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.
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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.
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