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article imageMicrosoft's second-gen Band adds refinement, more sensors

By James Walker     Oct 6, 2015 in Technology
Confirming previous rumours, Microsoft today announced the second generation of its Band wearable. The fitness-tracking smart band now has a curved display and refined design in an effort to lose the prototype feel associated with the original.
Microsoft says the Band 2 is designed to "help you live healthier and achieve more." It improves on several of the shortcomings of its predecessor to create a much more rounded accessory likely to appeal to a wider audience.
The 320x128 resolution AMOLED display is now curved, improving aesthetics and comfort. Microsoft has protected the screen with Corning Gorilla Glass 3, a glaring omission from the original that led to many owners finding their devices scratched within days. The slim-line band is made of durable thermal plastic silicon that feels soft on the skin and should be resistant to water and sweat. The device itself has acquired a shiny, satin steel finish that looks much more premium than the black plastic of its predecessor.
Official media images of the Microsoft Band 2
Official media images of the Microsoft Band 2
Microsoft
As before, the second-generation Band pairs with the Microsoft Health app to display "actionable insights" to the data it collects. This includes heart rate, calorie burn, exercise level and sleep quality, measured by the 11 sensors embedded in the Band. The app is available on Universal Windows, iOS, Android and online so there is no shortage of places to keep track of progress on.
Band is also compatible with third-party tracking apps including RunKeeper, MyFitnessPal, MapMyRide, MapMyFitness, Strava and more. It can provide guided workouts and curated exercise routines, making it easier to maintain a healthy fitness level without having to spend time researching the details.
The Band 2 includes an always-on optical heart rate monitor and support for GPS, allowing it to track data even when not connected to a phone. The unsynchronised details will be automatically uploaded to Microsoft Health when a connection is re-established. The GPS allows for accurate speed and distance tracking and Microsoft has also included a barometer so elevation changes can be monitored too.
Official media images of the Microsoft Band 2
Official media images of the Microsoft Band 2
Microsoft
Microsoft Band isn't just about health though. It tries to strike a balance between durable fitness tracker and functional smartwatch, meeting the two somewhere in the middle. Depending on the platform it is paired with, the Band can instantly display alerts for incoming calls, text messages, emails, calendar alerts and social occurrences, removing the need to unlock your phone just to view the contents of a notification.
Details of stock updates, Twitter alerts, alarms and weather can also be viewed, alongside notifications provided by several other apps. Starbucks customers can pay for their coffee without their wallet by scanning their Starbucks card from their Band.
When connected to a Windows device, Cortana commands can also be issued directly from Band, making it possible to send messages and set reminders with just your voice. Small versions of live tiles on the Band's home screen act as quick shortcuts to key functions and can be customised from a smartphone. You can choose whether to have the Band always display the time or only when you rotate your wrist, tailoring the device so it best suits your habits.
Microsoft claims that the Band 2 will last 48 hours on its battery and can be recharged to capacity in less than 1.5 hours. It warns that intensive features like GPS may drain power more quickly but most owners should still be able to expect an easy day's usage. Pricing starts at $249 and pre-orders open today for purchase from October 30.
More about Microsoft, microsoft band, Band, Wearable, smartwatch
 
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