​Microsoft Band 2 v Apple Watch

Which of these two wearables should you choose
​Microsoft Band 2 v Apple Watch

The Microsoft Band's impressive spec sheet and ambitious features earned it respect in the fitness tracker world, even if its handcuff-like build wasn't such a triumph. It got absolutely slated in our review.

Now with a redesign and update the Microsoft Band 2 has all the credentials to take on the mighty Apple Watch – on paper. But is it right for you? We pit the two head-to-head.

Microsoft Band 2 v Apple Watch: Design

The Microsoft Band 2 has received a substantial design overhaul from the original. Less bulky with a curved screen, means that it fits the shape of your wrist much more naturally. It's still a sizeable device, and it's not the prettiest, whichever way you cut it.

Essential reading: watchOS 2 features revealed

The Apple Watch obviously takes a different ethos. As a watch with a flexible strap it feels infinitely more natural to wear, although whether the square screen fits your look is a matter of personal taste. Some love it, some loathe it.

The Microsoft Band 2 doesn't support third party bands, but the Apple Watch has a quick-release mechanism that allows for quick-changing of the strap. This means you can have a silicon band for running and a leather one for dinner out.

In terms of screen quality, there's not much to split the two devices. The Microsoft Band has a 32 x 18mm, 320 x 128 pixel AMOLED display covered in Gorilla Glass. On the other hand the larger 42mm version it's 390 x 312 pixels the 38mm one, you're looking at a 340 x 272 resolution. Obviously the Apple Watch screen has much more room for apps and messages.

Despite the improvements to the Microsoft Band 2, the Apple Watch steals the show in terms of design by every possible metric.

Microsoft Band 2 v Apple Watch: Features

In terms of features the Apple Watch primarily handles phone notifications and runs bespoke apps from its own store. You can respond to Facebook, emails and SMS messages, and with watchOS 2 that's likely to expand as more apps are created.

In addition to notifications there's also daily activity tracking which measures your calories burned, minutes of daily activity and standing time. You will get notifications is you've been sedentary too long as well.

The Microsoft Band 2 boasts smartwatch skills such as email previews and calendar reminders, as well as call, text, social media, weather and finance information. You'll be able to choose which alerts you want to see on your wrist and change the notification settings on your phone from within the app.

The new Microsoft Band features all the usual activity gubbins including step tracking and calories burned. It also features sleep quality analysis, which the Apple Watch doesn't. However, both can view weekly stats and fine tune your goals. The Microsoft Band will also give you a virtual 'high-five' when you hit them.

The two wearables also go head-to-head when it comes to voice assistants. Siri and Cortana both work with each device. You can ask Cortana questions and demand requests such as adding meetings and appointments to your calendar – much the same as Siri on the Apple Watch.

Microsoft states two days battery life and just 1.5 hours for a full charge. The Apple Watch is much the same, with the 42mm generally able to last two days, while the 38mm just falls short so will require nightly charging.

It's a tight call, in terms of raw features, the Apple Watch nails notifications, productivity and is a better all-rounder.

Microsoft Band 2 v Apple Watch: Sports

This is the main area that the Microsoft Band 2 really kills the Apple Watch. Firstly, it boasts GPS, which means it can be used away from your smartphone for the accurate tracking of runs and cycles. That's not only one up on the Apple Watch, but also the Fitbit Charge HR, Jawbone UP3 and new Polar A360.

The Apple Watch does an okay job of run tracking with a phone and will learn your cadence to estimate distances – but it can't match GPS for accuracy, which is essential for runners.

With GPS on board, the Microsoft Band 2 features golf distances and automatic scoring, in an impressive attempt by Microsoft to keep developing the ecosystem. Of course, with apps like Hole9 the Apple Watch can be a companion for golfers by piggy-backing from your iPhone – but it's sluggish and frustrating out on the course.

Microsoft Band 2 wins for sport, hands down.

Microsoft Band 2 v Apple Watch: Apps


The Microsoft band 2 is compatible with iOS, Android and, of course, Windows 10 devices. Partner apps include Strava, MyFitness Pal and MapMyRun, as well as brands like Subway, Starbucks and Uber. However, it's nothing compared to the scope provided by the Apple Watch – even if it doesn't live up to its potential yet.

Fitness activities are tracked in Microsoft Health, which might not be the best app out there, but completely destroys anything build into the Apple Watch. Any workouts done on the Apple Watch are essentially mixed in with the daily reporting.

However, with 10,000 apps now available for the Apple Watch, it boasts the power of third parties. Like the Microsoft Band you can choose to run with Strava, Runtastic or RunKeeper and you can have your stats displayed in those ecosystems instead, which is actually more comprehensive. Yes the lack of GPS here is the big downside, unless you take your phone for the ride.

The Apple Watch's 10,000 apps speak for themselves – even if the quality isn't there yet.

Microsoft Band 2 v Apple Watch: Verdict

As a daily wearable device, the comfort, scope and ecosystem of the Apple Watch makes it a clear winner. However, we've made no secret that Apple's smartwatch is a failure for runners, cyclists and gym-goers – and that's the big opportunity for Microsoft.

The Microsoft Band puts sports first, and offers a hit and miss range of daily extras. The presence of GPS, a full colour touchscreen and Cortana is compelling – and for fitness fans, it might just tip the balance.

19 Comments

  • nyjoem says:

    I wear an apple watch every day and it definitely is not a failure at the gym measuring according to the elliptical 4 steps and calories are very accurate

  • Extraneus says:

    You can't possibly give a specific verdict on design; it's much too subjective. Is a Rolex better looking than a Swatch? Depends who you ask. Which of these two look better? I for one think the Apple Watch looks like a small bar of soap with a rubber band; easily the ugliest smartwatch on the market! The new Band, on the other hand, looks like a slick, top-of-the-line fitness band... Which is what it is!

    • Paigie1721 says:

      I agree!! Hands down!

  • staffordtb says:

    This is like comparing apples (pun intended) and oranges. These devices are aimed at different markets.

  • stxle says:

    The M$ Band looks more like a electronic handcuff than a smart watch. Heck you can't even change the ugly black band. Maybe some geeks with thick glasses like that.

    • ckgorji says:

      When it comes to comparing Apple and Microsoft, you can't possibly use "$" in Microsoft name!!!!!!!!!!!!! If you want to be an Apple fanboy, it's ok to be one, just don't go full retard.

    • rfs4760 says:

      Maybe you are the real "Geek"..... All said, the Band 2 is excellent at multiple functions....between all the apps...fitness, sleep, contacts, call notice, text notice....and more...it's an excellent product. Oh...and the look of the watch.....I like the sleek look....much preferred to the "blob" on the wrist which is what I think the Apple watch appears to be.... 

  • Bizkitazz says:

    I watch is so plastic and childish looking. Looks like a watch you would win at Chuck email cheese or something. The band 2 looks freaking killer and I cannot wait to get one.

  • claydsr says:

    You missed cost.  Is this not a factor?

  • MarkCA says:

    Cost is definitely a factor - the Band works with any smartphone, Apple Watch is restricted to iPhone users.

    The Apple Watch is imo the better device, but is it (at least) 1.5x better? Nope, not in my view.

    The Band does almost everything I could ever want from a wearable and I suspect the same for a large portion of people - email notifications, calls, calenders etc and Cortana mixed with the sports features. So whilst the Apple marketing machine has me 'wanting' an Apple Watch, a clear head says the Band is much better value.

    • kirkw122 says:

      The Band doesn't allow you to reply to texts on the band if you have an iPhone (only Microsoft or Android).

  • Bhaskargupta says:

    Hi

    Will I be getting same user experience if he use band 2 with an iPhone.?I mean will it be same as that with a Windows phone?

    • apple101 says:

      Okay, so basically. If you use the band with a iPhone you will get all the feature except for the use of Siri or Cortana. Instant Quick Response doesn't work with iPhones either. To activate that band, you must download the Microsoft Health app for free. Then, connect with bluetooth.

  • jsnadukkudiyil says:

    Windows health is free.  To get anything like the same level of statistics from strava or any of the other health websites you have to pay a monthly cost.    Second, the microsoft band 2 is about half the cost of the apple watch - a significant advantage.  If talking to your wrist gets your juices flowing pay more for the apple watch.  For fitness the band 2 wins hands down.

    • MegabytesOffice says:

      Windows is RUBBISH

  • Chris2048 says:

    > the Apple Watch steels the show

    * steals

  • dawgface1 says:

    Sorry, I have to say that this review must be an Apple biased writer.... While I have to agree that the Apple watch has more of a traditional watch-like face than the MS Band; that's exactly the reason why I opted to get rid of mine and go for the Band 2.  I don't need this clunky piece of hardware weighing on my wrist during my workout, the Band practically disappears.  Furthermore, the Apple was never able to handle 48 hours of battery life (that was a stretch of truth in your journalistic reporting).  Also, even while it was a daily charger... it took almost twice as long to charge than the Band (and I use GPS on my Band, a feature that the Apple didn't even offer).   

    Finally, I can't understand those complaints from people who say that the Apple watch is better because they can change the band to accessorize with their outfit; that's like saying a single shirt is better than a wardrobe because you can change the color/look of that one shirt for different occasions.  I bought a sports watch to monitor and train, when I go out I put on another watch, problem solved.

  • Brian185 says:

    I have everything apple. Not a fan of the Apple Watch though.  I basically wanted something that would tell me Who was calling so I would know if it's important for me to pull my phone out of my pocket or not. Something that would tell me how far I have cycled  without a third-party app.  The health app on my iPhone does not do that.  And of course all the fitness stuff that everybody offers.   And I wanted it to look cool.  After one day with the Microsoft band 2  I was looking for ways to say this is not going to be adequate.  48 hour battery life right? If you don't use any of the features especially GPS.  I barely got one day right off the bat.    I'm taking this back.  Well after another couple of days and the excitement of playing with It wore off  I realized that I didn't use GPS as much as I thought I would and got more than two days of battery life which is more than acceptable for me.  Phone and text notifications work just fine.  And yes you cannot respond to texts, that would be nice but I cant imagine I would really use it that much on my wrist.  Right now I cannot receive my email but again that's not really a big deal.  Since I wouldn't be able to respond to it anyway.  And finally I think it looks futuristic in a fashionable way. Even when I wear a suit. And everybody always asks me what that is on my wrist.  Sidenote yes it is a little bit bulky.   I'm still looking at other watches to replace this one but just can't find one that does what the microsoft band does at this price.  So the main question is, is getting all this information on your wrist really worth it.   I have to say it has been for me. It has been motivating and fun. I look forward to the possibility that this device will have many updates in the near future to make it even better. 

  • plsmithcpa says:

    This article seems very Apple centric.  I agree that these devices are targeted at different markets - one thing the reviewer left out is the MS Health app allows the user to design their own workouts and the Band then coaches and tracks your progress - even mixing disciplines, running outdoors, then weight training indoors etc...  It is a fantastic device - I would not switch to the Apple Watch, because I would be paying more for fewer features. 

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