1. Nate Silver's Avatar
    I've heard lots of comments about the Band not being comfortable, and will admit that when first putting it on, it feels a bit awkward. But I've used mine now for a couple of months, and I find the comfort level to be very good. I barely notice that its on my wrist. By contrast, I have tried two separate trials of three days each with my Fitbit Surge, and both times the results were not good. When I first put the Surge on, it feels great. After a couple of days though, it advances to first uncomfortable, and then to borderline painful. I think it has to do with the surge's band width (its pretty wide compared to the Band), coupled with the fact that there is no ventilation under all that width. This even with making sure to give it some off-wrist time, and keeping it scrupulously clean.

    I'm fairly impatient about MS not getting up to speed with a web dashboard, and all the other promised features ("actionable insights" for instance). However, spending some time in the Fitbit ecosystem keeps driving me back to the Band and MS Health. The web dashboard is pretty clunky, the data is very proprietary, and the Band was released quite complete feature-wise when compared to the Surge, particularly regarding windows phone support. It syncs, but that's about it. No notifications on surge, no music control, just sync. And phone notifications? Yeah, they are there, sometimes I get 10 identical notifications on the phone per event. The Surge consistently over-counts my steps, gives me credit for nine floors climbed on a day where I haven't seen a single staircase, and because the screen doesn't lock, is perpetually on the wrong screen when I glance at it to check the time. The back-light is barely adequate to see the screen in the dark, but is fine in daylight.

    I absolutely love the Band notifications I get with windows phone. Calls, texts, email, and more should I desire them. All seem to work very well, and its nice to just give a glance at your wrist rather than pulling the phone out to see whats coming in. The screen is pretty nice too, particularly with "Pimp My Band" (great app). The latest firmware update seemed to really smooth out the scrolling too. Cortana on the Band is pretty cool, but could use some further functionality.

    Optical HR isn't perfect on either one, but sure isn't any better on the Surge. Neither one is very good at capturing spikes in HR resulting from strength training, and my feeling is that this is a software thing. Seems like both are applying some sort of overly aggressive error correction or 'smoothing', believing the short duration changes to be mistakes. Maybe this is something you have to do to make optical HR work at all with body movement, I don't know. Both seem quite good for cardio based exercise, or for 'all day' HR, for that matter.

    It being the dead of winter here in northern Maine, I haven't had much chance to really test GPS on either one, but the Surge help forum is littered with concerns/complaints about it.

    The auto-sleep function on the Surge seems to work flawlessly for me, and it is very nice not having to remember to turn sleep on and off. Sure wish the Band had it!

    The Surge has more flexibility regarding categories of activities, whereas the Band just gives you just 'Run' or 'Exercise'. However, I'm not at all sure that all that flexibility translates into higher accuracy with HR, calorie burn, etc. Neither one has any dedicated cycling category, which I find disappointing. And anyway, with the Band you can name an activity anything you want. The problem for me comes when transferring this info to a third-party app, like Runkeeper. No matter what you name the activity in MS Health, Runkeeper categorizes it as either 'Run' or 'Strength'. So, when I sync a Spinning activity that I've recorded as 'exercise' in MS Health (since there are no cycling/spinning options), for instance, Runkeeper gives me rewards for 'strength training'. I can go in and edit the activity in Runkeeper and change it to Spinning, but there's still all those mis-categorized awards on my feed.

    Speaking of third party apps, Fitbit syncs with some, the Band syncs with others. So far in my experience, none of these synchronizations are perfect in practice. Some data syncs, some data doesn't. For instance, Surge data flows to Endomondo, but only step data, not activities. Data flows both ways with this one, but not with that one. Its enough to give you fits trying to figure out what works with what, whether it really works well, and whether its going to end up giving you duplicated records in one app or the other. There are so many variables in the way that different programs handle and present data, it must be a nightmare for the developers to make anything work at all!

    Speaking of Cycling/Spinning.......both the Surge and the Band require some serious workarounds if you want to track all the possible data. Currently I'm just using my bike on a trainer since it is winter, but here's what I'm doing. I use the Band in exercise mode to capture the general data (time, hr, etc.), and my old Android phone (Note 2) running the IpBike app to capture my ant+ speed and cadence sensors. Then when I've finished, the activity transfers to Runkeeper, and I can either put cadence/speed info in as a note, or I can upload the activity from IpBike to Runkeeper, and make a note of avg and max HR info. I did the same thing with the Surge, except the Surge has a 'Spinning' activity.

    I guess in summing up, I'm not totally pleased with either tracker, but I keep coming back to the Band. Really wanted the Surge to work for me, in view of the concern that MS won't continue to improve/support the Band, but the wrist discomfort I get with the Surge appears to be putting the kibosh on that. Please-please, MS, keep progress up with the Band and MS Health, ok? Got something really good going here, if you stick with it!
    01-10-2015 09:57 AM
  2. LeiChat's Avatar
    Hopefully they'll release a software development framework and the Band will get a worldwide release which will inspire developers to create third party software for it.

    Aside from the fact it's not available in the UK the only thing that would put me off buying the Band is the rumour there might be an Xbox (branded) Band.
    01-10-2015 06:21 PM
  3. gadgetrants's Avatar
    Nice job Nate. You should be (are you?) a tech writer!

    01-11-2015 11:44 AM
  4. Luminara's Avatar
    I eventually went for the Band instead of the Surge for email notification, but it's still good to read such insightful comparison between the two to see what I'm missing for the decision. Looks like the auto sleep mode truly is the function that is unique with the new Fitbit product. It's a shame no smarty tracker in the market seems to competently track cycling, let alone swimming. This major lack also reminds us how smart trackers are in their very infancy.
    01-11-2015 12:26 PM
  5. gadgetrants's Avatar
    This major lack also reminds us how smart trackers are in their very infancy.
    I think this ^^^ is the most "actionable insight" I've seen so far. I posted elsewhere that it reminds me a bit of my first two smartphones, which "kinda" worked" -- I mean, in particular, accessory functions like GPS/mapping, camera, etc. At some point (maybe 2013) it felt like there was enough hardware oomph (and in my case, maturity of Android) that everything came together and you could then pretty much grab any phone off the shelf and everything worked as promised. I'm really encouraged by the activity-tracker and smart-watch development path, and bet the same thing will happen in that product area in the near future as well.

    01-11-2015 12:37 PM
  6. Nate Silver's Avatar
    Lei Chat - Yes, I'm hoping for good things on the development front......maybe with the upcoming announcements from MS later this month??

    Matt - No tech writer here, but thanks! And I sure agree with you about tracker tech being in its very early stages. Its turned out to be quite a challenge to go from a glorified pedometer to a true activity tracker, perhaps much more of a challenge than the companies anticipated. There are so many variables to try to marry together. Everyone has a different idea of what and how they want to track, and then there's the myriad of body types that have to be taken into consideration, and still manage to get usable data for all of them. Then you have to jam all that into something that can be worn on the wrist without lengthening the arm . Oh yes, and make it work agnosticaIly with any platform, and if it isn't too much trouble, throw in notifications, music control, and voice control, and it would be really nice if the battery life was upwards of a week, ok? Sure, that should be easy!

    Luminara - Yes, the lack of email notification was something I really missed with the Surge. Auto sleep was really sweet, though. The lack of Cycling support really surprises me, considering the sport's currently rising popularity. Maybe everyone thought that the Sports Watch (Garmin, Polar) companies had that market sewn up? Anyway, hopefully cycling/spinning support is on the way.

    Its looking like the Garmin VivoActive will be a serious contender, and I already have Garmin speed/cadence sensors and HR strap. Unfortunately, knowing Garmin, there will never be any windows phone support. Having recently switched to WP, that would be a pretty bitter (and expensive) pill for me to swallow!
    01-11-2015 01:31 PM

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