5 Things Microsoft Can Do To Improve the Band 2 ? And it is all about the software, mostly

haleme

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A few little disclaimers about me. I am a developer turned IT manager and have been in the industry for 20 years. I own and use a Lumia 920, Moto G (2015) and an IPhone 6. While I prefer the Windows interface over IOS and Android, I am using the Moto as my daily driver right now and the 6 as a work device. My wife and daughter both have Windows Phones, but my wife prefers the speed of the camera and app selection on her iPhone 4S over her Lumia 830. My wife also prefers the Windows interface over IOS and Android. She has also had a Band 2 since the launch date in October, so some of the feedback here is hers.

I have been using the Band 2 for over a week and while I think the hardware is fantastic, there are a few software items that need to be addressed. My previous fitness wearables were Fitbits; starting with an Ultra, moving to the One, then progressing through the Charge, Charge HR and Surge. Oddly, my brother in law had a Fitbit Surge about as long as I did, but traded in his for a Garmin that gets almost 3 weeks of battery over the Surge?s 7 days.

1. Step Counting
This is so obvious and glaring, it should have never left the lab in this state. If you have ever used a Fitbit, the Band will be a huge disappointment for you. My wife's first and still biggest complaint is her Band does not accurately count steps. Trip to Target, zero steps. Chasing daughter around the house all afternoon, 150 steps. Walking and looking at the Band to see how many steps I need to complete my daily step goal, no active updates. It is so underwhelming and demotivating to think you are being active while cleaning the house and the Band only rewards you with 50 steps. All of my Fitbits would recognize the movement and record the activity as steps. The Band should too.

So coming from the Fitbit family, I was expecting similar step counting performance. Not the case. In Microsoft's attempt to root out non step activity like driving a car to gain a more precise step count, they turned the sensitivity down so low that things like pushing a shopping cart or stroller are not registered. The hardware is there to make the Band accurate and Microsoft needs to take advantage with a better algorithm for counting steps. I should not need to swing my arms like an over achieving power walker to get steps to register. But beyond getting the steps right, the Glance screen needs to have an option to display the steps. And in real time.

Now, if this is not one of the primary functions of the device, Microsoft?s messaging is way off. When I log into the Health website, I am greeted first and foremost with my step count. The product page for the Band prominently shows a Band 2 who?s owner has accumulated 10,201 steps. Steps are important and contribute to the healthy lifestyle the Band is trying to align itself. Microsoft needs to get the steps in the Band right to complete this alignment or decide that steps are not important and stop pushing them.

2. Battery Saver
The battery life is pretty much on par other devices in this class, but the Band is not like other devices. That said 2 days is pretty bad. I recharged my Fitbits so infrequently, I often lost the cables. With the Band, we own multiple cables. One is in the bathroom, another two in both cars and a forth is at the office. Some of these extra cables could be unnecessary with a simple software update taken straight from Windows Phone called Battery Saver.

If you are unfamiliar with Battery Save, it basically turns off all the background activity a smartphone performs when the battery level hits a low threshold. At 20%, all email, Facebook updates and applications that use background services for notifications stop. The phone turns into a basic phone, but, it will get you to the next charge point. I have routinely seen my Lumia 920 keep going up to 12 hours on Battery Saver from 20% power.

Battery Saver on the Band would be similar. At 20 %, or when the user turns it on until next charge, the Band would turn off the Glance screen, Bluetooth, notifications, heart rate, non-critical sensors like UV, skin temperature and galvanic and finally set the screen brightness to low.
Again, this is all software controlling the existing hardware and has already been implement in other Microsoft product offerings.

3. Unified Status Bar
Why are there two status bars on the Band? If I set an alarm, I see the alarm icon in the home screen in a status bar like location. But swiping to the right reveals another status bar that shows me Bluetooth, heart rate and battery status. Turning on airplane mode replaces the Bluetooth icon in the swiped status bar with an airplane, but also adds it next to the alarm icon in the home status bar. Got that so far? There is another icon that moves between status bars. When the Band is charging (which it does a lot) there is a battery percent and icon on the Glance screen in the status bar location, but oddly disappears when you turn the screen on. The swiped status bar shows the Band is charging, but no percent of charge is given. Confusing, no?

Here is my suggestion. Ditch the right swipe status bar and put everything in the home page status bar. Give the user the option to show battery percentage at all times or none of the time except when charging.

4. Friendly Competition and Gamification of Fitness
Again, coming from the Fitbit, I immediately lost the ability to compete with friends and earn badges. The Band has ?Bests? which you will ?unlock? the first time you do a run or exercise. And the only competition I get is with my cohort. woo hoo.

Microsoft practically invented the phrase ?Achievement Unlocked? when they converted Gamerscore to Achievements with Xbox Live in 2007. Xbox Live has allowed game developers to tap into this network to create their own achievements and use the Live network to connect gamers in real time competition. So Microsoft lets me compete with friends virtually, but not in real life.

Let?s get achievements for destroying that step goal (assuming the step count is fixed), or biking over 30 miles or a golf game that is 2 under par. While we are at it, add gamer points to your Xbox Live account. There are so many ways to make exercise and fitness fun. Fitbit appears to have tapped into this phenomenon. Microsoft can too, but needs to figure out how to integrate its two platforms.

Honestly, this should have been in place from day one.

5. Developers! Developers! Developers!
Owning an iPhone and Android, I see that developers are making companion apps for the Watch and Android Wear. Granted some of the apps are doing simple tasks or notifications, but others allow you to make mobile payments from your wrist via NFC. While the Band does not offer the hardware to perform touchless payments, there is a lot of untapped potential for developers to create great companion apps for the Band. Now, before you start bemoaning the Band is not that type of device, I think it can be. And it should be if we want to see more generations of the Band.

I want to look at one app that is available across all three platforms with 4 star ratings. The Volvo On Call app allows you to remotely monitor and control various functions of your Volvo with your smartphone. The app performs the same on all three platforms, but IOS and Android offer wrist sized companion apps; the Windows version is universal and works across PC and mobile. The companion app can receive notifications that your Volvo is unlocked and allows you to respond back with a command to lock or ignore the notification. The app also displays fuel and battery information, along with the vehicle location on a map. The last may prove to be too much data to render on the Band?s screen, but all other functions can be presented on the Band. Point is, it is entirely possible to get good companion apps for the Band. Microsoft just needs to let developers know what is possible and broadcast the message to the customer. When looking at apps in the Windows Store, you should see a Band icon to let you know a companion app is available. It just needs to happen for the Band platform to continue.

The Band is Microsoft?s smartwatch; Apple has their Watch, Android its various watches running Wear and Microsoft the Band. Simple as that.

Oh yeah, how about a universal Windows 10 app?

Final Thoughts
I do love my Band 2 and think it is a gorgeous piece of hardware. More than anything, I want the Band to succeed. But I feel it yet another Zune in Microsoft?s portfolio. Microsoft is repeating their pattern of developing a good device or platform and then starving it of advertising, developer support, a consistent software experience and proper integrations with their other services. Xbox is the model for how to develop a device with a platform, integrate the various services, get developers on board, provide regular updates and last craft and tell a compelling story around why you want an Xbox. Unless Microsoft can figure this out, we will probably have another distance 3[SUP]rd[/SUP] device/platform on our wrists.
 

Justin Pearson

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Was going to write a longer reply but it's new years lol. In any case, it's physically impossible to go anywhere with out the band ticking once or twice. If you did not over exaggerate then your band is busted.
As for apps, basic ones and ones that dig into the hardware are in good supply on windows phone.
And the band it's not a smart watch. At best it's a fitness tracker with some smart watch functions.
Happy new year!!
 
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indiW

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Whilst I have no IT experience, however overall I am in agreement.
(1) From the day one when I bought my band 2, I thought the supportive app was exceptionally primitive in relation to data analysis, data display, colour schemes, (I rather like warm, energetic colours, rather than very cold blue), there is no opportunity for user to change, tiles arrangements, chart options.

2. I just have a feeling whether MS lost it primary objectives in the creation of the band, rather than either creating a smart watch or sensitive and accurate fitness watch it seems MS didn't create either, on the surface it looks like a Jack of all trade..but a Master of none.

3, again I am not a IT person however I feel 99% problems, UI, can be rectified exceptionally easily with the changes to Software,

4 I think MS, UI team should do bit more research on what's available on the market, be it android ios, get some ideas and make things better

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Nate Silver

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In my experience with multiple trackers, accuracy in step counting is an elusive goal. There is no question that the Band is quite conservative, though not as conservative as my Mio Fuse. The FitBit Surge was waay too enthusiastic, racking up hundreds of steps while driving the 30 miles to work. My Garmin Fenix 3 falls somewhere between. On a typical day with lots of walking, I will show a difference of around 2,000 steps between the Band and the F3. Which is correct? Probably neither one. I've had several trackers, and no two of them have ever come very close to agreeing on step count. I don't know what the answer is to solving this problem.

When it comes to SmartWatch apps, I'm satisfied with the level the Band is at now. I'm primarily interested in fitness.

Regarding battery life; I'm also fairly satisfied, and wouldn't care for a 'battery saver' feature that turns off hr monitoring. It is one of the primary reasons I wear the Band, and without it there's no point for me. I charge daily in the AM after waking up, while having coffee, breakfast, showering, etc. For a long bike ride, I just turn the screen off to make sure I can get through the day. But yeah, they could probably do a bit better with battery life if they tried.

Some additional features regarding sharing achievements, and friendly competition would be welcome, and would certainly help sell more folks on the system.

You're absolutely right, the Band would profit from more focused leadership and a more dedicated team at MS. I've always had the impression that the Band (and MS Health) were like a step-child. Like the people working on it were only devoting a few hours here and there to it, when they had time around the rest of their schedule, and its not really their area of expertise anyway.
 

indiW

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I don't think the band itself is anything bad, in fact in my opinion it is one of the most advanced of devices with a lorry load of sensors, however I I have a feeling whoever the team/s behind it, haven't given much attention to look around how other fitness related aps and devices presenting and performing.

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luxnws

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Great suggestions especially about battery life and the social interactivity. They really need to take a look at Fitbit's app and "dashboard" and use that as the model. The Microsoft Health app and dashboard falls short on the social aspect as a reason to buy a Band. Sure the Band connects to third parties like Strava but it isn't the same.

I'm guessing that Band 2 did okay last quarter considering that it wasn't as widely distributed as the competition (example: no Microsoft Band 2 selling on the Walmart.com site). Microsoft only has been in wrist wearables for two years so maybe they are going step by step before going really mass market. Third generation is the charm for Microsoft, right?
 

luxnws

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I don't think the band itself is anything bad, in fact in my opinion it is one of the most advanced of devices with a lorry load of sensors, however I I have a feeling whoever the team/s behind it, haven't given much attention to look around how other fitness related aps and devices presenting and performing.

Posted via the Windows Central App for Android

All the sensors are nice to have but for example I still don't have a clue how skin temp or the capacitive sensors factor into Microsoft's formulas and how the data affects actionable results. Anyone know?
 

awarner

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Whilst I have no IT experience, however overall I am in agreement.
(1) From the day one when I bought my band 2, I thought the supportive app was exceptionally primitive in relation to data analysis, data display, colour schemes, (I rather like warm, energetic colours, rather than very cold blue), there is no opportunity for user to change, tiles arrangements, chart options.

You can add, remove and re-arrange tiles and colours via the phone (using Lumia 950)
 

indiW

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Thanks for the reply, tell me how to change the colours of my Phone app, I know I can change the colours of band tiles, I want to change the colours of my phone app, for example I want step tile one colour, calories tile another etc. I only see cold blue in my android app. I want a live widgets on my phone screen, steps, heart rate etc.

Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
 

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indiW

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This is how Runtastic record activities, isn't it wonderful so the user can see gym and exercise activities at a glance.
2016-01-01 19.46.09.jpg

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ashram

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The one and only app I would love would be for MS' Authenticator to also sync onto the band. it would make life easier at times to check for my 2-step keys on my wrist at work.... or to NOT have to switch between apps on the phone :)
 

indiW

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There are few major things that need fine tuning in this band and in my opinion they are all SW related.. What the guys behind the band need is... just a bit of imagination.

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NairobiWP

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What the guys behind the band need is... just a bit of imagination.
This thread has hit the nail on the head rrelating to the gaps in the MSBand/MS Health ecosystem. While I was looking forward to upgrading my Band1, the slow development on the software has me looking for alternatives.
Unfortunately this product is stuck in the familiar Microsoft "Things will get better over time" mantra. However looking at the rate of change, it is can be deduced that the development trajectory will not change anytime soon.
Unlike the Windows team which provides great communication on upcoming changes, the MS Band team has zero communication with their MSband owners, thus losing the opportunity to turn users into a 'dog-fooding' community.
 

indiW

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Well.. The band itself has made me more aware of my fitness activities, and to be honest it is encouraging me to do more on each gym session.
I don't believe there is any perfect or truly accurate fitness band out there. When you consider the practical logistics it is almost impossible to device a fitness tracker that can 100% meet each individuals needs or demands.
Someone known to me told me, that a particular fitness tracker count masterbating (can't remember spellings) as steps if you have that band on the same hand. So there you go.. Nothing is perfect.

My new year wish.. MS team please listen to this community.

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luxnws

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@ashram Just tell Microsoft to release the Microsoft Account app for your Windows phone. Or maybe they can squeeze a version onto the Band 3.

When you log on to your Outlook account that has two factor authentication enabled, the Microsoft Account app on your phone notifies you and you authenticate by pressing an Approve button instead of typing in the 6-digit code. It's been available on Android for over a year already.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.microsoft.msa.authenticator&hl=en
 

luxnws

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This thread has hit the nail on the head rrelating to the gaps in the MSBand/MS Health ecosystem. While I was looking forward to upgrading my Band1, the slow development on the software has me looking for alternatives.
Unfortunately this product is stuck in the familiar Microsoft "Things will get better over time" mantra. However looking at the rate of change, it is can be deduced that the development trajectory will not change anytime soon.
Unlike the Windows team which provides great communication on upcoming changes, the MS Band team has zero communication with their MSband owners, thus losing the opportunity to turn users into a 'dog-fooding' community.

Microsoft is the new kid on the block. They've been doing the fitness band thing for, what, two years? It will get better in subsequent iterations.
 

GSOgymrat

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What I don't get is Runkeeper synchs with Microsoft Band but there is no Windows Phone app and Runtastic has a Windows Phone app but doesn't synch with Microsoft Band.
 

DroidUser42

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If you have ever used a Fitbit, the Band will be a huge disappointment for you.

From what I've read, FitBit is a step happy. It's not a valid reference.

Attempting to measure steps based on wrist motion is tricky. If you want to compare devices, I'd suggest getting a waist or shoe mounted pedometer and using that as a base-line reference.

There's been at least one post that suggests the Band does not register any "burst" of steps that are smaller than 12. As such, it may not register the small burst of steps trying to keep up with kids, but will register going for a drink of water. I can see that in trying to determine if it's walking or not, and it may be a valid explanation in terms of fitness. Does getting up to change chairs count? Either way, it would be nice if Microsoft told us that.
 

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