It's been rumoured for a while now, but on 30 October Microsoft officially unveiled its first foray into the wearable tech market: the Microsoft Band. It's a fitness band that rivals the Samsung Gear Fit and others. Here's everything you need to know about the Microsoft Band release date, UK price and specs. Read: The best smartwatches 2014: list of the best smartwatches you can buy right now.
The Microsoft Band has launched into a very competitive market, already populated by the likes of Google's Android Wear system which is now available on the LG G Watch and others, plus the hotly anticipated Apple Watch that was recently unveiled by Apple.
But, while the Microsoft Band can help with productivity by displaying email, calendar and message notifications, it's really indented to be a fitness band rather than a smartwatch, which is probably why it's called the Microsoft Band rather than the rumoured Surface Smartwatch.
Interestingly, though, Microsoft hasn't limited the Band to just work with Windows devices: it also works with Android and iOS. (See also: Microsoft Band vs Apple Watch comparison.)
Microsoft Band: Release date
Microsoft has made the Microsoft Band available to order today in the US, but there's no word yet on when, or in fact if, it's coming to the UK.
In a statement, Microsoft said: "This is just the beginning of a multi-year vision for Microsoft in the health & fitness and wearables category. We want to enter this space in a deliberate and measured fashion and as such we are launching first in the United States."
We'll update this article with UK specific release date information as soon as we uncover it.
Microsoft Band: Price
As it's currently only available in the US, Microsoft's Band is priced at $199 and there is no UK price yet. That's £125, which seems like a reasonable guess to us. The Samsung Gear Fit is priced at £180.
Microsoft Band: Features
The Microsoft Band is powered by Microsoft's new Health platform, which Windows Phone, Android and iOS users will be able to use even if they don't own a Microsoft Band. Like Apple's Health app, it collects and stores data from fitness devices (whether that's the Microsoft Band or a third-party fitness tracker like the FitBit) to offer up insights to help you live a healthier life.
The Microsoft Band tracks your heart rate, steps, calories and sleep, and feeds all of that information into the Health app. You can set goals, use the Microsoft Band to complete guided workouts, map the routes you've run, cycled or hiked using GPS, and more.
In addition to the fitness features, you'll also be able to connect your Microsoft Band to your smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth to get notifications such as emails, calendar alerts and text messages, which you'll be able to preview. It'll also let you know when you've got an incoming phone call, if you've got a notification from Twitter or Facebook, for example.
There's a built-in timer and alarm app on the Microsoft Band, too.
For Windows Phone 8.1 users, the Microsoft Band gives you access to Cortana from your wrist. You can ask Cortana to take a note for you, or set a reminder, for example.
Microsoft has also partnered up with third-parties to bring more compatible apps to the Microsoft Band, including Starbucks, MyfFitnesspPal, RunKeeper and more.
Microsoft Band: Design, specs and hardware
The Microsoft Band's strap is made with plastic and fastened with an adjustable clasp. At present, there's just the black/grey design, though.
The 1.4in TFT full colour display is 320 x 106 pixels, at 11mm x 33mm.
Microsoft claims that the Microsoft Band will last for 48 hours of normal use, but if suggests that the extended use of GPS could make battery life suffer. However, it'll only take 1.5 hours to recharge the Microsoft Band, which charges using a USB magnetic connector cable.
As you might expect, the Microsoft Band features lots of sensors, as listed below:
- Optical heart rate sensor
- 3-axis accelerometer/gyro
- Ambient light sensor
- Skin temperature sensor
- UV sensor
- Capacitive sensor
- Galvanic skin response
The Microsoft Band isn't waterproof, but is dust and splash-resistant so should be ok to wear in the rain and will resist sweat.