Microsoft Band now selling at Best Buy, Target & Amazon in US; UK expansion & pre-orders announced

MSBand_Group_Bike_Mapping_RGB-640x357Up until now Microsoft Band was only available at Microsoft’s retail locations. Since the smart fitness tracker launched in November, its supply has been extremely limited with many Microsoft stores quickly running out of stock as soon as new shipments arrived, especially in the more-popular sizes.

Now it appears that Microsoft is ready to mass-produce the popular gadget as the company has just announced that as of today the Band will be sold at Best Buy, Target and Amazon in the U.S. The Microsoft Store (brick and mortar locations as well as microsoftstore.com) will, as of today, start receiving much larger and more frequent shipments of the wearable units. The price of the Band will remain at $199 for now.

Additionally, Microsoft Band is for the first time since launch becoming available for sale outside of the U.S. borders. As of today, it is available for pre-order in the U.K. through Amazon, Curry’s PC World, Dixons Travel, Harrods, and O2. The wearable will cost £169.99 (ERP) and the device will ship on April 15th.

Entrance into the U.K. market marks the beginning of what Microsoft expects to be the first of many non-U.S. markets to get the Band.

“We are excited to expand to an additional market, and to incorporate the feedback of more customers into our future product and service updates.” – Microsoft Corporate Blogs

This is truly exciting news for many who have wanted to get their hands on the fitness tracker but couldn’t because of supply issues in the U.S. or because of the lack of availability outside of U.S. Microsoft is positioning itself well just in time to compete with Apple in the wearable tech space.

Source: Microsoft Blog

[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 Band is back in stock at all physical Microsoft stores (U.S. only)

Microsoft-Band---official-images

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.

Source: Microsoft Store on Twitter

BandSalesGate: the (Semi)Final Chapter

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:

"Bands Away!"
“Bands Away!”

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.”

"Uuuuhhhh... I Think I Read That Right'''"
“Uuuuhhhh… I Think I Read That Right”'”

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.

"Hey You, Yah the WC Guy. You'd Agree We Were Here First, Right!"
“Hey You, Yah the WC Guy. You’d Agree We Were Here First, Right!”

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”.

"Building As Fast As Possible'
“Building As Fast As Possible’

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.

 

Microsoft's online store to receive a limited number of Microsoft Bands Tuesday

Microsoft-Band---official-images

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.

Source: Microsoft Store