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 Battery Covers Are Apeeling!

"We've Been Testing Bands For Years"
“We’ve Been Testing Bands For Years”

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:

WP_20150123_007WP_20150123_009

"MS Band Battery Covers"
“Microsoft Band Battery Covers”

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.

"Don't Worry, The MicrosoftProductReviews Team is On The Job!"
“Don’t Worry, The MicrosoftProductReviews Team is On The Job!”

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.

"Lets Hope For The Best!"
“Lets Hope For The Best!”

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.

"The Bethesda MS Store"
“The Bethesda MS Store”

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.

[UPDATE] Pimp My Band Update Adds Features We Requested – Then Does Us Two Better!

Update – December 17, 2014 1:02PM – Pimp My Band app has been updated today with a couple of improvements bringing the app version to 1.2.0.1.

Here is the full update bulletin:

• Modified color picker interface
• Better light theme handling
• Minor bug fixes

—————–

Pimp My Band – it seems like only yesterday we were enthusiastically recommending this great app, well actually is was just a bit more than two days ago. This great little app allows you to set a custom background for the Me Tile, essentially the Start Screen of your Band.

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!

MS Band LegoHead
“OK LegoHead. Time For A Change”

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)!

"The Running Mandy and Orion Nebula Look Great! Not Crazy About the Dominant Color Accent Stripe In This Case Though"
“The Running Man and Orion Nebula Look Great! Not Crazy About the Dominant Color Accent Stripe In This Case Though”
"Pick a Color. ANY Color!"
“Pick a Color. ANY Color!”

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.

"Yes! That's All Limped Out!"
“Hydrogen Red -Yes! That’s All Pimped Out!”

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!

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.

 

How Many Bands Did Microsoft Have at Launch? Would You Believe 5,000?

Microsoft-Band---official-imagesUpdate (Tuesday November 18, 2014 2:24PM)Today’s online stock of Microsoft Band sells out in 15 minutes! Click here to read more.

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.

A while ago I called the Microsoft Band Support people to inquire about an ‘update’ that showed up for the Band. As we reported, it turned out that this wasn’t an update to the Band, but rather to an App that wanted to communicate with the Band.

"Feeling Lucky...Punk?"
“Feeling Lucky…Punk?”

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.

"Well?  Do You?"
“Well? Do You?” Hurry up. ‘Cause I gotta go order some Starbucks with this thing!”

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.

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.