.

The ability to see incoming texts, emails, and calls with a quick glimpse at my wrist is an interesting addition.

So far, I'm pleased with my new device

If you've decided to follow me and get your own band, you might be interested in the (free) eBook Microsoft Band Field Guide by Paul Thurrott (as linked from this page).