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There are a few more apps to choose from this time around. Your options include the usual: messaging, mail, calls, calendar, run, exercise, sleep, alarm/timer, guided workouts, cycling, weather, finance, UV, Starbucks, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Twitter and a notification center.
You can also sync with the UP by Jawbone app, Runkeeper, MapMyFitness and MyFitnessPal, all so the Microsoft Health app has more info on you. Golf was added in a previous software update, so it isn't exactly "new".
However, Xbox Wire is a new tile you can add from the "Tile Gallery." It's a bit useless right now, since you technically can only read headlines from the Xbox blog.
You can't even open a link of the story from your Band to read on your phone. Gold's Gym Inspirations is even worse, as it gives you snippets of inspirational stories that read like an un-ironic motivational poster. I get that this is Microsoft's push for more tiles to add to the Band 2 – but c'mon, really?
Thankfully, it's not bloatware, as in neither app is stuck on your Band. Since the Band 2 has launched, the Tile Gallery has gone from displaying "More tiles coming soon…" to actually showing tons of tiles made by both Microsoft and the community of developers. Indeed, more tiles were coming soon and they have now arrived. However, the usefulness of each varies and, on the whole, there doesn't seem to be a single tile available that provides a deep, satisfying experience.
I'm interested in gaming, so I thought the community-crafted Steam RSS tile would be right up my alley. Unfortunately, it's just an aggregator of Steam press releases, which is pretty boring.
Next, I checked out BBC's USA tile, expecting a bit more. Not to slight the Microsoft Band 2, as it's tough to elegantly cram a bunch of text on a small screen, but what you're getting here is just the headlines and nothing else.
As we detailed earlier, tapping the headline or bit of content in a tile doesn't do anything. It doesn't open up the article on your phone, as you might think it would. Tiles don't add all that much to the already great experience, but if you're after the most basic information at-a-glance, you'll find something like.
You can mix and match these tiles, but again, only 13 apps can be viewed on the actual wearable.
The sleep app has changed a tiny bit with Microsoft adding a smart timer. After using the sleep tracker and gathering enough information, the Band 2 will set an alarm at your "optimal wakeup time." This could just be 30 minutes before or after your usual alarm. It's not automatic, and you can turn it off whenever you want.
I found it to be handy since I set two alarms anyway to help me wake up. Using the smart alarm is the same idea.
There are also two ways to use the sleep tracking app. Once in the tile, you can choose to press the action button or let it automatically detect you. It seems like the action button works best but you do have to remember to switch it on at night and off in the morning. Auto-detect is great for these moments. Though, Microsoft notes that if you're stationary for a long period of time, the Band 2 will think you're sleeping.
I haven't had time to fully test out the five fitness apps just yet. However, it's already obvious that not much has changed – that isn't necessarily a bad thing for Microsoft's second Band. I was already duly impressed with the simplicity and effectiveness of the first Microsoft Band's fitness apps.
Guided Workouts, found in the Microsoft Health app which can be downloaded and loaded onto the Band 2 one at a time, has been updated since its launch. It now offers even more workouts than before, ranging from beginner to advanced.
If you've used any of the fitness apps, it's the same premise: choose a workout, and the haptics buzz. Choose the running tile and it records your heart rate, calorie burn, GPS coordinates, lap times and personal bests.
You can then view recorded maps of your runs and analyze your data for ways to improve. Choose the Exercise app and track your progress during group fitness classes, body weight or strength training and yoga, all with the same metrics.
Cycling lets you track your rides outdoors, or indoors. When the Bike tile is active, the heart rate monitor becomes "optimized specifically for biking activities." It can also track elevation and elevation gain, distance, duration and calorie burn– all viewable in the Microsoft Health app.
Plus, you can map out your ride via GPS, track your current and average speeds and distance both on the band and in the mobile app. Then, you can review your custom splits and see an estimate for how long it will take your body to recover from the ride.
The Microsoft Health Dashboard has also greatly improved. True to its word, further insights have been included over time, allowing you to take actionable steps for a healthier lifestyle. With each use, the algorithms calculate your metrics to let you know what you can do to get a better night's rest or your calorie burn trends. The metrics are all handily displayed in charts comparing your daily, weekly and monthly activities. The app on the phone also displays a decent amount of information though the Dashboard is much more detailed.
VO2 max is a new calculation Microsoft Band 2 is offering – and it's the only fitness tracker doing it. Your body's capacity to transport and use oxygen during exercise is the VO2 max. It's the most precise measure of overall cardiovascular fitness.
From five run or bike workouts with an elevated heart rate, Microsoft then plops your heart rate into its proprietary algorithm to give you an estimated score. It's not as accurate as being hooked up to a machine and running on a treadmill, but it's more convenient. Why is this important to know even if you're not a pro athlete? Well, the higher your VO2 max is, the easier it is to workout longer.
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Cameron is a writer at The Verge, focused on reviews, deals coverage, and news. He wrote for magazines and websites such as The Verge, TechRadar, Practical Photoshop, Polygon, Eater and Al Bawaba.