[Video] Microsoft Band virtual keyboard full review – it works surprisingly really well

Microsoft has just pushed out the first major update for the Band since its launch in October, and one of the cool new features is the availability of a virtual keyboard. But how well does it actually work on such a tiny screen? Surprisingly, really well. We have to say that Microsoft did the best implementation possible on the screen real estate available.

The way to start a text is to tap on the messaging tile and reply to one of the previous messages you’ve received, or you can just reply to a text when one comes in. Scroll upwards on the screen and you’ll see a reply icon. Once you tap that icon, from there you can select the keyboard option, voice to text with Cortana, or choose a response from the list of the pre-selected replies.

Once you select the keyboard, you’ll notice it’ll take up the entire screen. But don’t worry, you can always scroll over to the right to see what you actually wrote.  You’ll notice there’s a space button in the owner corner and a period on the top left.

This keyboard uses Microsoft’s Word Flow technology which does a fantastic job in predicting commonly used words  so you don’t have to be entirely accurate while typing and the end-result is very good, actually.  Missing the letters completely while typing often results in what you were trying to achieve as the prediction engine is pretty well optimized in this situation, and it does a really good job of figuring out what you’re trying to type.

WP_20150223_23_27_13_ProTo add punctuation or numbers, just scroll to the left while using the keyboard and you’ll see an option to add numbers or punctuations. Yep, for such a tiny thing it certainly has all the keyboard essentials.

In the middle of your message or after you’ve finished, you can scroll over to the right to check if you’re satisfied with the result, and then scroll back to continue typing. If not, you can tap a word you’re not happy with and just above it you’ll see a few suggestions to select from. There’s also an X beside the word in case you choose to delete it completely and a plus sign to add more text before the word selected. Once you’ve finished, you would press the action button to send it off.

We’re very impressed with how Microsoft implemented these features considering how tiny the display is, and although it’s nice to have this ability, it’s hard to imagine situations where one would use this when your phone is always nearby. Either way, some people may find this useful, especially while exercising or while they’re away from their phones.

Microsoft Band, Health get major updates including Bike Tile, Virtual Keyboard, Developer SDK Preview & more

microsoft-bandMicrosoft Band is a very useful health & fitness tracker but also a handy smart-watch that has a lot of potential. Although the device was launched late last year at a very small scale, Microsoft wanted to get a lot of user feedback and carefully examine user-data before they mass-produce the wearable tech. Presently, it’s only available in the U.S. but we expect to see Microsoft Band available in more countries in the near future.

It’s been well over three months since the Band hit the shelves (and also sold out within hours), and today Microsoft has released the first large update to the device as well as an update to the Microsoft Health app which now fully integrates with Microsoft HealthVault and MapMyFitness. It also gives users a much deeper insight into their health activities and workouts through Microsoft Health Web Dashboard.

“For the last three months, we’ve monitored feedback carefully from customers, partners and media. While the response has been overwhelmingly positive, we are continuing to listen to our customers and make improvements based on their feedback,” said Matt Barlow, General Manager of New Devices Marketing. “This feedback is at the heart of the decisions we make, and today we’re pleased to take our first steps in launching new features and functionality for Microsoft Band and Microsoft Health that address what we’re hearing.”

On the front-end, the update is mainly focused on enhancing the interaction and workout experience while the user is biking, through the new “Bike Tile” and guided bike workouts. Another feature included in the update is the “Virtual Keyboard” which lets users read and reply to text messages and e-mail straight from the Band by easily swiping the on-screen predictive keyboard. This is only available (at least for now) for those with the Windows Phone 8.1. Click here to watch our full video review of the Virtual Keyboard.

On the back-end, there is now a new ability to allow third party developers to tap into the Band’s vast array of workout APIs as Microsoft has announced the release of the Developer Preview SDK. According to a recent press release, “this will allow third party developers to start building innovative new apps and creative new experiences for Microsoft Band. Developers can learn more at http://developer.microsoftband.com

Here is the full list of features now available for the Microsoft Band & Microsoft Health:

Insights

  • Microsoft Health Web Dashboard: The Microsoft Health web dashboard provides users insights, unique to them. The more users use their Microsoft Band, the more valuable these insights will become. The web dashboard is accessible via any web browser, providing a powerful complement to the Microsoft Health mobile app, which helps users track progress to their fitness goals. Users can access their personal Microsoft Health web dashboard at: https://dashboard.microsofthealth.com.

Features

Bike Tile: The Bike Tile on users’ Microsoft Band lets them track their rides both indoors and outdoors, on the road or trail. Features include:

  • Heart Rate Monitor: When the Bike tile is active, the heart rate monitor is optimized specifically for biking activities.
  • Elevation Tracking: Track elevation and elevation gain, distance and duration and calorie burn– viewable in the Microsoft Health app.
  • GPS: Users can activate GPS on their Band to map their ride in the mobile app and share it with their friends via email.
  • Speed Analysis: Track your current and average speeds both on the band and in the mobile app, and review your custom splits to relive those longer bike rides.
  • Recovery: From the mobile app, users can see an estimate for how long it will take their body to recover from the ride.
  • Web Dashboard: Biking functionality is supported by the Microsoft Health mobile app at launch. Integration with the Microsoft Health web dashboard is coming soon.
  • Guided Workouts: Five new indoor biking workouts have been added to the Guided Workouts portfolio, including: Indoor Bike Tabata Sprints, Indoor Bike Hour of Sweat, Indoor Bike Total Body, Indoor Bike Pyramid, and Indoor Bike Intervals.
  • Quick Read: Quick Read provides another option to scan incoming texts, emails and other notifications. When enabled, notifications are displayed in a large font size and in rapid succession of words enabling users to read messages while in motion and without the need to scroll.
  • Virtual Keyboard & Voice Replies for Windows Phone 8.1 Users: Windows Phone 8.1 users can craft replies to text messages in two ways. Users can reply to text messages using the virtual keyboard with minimal errors with the help of Microsoft’s World Flow technology, which predicts commonly used words and phrases. They can also dictate responses with voice, powered by Cortana.

Integration

  • Microsoft HealthVault: Users can create a complete picture of their health, with them at the center. Microsoft HealthVault lets users organize their health information in one place, and helps them gather, store, use, and share information and records with their healthcare providers. Now with Microsoft HealthVault integration, a user’s Microsoft Health data is automatically uploaded to their HealthVault account, including their workout and sleep data. To link a Microsoft HealthVault account to Microsoft Health data, simply go to “Connected Apps” in the menu of the Microsoft Health app.
  • MapMyFitness: Starting today, users can sync to their MapMyFitness account. To link a MapMyFitness account to Microsoft Health data, simply go to “Connected Apps” in the menu of the Microsoft Health app.

Microsoft Health & Microsoft Band updated with 12 new workouts; Health web app coming soon

microsoft-band-smartwatch-fitnessLast week Microsoft quietly released their first notable update to Microsoft Band firmware and Microsoft Health app since the fitness tracker went on sale. It was released quietly because there wasn’t much available in terms of a change log but we anticipated it had something to do with preparation for future updates beside the standard “general performance improvements” tagline that accompany most smaller app updates.

Well, today we’re finding out that Microsoft is perhaps leveraging that update as the company has published a press release saying they’re rolling out a major content update to the Band and Health app.  The app will now support up to 100 Guided Workouts including some from best-selling fitness author Mark Rippetoe.  According to Microsoft, this update brings “12 new workouts, as well as four new workout plans that range between two and three weeks each.”

These new workouts will be available just in time as most folks are trying to shed some pounds gained over the holidays and start a fresh new year. Microsoft Band is the perfect coach for those lucky enough to own one as there are still supply issues with the device.

“The updates round out the portfolio with strength training workouts of all levels, timeframes and difficulties, ranging from routines for beginners just starting out with the New Year, up to experienced enthusiasts who need something new and fresh to kick start their year of fitness.”

Additionally, WindowsCentral found out that the Web version of Microsoft Health app is being developed and more details will come soon. They also managed to get more information from Microsoft about Band-related updates with the company stating “this is the first in a series of updates for Microsoft Health and Microsoft Band, and we look forward to announcing additional content, features and partners in the weeks and months ahead.”

Source: WindowsCentral

Microsoft Band firmware, Microsoft Health app updated for Windows Phone & Android

microsoft-bandMicrosoft 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.”

Click here to download Microsoft Health for Windows Phone

Click here to download Microsoft Health for Android

Microsoft Wasn't Lying About Battery Life For Their New Smart Band

Oh it gets great gas Milage. Trust me!
Oh it gets great gas Milage. Trust me!

One of the vexing aspects of modern wearable electronics is that they are electronic. Hence, they require batteries, and batteries have finite capacities. We’ve all seen and read of the claims and counter-claims about this phone or that one’s battery life, and in many cases have found that such claims are about as accurate in the real world as a Hyundai mileage sticker in the dealer’s showroom.

Your mileage may vary indeed.

So when the Microsoft Band burst upon the scene two weeks ago the question of its battery life was of concern. Surely a device keeping track of up to 10 sensors including GPS would need a huge battery to keep it going, and where was there room in the Band’s sleek packaging?

MS Band w Batteries LabeledWell it turns out that Microsoft has been very clever, packing in not one but two batteries into places you might not have expected. The wrist band contains two batteries, one on each side of the wrist, that also serve to ‘grip’ the Radius and Ulnar bones in a form-fitting cradle that keeps the Band from slipping around the arm without having to be too tight.

So, two batteries, but what about those sensors? Well Microsoft has released a bit more information about the clever power-sipping scheme they have devised to make optimal use of the Band’s sensor capabilities while maximizing its endurance.  In the case of the heartbeat sensor, it is turned on and off at intervals that vary depending on the activity and setting of the Band. It is turned on a lot when you are running, less often during the day, and even less while you sleep. In each case a useful heart rate profile is captured, without wasting battery life on unnecessarily high resolution. Clever.

First CarBut hopefully, not too clever.  It would be of little consolation if the resulting device was too limited by its electrical frugality to be effective for its intended use. So far, the MS Band is getting rave reviews for its functionality, so the only question would seem to be, what about those battery life claims?

Well Microsoft told us to expect 2 days worth of battery life in typical use, which included a run with GPS activated and sleep monitoring.  I’ve been wearing my Band for 10 days now with a use profile very much like the one Microsoft suggested would be ‘typical’. To be frank, I actually use it at least as much as a smartwatch, receiving notifications, Texts, Alarms and Reminders all to my wrist, with the Haptic feedback on the “High” setting.  Throw in occasional Cortana use as well and I’m demanding a lot from it, with Bluetooth enabled 24/7.

"Seems a Bit Excessive"
“Seems a Bit Excessive”

In my experience so far, Microsoft’s claims are quite accurate.  Unlike certain car companies, Microsoft’s claims that the Band will last 2 days have been completely in line with my experience. On days where I have charged the Band fully at night, the battery holds between 60-40% at the end of the day.  Running it for two days flat takes the battery down to 10%.

Ten days and one user is hardly a statistically valid sample but at least so far I’m happy to see my Band delivering on the battery life Microsoft claimed.

Microsoft hummerNow if only they made cars…

 

 

 

Well, maybe it’s better if they stick to electronics.

Ordering at Starbucks with the Microsoft Band!

If you’ve taken delivery of your new MS Band, or picked one up at your local Microsoft Store, you will have received a $5 gift card from Starbucks and there’s a good reason for that. Starbucks is a launch partner for the Band, with their own dedicated App pre-installed on your new toy. Using the card is as simple as going to the Starbucks Site, opening your account or registering for a new one, adding the card to your account, and you’re all set. You can also add value to the card by credit card or PayPal, and enable an autorefill option should you wish.

"Our Motto here at MPR"
“Our Motto here at MPR”

Well, I was getting a bit draggy after lunch here today, time shifted from the daylight savings time clock change and staying up late shooting the unboxing video the other day, so I decided I’d try out the Starbucks App and use my $5 on a BIG cup of coffee! Once you have registered your card, opening your Starbucks Band App will get the ball rolling automatically, so Band on wrist, I straggled out to my local Starbucks to get caffeinated! Opening the App is as simple as pressing the Power Button to wake the Band up, swiping right to the Starbucks symbol, and tappingSBucks App Logo on MS Band on it.

This will open up the App which just displays your card number as a bar code. The display keeps this in screen for about 15 seconds, and given how fast the process is you might as well hold off on this until you have made your order. When my turn at the counter came, I received a couple of nice surprises. I was holding my phone and activating the camera to photogra

Did you think I was going to let you buy your coffee on MY Account?
Did you think I was going to let you buy your coffee on MY Account? 

ph the process when my Barista spotted my oh so subtle banana-yellow Lumia 1020 and said:” Oh! Is that a Windows Phone? I’ve been seeing a bunch of them and I think they’re really cool.” Coming only a few weeks after the launch of the new iPhone the recognition of my Lumia was a nice indication of the increasing presence of Windows Phone here in the US.

“Yes it is.” I said, “and it is a really great phone, but the coolest thing I have is actually this.”, pointing to the MS Band on my wrist. “Oh! Is that the new Band thing? That’s so cool. We got a Memo about it today, you’re my first. Can I see it?” So a small group of curious Baristas and Customers began craning their necks to see the Band in action. “Sure”, I said, “Can I use it to pay first?”

"And He waveth His hand, and Lo! Caffeine was Delivered!"
“And He waveth His hand, and Lo!                                            Caffeine was Delivered From Bondage!”

And so I tapped the Starbucks App, the Bar Code appeared, and I turned the inside of my wrist (Yes, I’m an “Innie”, not an “Outie”) at the scanner. My Barista hit the button to activate it, it picked up my code with a discrete beep, and it was all over. Coffee paid for, people began quizzing me about the band and looking it over.

Now, ordinarily, I love being a quasi-Ambassador for most Microsoft products, but in this case,

"Is that the Large size MS Band you're wearing?"
“Is that the Large size MS Band you’re wearing?”

I was unprepared for the questioning and almost fawning over my wrist that insured. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have a good-looking, ok, a GREAT-looking wrist, which leads the eye seamlessly to my large hands (Hello Ladies!), but I can’t remember the last time I was asked to trot it out for a crowd of gawking strangers with lustful longing in their eyes. OK, yes I can, but that’s the stuff I write about for another Site.

"You have no idea the risk you're taking"
“You have no idea the risk you’re taking”

In this case, I had to struggle a bit to retain my composure and answer their questions patiently with some degree of accuracy. Didn’t these people realize I hadn’t had my daily coffee yet? This was not my most sociable hour and being besieged like those guys in the Hai Karate commercials from the 60’s was something I just wasn’t quite ready for.

But I persevered, answered their questions, and prayed my Grande Skinny Latte would arrive soon, with a large-bore IV needle so I could handle the onslaught. Sure enough, the coffee arrived, I gulped it gratefully, and strolled out of the store with the warm embrace of caffeine spreading thru my brain.

"Fantastic! But didn't I order this with an IV?"
“Fantastic! But didn’t I order this with an IV?”

So there you have it. Using the Starbucks App to claim your free coffee via your new MS Band is a quick and easy process, and one that may serve as a great sign of things that may come as other companies develop Apps for the Band, making various activities and transactions as easy as this was. Just make sure you’re ready to be the center of attention for the next few weeks until this high-tech jewel become everyday.

It’s a burden, but someone has to wear it.

Microsoft Band Unboxing & First Impressions Video

Microsoft has just entered the wearable market with a bang, and their take is rather interesting. The Microsoft Band is a wearable fitness tracker and smart watch which they say will make you a healthier person.  Microsoft wants to create a way to help you stay healthy and change your life for the better with providing useful information to you through the data that Microsoft Band is able to capture.

Here’s our quick unboxing and first impressions of what may be the start of something big in the wearable market.

Microsoft Band Unboxing & First Impressions Video

Microsoft has just entered the wearable market with a bang, and their take is rather interesting. The Microsoft Band is a wearable fitness tracker and smart watch which they say will make you a healthier person.  Microsoft wants to create a way to help you stay healthy and change your life for the better with providing useful information to you through the data that Microsoft Band is able to capture.

Here’s our quick unboxing and first impressions of what may be the start of something big in the wearable market.

Microsoft's Strategy for the Band is a Lot Like Google's (but without the creepy personal data abuse thing)

MS Band w MPR Skype CallThe hot new personal electronic device? An iPhone, a Galaxy something, a successor the Lumia 1020 (I wish!)? Naw, those are all so passé. Unless you’ve been living under a rock since Wednesday night you know I’m talking about the Microsoft Band. The wearable fitness/Smartwatch combo that took the world by surprise this week and is already a huge success. Success has many measures. Media buzz is a good start, positive Reviews by respected Sites another, and the Band has received all of these. But the piece de resistance is – the early sell out.

MS Band Sold Out Online
The Early Bird Got the Band!

I grabbed my Band within a few minutes of the initial sale minute – 12:01 am last Thursday. If you wanted to order one on line and didn’t do so within 12 hours, well you’re probably on a wait list now. And lets keep in mind that this is a product with essentially no advance advertising or press, no leaks, a completely surprising launch at midnight in the middle of the week. So its been suggested that Microsoft wanted to sell out, that they did so to create a artificial perception of demand. I don’t buy that for many reasons. Some of which have been explored by Daniel Rubino over on Windows Central. I agree with his analysis, but I think there is more to it. Much more.

Remember Nexus? Google’s own Android phone, and the storm of controversy when it was well received but then Google initially said that they didn’t intend to extend the line as it was, for them, a tool with which to learn from their Customers? Well I see Microsoft as using the Band for the same strategy. Microsoft is in much the same position – they want to see other companies pick up their Health platform and run with it, but they need to show them that there is a market out there for it, and even then they have to attract those other OEMs to their platform by offering something the other platforms don’t.

Enter The Band! They need to have some very good analytics on what customers actually want in order to reduce risk for OEMs that might adopt their platform. In fact, that is a huge selling point to potential partners as it provides them with facts about what their potential customers will want and how they want it, greatly lowering their risk of a product flop. To offer that information, they first need to collect it. I think they are planning on doing so the same way Google did – by building the Band to collect the information that their OEMs will want. microsoft-band-smartwatch-fitness Also, lets be clear about one thing, Microsoft is not just interested on seeing Microsoft Health used by Windows Phone customers. They want EVERYONE to use it, regardless of their phone platform. That’s why Microsoft Health is agnostic, with Microsoft launching Apps simultaneously on Windows Phone, iOS and Android.

If Microsoft can ramp up production to meet a demand from users of all three major mobile platforms, they will sell a lot of Bands, and make it very clear to other fitness band makers that Microsoft has raised the bar and they’re going to have to either beat ’em, or join ’em. And with the great integration of the Band with Windows Phone it’s not going to be worth the effort of anyone hoping to get to that market segment to try and beat them.

We haven’t really heard much yet about how well the Band integrates with Android and iOS, although activities on various Forums suggests it doesn’t talk to Siri. Not surprising as Apple is not noted for encouraging people to use Microsoft products with their own. MS Band Slow DeliveryWe should hear a lot more about this in the next few weeks since most of the on-line orders will not be delivered until this coming Monday (Microsoft’s “2 Day Express Delivery” turned out to be UPS 2 Business Days Ground, which is neither ‘express’ nor ‘2 day’ delivery, something Microsoft should be ashamed of).

If iOS and Android users get a Cortana-less duplicate for the Windows Phone experience with the Band, I still think they will be very happy, all the more reason for OEMs to be attracted to Microsoft Health-based devices.

So, the Band is already a success, but it’s real value to Microsoft lies in the days ahead. Wondering why Microsoft packed an incredible 10 Sensors into the Band? Well they are offering to license any and all of them to OEMs. Think about that for a minute. Essentially, if you want to make a kick-ass fitness band with or without Smartwatch capability, you don’t have to design the sensor hardware, program support, or the cross-platform App to make use of all the data it will generate. Even the analytics can be bought from Microsoft. All you have to do is decide what market segment to go after, design the Band around Microsoft’s sensors, and go! I expect this will be an irresistible opportunity for many OEMs, particularly those in Asia which are often reluctant to invest in creating new technology from scratch. For once, they won’t have to ‘copy’ someone, just license the technology and get to market asap.

I think we will see the impact of the Band/Microsoft Health duo over the next 12 months in the form of a swarm of new entrants into the Fitness/Smartwatch arena, similar to the way that Microsoft licensing Windows Phone 8.x for free to OEMs has produced a swarm of new devices and OEMs with Windows phones in development.

"Healthy, I'll make you healthy!"
“Healthy, I’ll make you healthy!”

If you’d asked anyone last Wednesday what OS those devices would be integrating with your answer would have had to be Android.

Not now. There’s a New Sheriff in town, Partner!

Could Cortana Land On iOS And Android Via Microsoft Band?

microsoft-band-cortana-on-ios-androidMicrosoft Band is the newest wearable device made by Microsoft that is meant to enhance your everyday activities but also provide quick access to calendar, e-mail, text messaging and other communication interactions.

We know that that the Band is equipped with Cortana to let you take notes or set reminders using voice commands and also “give you driving directions and keep you on top of traffic, sports, stocks, weather, and more” according to Microsoft. The catch is that to use Cortana’s personal assistant services, you must have a Windows Phone 8.1 device connected to the Band.

Considering that Microsoft is rumored to be working on expanding Cortana’s availability beyond the Windows Phone, we’re expecting that Microsoft may in fact introduce Cortana to iOS and Android, and the Microsoft Band would be the perfect vehicle to do so. After all, Microsoft Band is branded as a “cross-platform device” and if the wearable gadget takes off on these platforms, it is a real possibility for Microsoft.

What do you think? Will Microsoft Band help bring Cortana to iOS & Android? Let us know below!