Microsoft Band was released in limited supply in the U.S. over two months ago and since then there haven’t been any firmware updates released for the device or significant software updates pushed for the Microsoft Health app until today. The firmware update appears to be very minor and we don’t have exact details on what has been changed but we expect it’s bug fixes and related to performance.
Windows Phone users can now install an update for Microsoft Health app which doesn’t contain any new features but it does however bring “General app fixes and improvements” according to Microsoft.
Microsoft Health app also received an update on Google’s Play Store so Android users can now “control which apps send notifications to the notification center tile on the Band.” The update also adds “Just go to Manage Tiles and click on the Notification Center entry from the list.”
For those of you looking to score a Microsoft Band you may be in luck this weekend. According to Windows Central, US Microsoft retail stores are set for a resupply this Saturday January 3.
This applies to US retail stores only and Online Microsoft Stores will still be out of stock for the time being. Windows Central provided a photo in which an email sent out to Microsoft Store staff says the following:
“Customers in our email database will receive an email announcing Microsoft Bans availability this Saturday January 3 to drive traffic to our stores. To support the intended increase in traffic over the weekend stores will receive additional inventory of Microsoft Band Friday January 2”
So there you have it, if you live near a Microsoft Store and are looking for a Microsoft Band this may be your chance.
We really liked the easy to understand interface and simple to follow process to upload a photo from your Windows Phone to your Band. It works quickly and easily, so much so that we could only find a couple of little quibbles with it. The first was that while you could change the background to the picture of your liking, you couldn’t change the accent stripe on the right side of the Me Tile. To do this, you had to go back to Microsoft’s app, change the color, which would also wipe out your lovely Custom image, and then go back to Pimp My Band to re-set the background to your custom picture.
We also suggested that on occasion the on-screen instructions were a tad confusing in that they told you to touch a control below, but there were a couple of options to chose from. The Developer of the app spotted our Review and Tweeted he would be making some changes very soon. Well, soon turned out to be very, very soon. Version 1.2 has landed in the Store and it has very neatly addressed the quibbles as we requested, and in fact, has added two new features that are really very cool!
Right out of the gate the instructions have been simplified, leaving no uncertainty about what exactly to do. Score One for MSPR and Band Owners everywhere! Then guess what, you can now set the accent stripe color from within the app. Score Two for MSPR and the app Developer, Fela Ameghino (@FrayxRulez)!
But Fela didn’t stop there, oh no, this guy’s serious about his updates. Version 1.2 has also added the ability to change the Accent Stripe to match the dominant color in your image – chosen automatically by the app itself! Now that’s slick, and it’s a nice original idea. I wish we could claim to have thought of it first, but this one’s all the Dev’s! Well done!
And, it’s not over yet. Just in case your artistic vision doesn’t match the “Dominant Color” the app chooses for you, you can select a custom color from, well, any color in the universe. Just like before, the app is simple, fast and does everything as advertised. The original Pimp My Band was a really solid piece of work, well worth the $0.99 price, and this update is an impressive bit of work that shows off the Dev’s creativity and commitment to customer satisfaction.
Given how well this worked last time, I’ll make just a couple of suggestions. First, the “Dominant Color” automatic selection is amazing! I really like it. But sometimes what you are looking for is a contrasting or “Complimentary color” that would really stand out and truly accent the image. I would love it if an option could be added to automatically select either the Dominant color, or its Complimentary color. The other suggestion – World Peace. Like last time, you’ve got 48 hours – Go!
If you are one of the lucky ones to have scored a Microsoft Band here in the US then you know this is an impressive device. Bristling with sensors and sophisticated abilities, like App Notifications, Cortana integrations and Band-specific Apps, it’s a highly functional and useful device.
One thing it isn’t though, is particularly attractive. It has a minimalist, Utilitarian design that is similar to many less capable fitness bands, and stands in complete contrast to what is expected from the upcoming Apple watch which is much more about form and less about helping you live a better, healthier life.
Still, Microsoft has tried to allow for some customization of the Me Tile display in order to allow you to make your Band pleasing to YOUR eyes. You can choose between 10 Colors (plus 3 Black with a different colored stripe) and 12 different wallpapers out of the box – a healthy start.
But what if you are used to putting your favorite photographs on your device displays? Well it’s been hinted that this would be possible, however the still somewhat limited interfaces available for the Band (basically the Microsoft Health App) have not allowed this.
Besides, what would you be able to do with such a small display, right? It’s only .43” x 1.3” inches, so there would seem to be little worth doing with it. Considering that a lot of the available space is understandably taken over with text, particularly if you enable the “Watch” function, it might seem not worth bothering. And what about the display resolution? Surely such a small and utilitarian device would not have a very high resolution, the kind that would make a photograph a useful background. After all, Microsoft didn’t include any photos in the display choices, and their not shy of loading such photos onto Lumias are they?
Looking a bit at the display specs, you get a hint that photos might not look too bad. The Band has a 320 x 106 ppi display. That gives it an overall resolution of 240 ppi. That’s not exactly High Def video, but its higher than the 3rd Gen MacBook Pro (227 ppi) and almost as good as the 4tth Gen iPad (264 ppi). In more MS terms, it’s the same as the current Lumia 530 (245 ppi), way better than the Lumia 630/635 (218 ppi). You have to climb up the Lumia Ladder all the way to the 700 top get a better resolution (312 ppi)! And the full color TFT LCD technology used in the display is no slouch either. Clearly, this was built with the capability to do more than a simple geometric pastel background.
After looking thru all this I became interested in customizing the displayed image on my Band. As a semi-pro Photographer I have a large library of personal images I rather like, and all my capable electronics immediately have the manufacturers’ stock backgrounds replaced with ones of my own I find pleasing. The inability to do the same with my Band was a little irritating, particularly once I realized that it should have the capability to do a good job with an image of the correct proportions.
So I was very excited to discover that an App to do just this, “Pimp My Band” was just released into the Windows Phone Store. It’s a very simple, easy to use App that does just one thing, allow you to crop (the original image is untouched) and upload photos from your Windows phone to your MS Band Me Tile.
Upon opening the App it connects to your Band and shows you an image of it with your current Me Tile displayed. Tapping on the image opens your photo library on your Windows Phone. You can swipe up or down, left or right as usual in order to find a photo you like. Tap on one, or press the camera button on the bottom if you would rather take a new photo. After selecting the picture you wish, the App will move on to the next step.
You are then presented with the photo you selected, which is scaled to fill a frame of the dimensions of the Band’s display. Using you finger you can then slide the photo up and down to frame the photo as you would prefer to look on the Band. When you’re done, tap the checkmark on the bottom of the screen. You are then taken back to a page that looks like the one you started on, except that there is a “Save” icon at the bottom.
You tap on that, the screen dims and it report that it is “Changing your background” and the familiar moving dots fly across the top of the screen while the data is uplinked to your Band. Meanwhile your Band screen indicates that it is syncing with the App. Once this is complete, which takes 10-15 seconds, and then a splash screen shows up confirming that he screen background has been changed. Tap the “OK” and you are done! That’s it!
I’ve played around with the App for a few days now, uploading dozens of images. I’ve found it to be fast, predictable and stable. Only once did it seem to hang for a bit, then reported a failure and suggested that my Band wasn’t connected and I should verify that Bluetooth was on and my Band paired. I checked, and everything was fine. I killed the App, reloaded it and all was well. I’ve not seen an error again, which is a pretty good track record for a Bluetooth data transmission. I’ve demonstrated it working from about 10 feet away, but not sought out its limits. It’s certainly reliable enough to allow you to update the display from your chair while your Band is charging on your desk. Oh, and I checked, it works while your Band is charging.
In terms of image resolution, I’m actually very impressed with how good photos look on the Band. Of course taking megapixel images and reducing them to a (cropped) 320 x 106 pixel image scaled down many times can eliminate many image quality issue, but at the same time the downscaling can be done well or badly. In this case it’s exquisite – so far I cannot detect any artifacts in the resulting backgrounds on the Band. Color replication is more than acceptable, and to my delight, the black levels on the display are excellent, regardless of whether the brightness is set to high or low or automatic.
The real challenge is picking an image that will look good cropped and overlaid with the text on the Me Tile. If you have the Clock option on as I have, a lot of the left side of the Me Tile is dominated by white text. Best not to put your Wife’s face in that area, or a bunch of white clouds either. So choose your photos with care, but with Pimp My Band, it’s so easy and quick to change backgrounds that it’s no bother, really kind of fun actually to change to a new one until you’re happy with the new look of your Band.
I have only a few quibbles with PMB. At the moment the colored stripe on the right side of the Me Tile cannot be changed from within the App. If you want to change it to go better with your photo you have to go back to the Microsoft Health App, change it, which will also change the background, then return to Pimp My Band and reload the Photo. This may be a limitation imposed by Microsoft, but if not it would be a good thing to improve in the next version. Sometimes the taping on the image is not clearly called out, it’s just referred to as “below”, which could be called out a bit more clearly as there are other action icons in the bottom of the page at the same time. These are small issues that could easily be tweaked and shouldn’t cause anyone to wait before trying the App.
Pimp My Band is available in the Store for $0.99, and its well worth the Buck!
Microsoft Bands have been very hard to come by and waiting lists for the popular device are reportedly very long. Many people on these waiting lists will most likely be getting notified today, and for those of you who are not on these lists and want this device now, today is your chance as Microsoft has officially announced that units are now back in stock across all physical Microsoft stores in the US.
Microsoft’s online store is not showing any stock of their smartband and we wouldn’t hold our breath for online availability to be a reality this year. We’re assuming that while stock is still in limited supply, it will most likely be relegated to physical Microsoft stores.
There is no official word on when the next batch is coming so we suggest you hurry if you still want one.
The stealth launch of the Microsoft Band will probably go down in History as the most successful, and occasionally baffling, new product launch in Microsoft’s history. If you’ve been sleeping in a cave for the last few weeks here’s how it unfolded:
After months of rumors pointing to Microsoft developing a SmartWatch, or a Fitness Band, out of the blue an App appears on the iOS Store for the “Microsoft Band”. Within minutes similar Apps populated the Android and Windows Stores, and at 12:01am the Band was offered for sale on the Microsoft Online Store.
If you hadn’t been so lucky as to be looking at the all this unfold online you were unlikely to have bought a Band as they sold out online very quickly that day.
The great reviews the Band garnered, combined with its being sold out on line, and having limited availability in Microsoft Stores, led to much speculation on the internet that the Launch had taken place with an unusual, maybe, unprecedented, small amount of stock. Many voices speculated that Microsoft did this intentionally to make the Band look like it was more desirable than it was.
Now, here at MSPR didn’t agree with that, but the clear mismatch between the supply and demand made the question of launch volume worth looking into.
About two weeks after the launch I was told by a MS Service Rep for the Band that they only had 5,000 on hand at launch. He was quite certain, but we would not take the word of a single Service Rep for granted, so we reached out to MS for confirmation. They replied twice, once to say they would not comment, and the second time to try and give a bit of perspective. As we reported earlier, we were told that:
“we don’t officially share or comment on specific numbers but, so you’re aware, we have built and have sold well beyond 5,000 units.”
So we ran the story, in which we at no time stated that Microsoft claimed to only have 5,000 bands at launch. In fact, we were very clear that this was a statement from a Service Rep, and the Official Microsoft position was quite different.
Certain other websites who picked up our story, apparently read our Article before they had their morning Starbucks, because they incorrectly claimed that we did state there were only 5,000 Bands at launch, then following in our footsteps, they also contacted Microsoft, and got the same answer we had already published, but presented it as if it was something new they had dug up themselves.
Besides ‘discovering’ that more than 5,000 Bands had been sold, in the same sense that Columbus ‘discovered’ a continent with inhabitants that had already been there for 40,000 years, and visited by Europeans at least half a millennium before, what other sites missed in all this was that this statement was made two weeks AFTER the initial launch, so you could read it to mean that the amount available at launch could have been anything, but that two weeks after launch, the total of those available at launch and those built and sold after launch exceeded 5,000.
Since the situation was still upon to interpretation, we reached out again to Microsoft and asked them to clarify, once and for all, the number of MS Bands available at launch, or at least, to be unambiguous regarding whether it was more than 5,000. They told us this:
“… correct. I was referring to numbers available at the time of launch”.
So there we have it. Microsoft has unambiguously stated they had well more than 5,000 Bands available at launch, just as we originally wrote. So from now on, we will have to wait for some Financial statements to try to learn what we can about sales numbers. Let’s just leave it that certainly Microsoft would have loved to have had more on Launch day, and you can be assured that somewhere, people are working very hard to bring more Bands to the legions of fans clamoring for them here in the US. Given the number of people in other Countries where it is not yet available who are also clamoring for it on line, any that they can make between now and the end of the Holliday Season, is likely to be snapped up quickly.
In this deal Microsoft will equip players and coaching staff with their devices such as the Surface Pro 3, and they will also provide a slew of Microsoft services to the soccer franchise to open up many more possibilities in productivity.
Here is Microsoft’s official statement on the matter:
“Powered by Microsoft’s cloud solutions, we will offer fans exclusive, personalized and customized content and digital services, available at Santiago Bernabéu stadium and from any location through virtual access to the stadium before, during and after each match. So fans will be able to choose not only what content they want to access – but also create their own customized versions of an experience whenever, however, and from wherever. And because sport is intrinsically community oriented, we’re setting up social and other digital ways for fans to share these experiences with friends and family in real time.”
Microsoft’s recent $400 million partnership with the NFL hasn’t fared so well initially with commentators mistaking Microsoft’s tablets as iPads, but we are certain that Microsoft has learned from their mistakes and that they’ve trained staff and got word to announcers that these tablets are in fact Microsoft’s very own Surface tablets.
We’re disappointed that the tech giant didn’t utilize the newly released Microsoft Band in this deal as this would be a great opportunity to advertise the new wearable device and how it could track player statistics in more meaningful ways. However, this may still be a possibility as Microsoft said that they will provide the soccer franchise with more Microsoft devices. Hopefully this becomes a reality one day as Microsoft is heavily focusing on machine learning and the cloud, and introducing a fitness device in such a deal could provide some interesting statistics and ways to track progress of individual players.
Microsoft seems to be on a roll with these types of partnerships as of recently, slowly and surely this will bring Microsoft devices and services into light along with positive consumer mindshare for the software giant’s products.
Microsoft stores are taking down names to notify consumers when the Band becomes available again, but we’ve heard reports that these lists are endless as many consumers are eagerly waiting for Microsoft’s new wearable device.
Microsoft has reported earlier that they will be receiving regular shipments of the Band throughout the holiday season, but we don’t know if these will be in large quantities so we suggest you order as soon as the option becomes available. We will keep you posted if any new regarding new shipments comes in so stay tuned.
For those of you waiting to get your hands on Microsoft’s newest wearable device, you may be in luck this Tuesday, but you’ll have place your order right way. The Microsoft Store website will be selling the Microsoft Band at 1PM Eastern Time, and quantities will be limited again.
“Limited availability this Tuesday, November 18 at 1:00 PM EST. Get yours while you can, available on a first-come, first-served basis while supplies last.”
Microsoft expects to have more Bands arriving throughout the holiday season so if you happen to miss out on Tuesday, you’ll have plenty of chances to get more.
The Microsoft Band is set to be a hot item this holiday season, and we’re curious if Microsoft will end up releasing sales figures for its wearable by the end of the year, as the software giant still has hasn’t officially disclosed any official information on the topic.
However,we did end up speaking to a Microsoft Band support rep and the number they gave us was quite surprising.
By now the ‘Stealth Launch’ of the Microsoft Band is quickly becoming a legend. Quantities were so limited at launch that it sold out on line within hours. That sounds more like a gold-plated iPhone launch than an unexpected new Microsoft product release, but that’s how it was.
And to a large extent, it still is. It’s been a couple of weeks now and the Band is still Out Of Stock online, and reports are that most stores are out as well.
There has been a lot of speculation online that Microsoft did this deliberately, to create the appearance that this was a highly desired and successful product. Personally, I don’t think that makes much sense, but clearly there was a mis-match between supply and demand.
While I was on the line I mentioned how lucky I seemed to have been to get one of them before they sold out. “You’re luckier than you think, Microsoft only had 5,000 of them for the launch.” he said.
That hit me like a thunderbolt. “Five thousand!”, I exclaimed. “Are you kidding me!”. “No.” He replied, “Five thousand. Five, zero, zero, zero. That’s all. They’re working hard now to build more to meet the demand, but we have no idea when they will be back in stock again.”
I asked him to repeat the number back to me, just so I was sure I understood. He did, and again, the number was just 5,000.
That’s an amazingly small product launch. There’s testing the waters, but this would be more like testing a puddle!
Now, Support people are an interesting group. Sometimes they know more than they should, and sometimes they know less than they need to, and sometimes they don’t know as much as they think they do. Most of the time I’ve found they know what they need to solve basic issues, so even though it was a recent and very interesting event, one wonders why a support rep would be privy to launch stock volume information.
After all, this IS Microsoft. How long did it take them to release sales numbers for the Xbox One? So in the interests of keeping facts straight, we reached out to Microsoft and asked them to comment on the information their rep had given me.
Initially, their response, was, well, I’ll let you read it:
From a Microsoft spokesperson:
“We are excited by the response we have seen to Microsoft Band but Microsoft does not comment on production volumes.”
That’s not saying much is it. It neither confirmed nor denied the accuracy of the information at hand. Having added nothing to the conversation, we were just going to have to go with what we had. I guess Microsoft figured that out, because after a short while they added the following:
“we don’t officially share or comment on specific numbers but, so you’re aware, we have built and have sold well beyond 5,000 units.“
So there you have it. Was it 5,000, or “well beyond 5,000 units.”? Personally, I thought the 5,000 number was low, but clearly they had a lot fewer than they could have sold. Let’s hope they will be able to work through the backlog soon. Both Black Friday and Christmas are coming up, as are a number of Openings of new Microsoft Stores (we will be covering some of them) so there will be a lot of people hoping to see one on their wrist soon.