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 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!

Microsoft Band Is Sold Out Online

microsoft-band-sold-outIt’s not clear how many Microsoft Band units were slotted for online sale but in less than 24 hours since the product launched, Microsoft’s SmartWatch has sold out in all wrist sizes online on the Microsoft Store Website. This is perhaps a positive sign that consumers are very excited about this new device and Microsoft has not anticipated such response.

Official statement on Microsoft store website says “Sold out due to overwhelming demand, find Microsoft Band at your local Microsoft Store.”

Today, also there were many reports of huge lineups at Microsoft retail locations across the U.S. as people were eager to get their hands on the Microsoft Band. We got ours and we’re working on a couple reviews so keep an eye out for that!

We’re not sure yet when Microsoft will release more Bands for sale online but we’ll keep you posted so stay tuned if you haven’t gotten yours yet. As a side note, we learned today that Microsoft is likely not going to release the Band device to any international markets for a while.