New Microsoft Band release date, price and features

Will Microsoft's next wearable be even better?

We expected a new Surface Pro 4 and Lumia mobile devices for Microsoft's October 6 event but with the Microsoft Band about to hit its one year anniversary, we're getting a new wearable too.

Generally, the original fitness tracker has been received with mixed reactions. The Band has averaged out as a decent device in spite of its flaws. Its ten sensors and functionality have been praised while its overall look and comfort have been points of contention. The Microsoft Band 2 should fix these issues - we hope.

The Redmond wearables team has kept its lips zipped for a long time - but finally spilled the beans on the new Microsoft Band. Read on below for what we've found and our own speculations based on the first-gen Band.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? Microsoft's second generation fitness tracker
  • When is it out? October 30, with preorders happening now
  • What will it cost? $249 (likely £249, about AU$350)

Design

The biggest hint about the new device came from a recently leaked image that supposedly shows a different design with mentions of improved functionality. The rest of the reports suggests there will be new buttons as well as a metallic frame around the display.

With the recent announcement, it appears the leak was mostly correct.

Not many people have been happy with the original Microsoft Band's design. Clunky, uncomfortable and ugly are a few choice descriptions you'll find. Redmond seems to have taken these criticisms to heart and included a curved screen to fit better. It's unclear if the device is less chunky however, you can judge for yourself by watching Microsoft's video below.

The ten sensors found in the first wearable - optical heart rate sensor, 3-axis accelerometer, gyrometer, GPS, ambient light sensor, skin temperature sensor, UV sensor, capacitive sensor, microphone and a galvanic skin response sensor - are showing up again in the second device.

However people clamored for an elevation tracker so Microsoft included a barometer meaning the new Band now has 11 sensors.

There also appears to be a metallic frame and clasp this time around.

Interface

The October event didn't reveal many details about the Band's operating system. The current Microsoft Band isn't running a special operating system at all. Rather, it's on a wearable architecture that has been optimized for low-power micro-devices, instead of Windows 10 or a modified version of Windows.

That might change with the Band 2. Windows 10 has been released for many devices now and will even be compatible with the Xbox One and HoloLens. It makes sense that Microsoft's latest fitness tracker will have W10 incorporated. At the very least, the wearable should be able to sync up with the console or PCs somehow. Fitbit has been able to do it, why not Microsoft's own device?

Though it wasn't greatly detailed, it looks like the app has been redesigned as well. Apparently there will be more "usable data" meaning all those sensors you've put to work will actually let you see what you can do to improve. Recovery, caloric intake, cardio were mentioned as part of the analytics along with oxygen intake.

Cortana integration is back to help with text and email messaging, setting reminders and hopefully more. Unfortunately it looks like the AI is only available with Windows Phones running Windows 8.1 or higher. This wasn't mentioned during the event but the Microsoft landing page for the new Band clearly outlines it.

Display

New Microsoft Band

The display of the Microsoft Band 2 is curved much like the Samsung Gear Fit fitness tracker. Unlike Samsung's device, Microsoft's screen is smaller and looks more form fitting wearable to keep it simple and comfortable.

The first-gen Band has done a decent job of showing messages on the small 1.4-inch TFT (320 x 106 pixels) full color display screen thanks to the scroll option.

The new Microsoft Band has an organic LED screen that's scratch resistant and optimized for better touch.

Battery life

Two days is the average battery life of most smartwatches and fitness trackers with color screens that also serve as notification centers. The inclusion of GPS also sucks up power.

The previous Microsoft Band required charging after two days of normal usage. It's unlikely the new Microsoft Band will stray from this especially with all the sensors and a color touch screen included.

Price

New Microsoft Band

The Microsoft Band is reasonably priced at $199 (£170, around AU$230) but the new Microsoft Band has upped the cost by $50 making the wearable $249 (likely £249, about AU$350) in total.

The curved screen and additional sensor likely increased the cost.

No varying size options were announced.

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