It’s no secret that we here at MicrosoftProductReviews are big fans of the Microsoft Band. Personally, I snagged mine within a few minutes of the initial launch on-line and have been wearing it ever since. A couple of the other folks here have also purchased them, and one of them ah, “imported” his from the US to another country. We’ve done unboxing videos, test-driven them at Starbucks and generally love the things. Personally, I find I miss it if its not on my wrist, and I have a couple of articles about it into the pipeline, one of which will show off a little appreciated bit of “Magic” the Band and its app can do.
That said, we’re not without our criticisms. The screen scratches way too easily, and the lack of a curved shape that matches the shape of the wrist still makes it a bit clunkier than it should be. There are some software changes that we would like to see implemented too, but these are all par for the course with first generation hardware of a pioneering new device.
Unfortunately, sometimes first gen devices also have some odd problems, and today I have to report about one of those. When I put my Band on after my morning shower it was fine. I wore it all day, and when I came home after my afternoon run I removed it for another shower when I saw, well, this:
That’s pretty ugly! The plastic/rubbery coating on the batter covers had peeled almost completely off. It appeared to happen in a single day and for no reason I can identify. Looking at the “Exploded View” of the Band on the Microsoft website clearly shows the battery covers, with their retaining screws. The diagram makes it seem that these are a single molded pieces of plastic, but in fact they are made of metal with a plastic , and in my case, this had peeled away. It wasn’t clear whether this would represent a safety issue, but given that the apparently metallic battery cover was now in contact with my skin I decided not to wear it any more. Since then however, Microsoft has assured us that this doesn’t represent a safety issue.
I called my local Microsoft Store and scheduled an appointment the next day. They didn’t have any large Bands in stock (Stock levels at the physical stores remain low after the Holidays season), but they did have a single Medium sized Band. I had always found myself using the small-end of the Large size band, so I figured I’d try out the Medium and did it fit, go with that. They put it aside and shortly thereafter I walked into the store, 15 minutes early, and we got down to work replacing it.
Well first off, about half of the store employees were wearing their own Bands – a good sign that they will know what’s up with them. However, nobody had seen anything like this! They all gazed at it in amazement, shook their heads and said they’d never seen anything like this at all. Of course, my Band was older than any of theirs, so perhaps its an issue that takes time to develop, and is going to happen more often as Bands get worn for longer times. Let’s hope not, but when the staff person helping me took his own off and inspected it, we could see that the coating on the inside of his Band was also starting to peel off. His was not peeling off of the battery covers like mine, but rather the inside of the strap itself.
I started to hear some gentle alarm bells tinkling. Sure, this could be a one-off problem, but what are the odds that one of the very first Bands sold would have a catastrophic failure of the coating on the inside of the Band, and then when its taken to the Microsoft store the person exchanging it also had the inside of his Band peeling? Not very likely, unless there is a common factor at work resulting in the coating failure. This would suggest, although it doesn’t prove, that there may be a quality issue brewing here. We’ll have to wait and see as more Bands get worn for longer periods, whether we two were just “lucky”, or were just warming up for our jobs as Canaries.
We contacted Microsoft to report the problem, asked them if they had seen it before, determine if they felt there was any safety issue with wearing the Band without the battery cover coating intact, and to seek their instructions on what you should do if you see this happening to your Band. As mentioned above, they don’t believe there is any safety issue (that’s good), and have not seen a lot of these failures to date. A Microsoft Spokesperson told us:
“Microsoft Band is a robust and rugged device for those who are active in the gym and on the job. While it was designed to withstand even the most extreme fitness regimes, it is susceptible to scratches and damage through normal usage patterns like any wrist worn device. In extreme cases, where there is a nick or scratch in the rubber coating, skin lotions with acrylics and/or sweat can seep through and cause corrosion under the rubber coating, resulting in the coating peeling away. The damage is entirely cosmetic and does not affect the safety or functionality of the device. The battery casing is designed to prevent battery contact with skin regardless of any damage that it receives. Band users can take steps to ensure this does not happen to their device and are advised to ensure no damage occurs to the underside of the device and to avoid all contact with soap, detergent, chlorinated water, salt water, lotion, bug spray, and sunscreen. In addition, users should wipe the underside of their band periodically with a damp cloth to keep the device clean.”
When you look at the list of things Microsoft is saying to avoid, it’s pretty comprehensive. It wouldn’t be going too far to say it’s all but impossible to avoid things like “contact with soap, detergent, chlorinated water (that’s pretty much everything except rainwater), lotion…”. Given that these are all things that one can fully expect the inside of the Band to come in contact with, one would hope Microsoft will try to improve upon their choice of adhesives in the next version of the Band. Certainly, it would seem that the material they have chosen is arguably a bit more delicate than is desired. All engineering is an exercise in compromise however, and a thicker, more robust coating would have increased the thickness of the already somewhat chunky design, so if this turns out to be a bit of a freak occurrence, no change may be recommended.
On the other hand, my Microsoft Store guy’s Band was also starting to peel on the inside of the Band, so we will just have to wait and see.
If you see this kind of thing happening to your Band, you should let us know in the comments below, and then follow Microsoft’s instructions to get it replaced. On that topic, I have to compliment the folks at my local Microsoft Store (Bethesda, MD) for being helpful and accommodating.
It was actually fun to talk with them as we sorted thru the necessary steps to return my first Band, register the new one, transfer my warrantee (best $19.95 I ever spent!) and activate, pair and set up my new Band. They even replaced the screen protector, AND applied it for me (doing a much better job than I had done on my original!), all with a friendly and calm manner. I’ve reported before on how much I was impressed by the staff and manager at this store, and it’s great to see that long after launch-day they keep on impressing!
We really love the Microsoft Band, and hope that this is truly an isolated incident. Have you seen a problem like this on your Band? Let us know in the comments below.