Microsoft this morning unveiled its long-rumored wearable: the Microsoft Band. With a design resembling Samsung’s Gear Fit, the fitness-tracking wristband features 10 sensors, supports all major mobile platforms, and integrates with Microsoft’s new cloud-based Health service.
Interestingly enough, Microsoft decided to skip any kind of media event or press release, opting instead to reveal the device to Recode following the discovery of new Health apps on iOS and Android last night. So was this meant to downplay an insignificant launch? Let’s find out.
The Band’s display is a 1.4″ TFT capacitive touch panel with a resolution of 320 x 106, and it’s powered by dual 100mAh rechargeable lithium-ion polymer batteries that are expected to provide around 48 hours of normal use. Microsoft says a full charge takes less than 1.5 hours.
As for the device’s 10 sensors, there’s an optical heart rate sensor, a 3-axis accelerometer/gyro, a gyrometer, a built-in GPS module, ambient light, UV and capacitive sensor, and two sensors for measuring skin temperature and “galvanic skin response” (used in lie detector tests).
Other hardware includes a microphone, a haptic vibration motor, and a Bluetooth 4.0 LE chip. This allows the band to talk to a number of devices—all iPhone models after the 4S (as long as they have iOS 7.1 or later), some Android phones, and of course Windows Phone 8.1 devices.
All of this comes together to make a device that has the usual smartwatch features—exercise and sleep tracking, push notifications, and voice commands, and some unique ones. The Band can do things that others can’t, such as customized workout routines, and pay for Starbucks.
While nothing individually stands out here (the skin sensors are interesting), the combined package is pretty impressive—particularly at this price. The Microsoft Band will go on sale Thursday for $199, and will be available for purchase at Microsoft’s physical and online stores.