The Microsoft Band is back, and looking much better than before. Launching on Oct. 30 for $249, this revamped version of Microsoft's debut wearable features a fresh, curved design and a healthy serving of new features for athletes and fitness fanatics. We spent a few minutes going hands-on with Microsoft's new Band, and were impressed with the new look and feel.
The most noticeable change to the Band is that it no longer looks like you're under house arrest. Now, it has an elegant cureved design that wraps around your wrist nicely, with a curved display to match. The touchscreen is made of Gorilla Glass 4, which will protect it from scratches. On the side of the Band are two buttons for navigating through menus.
Another key new feature is Cortana integration, which will let you use Microsoft's personal assistant right from your wrist. As before, the Band will work with Android, iOS, and Windows smartphones, but you'll only get Cortana with Windows devices for now. A representative said that Android support would be coming in the near future.
The new band has a similar adjustable clasp as the original. It's somewhat bulky, as it also contains two galvanic skin sensors, as well as a UV light meter. I've seen a number of Microsoft reps wearing the Band with the display on the bottom of their wrists, which may be more comfortable.
Other than that, the new Band will retain all of its predecessor's key features, including built-in GPS and sleep tracking. However, it now has a smart alarm, which will only wake you when it detects you're in a light sleep state. The new Band also has a barometer, which will enable the device to track your altitude. The refreshed Band will once again work with with Microsoft's Health software, which promises to offer even more personalized activity tracking than before.
The Band will receive notifications from a wide range of messaging services as well as email. As before, you can respond using canned replies or a tiny on-screen keyboard, but those who can use Cortana will also be able to talk to the Band to reply.
For example, the Band's accelerometer can work to provide golfers with real-time stats on their swings, and can even generate an automatic scorecard when the round is over. Microsoft also announced a slew of partners that will provide Band apps, including Men's Fitness, Uber, Subway, Twitter and RunKeeper.
The Band can also calculate your VO2 max, a measure of how much oxygen your lungs can process in one minute. This metric, used by professional athletes to measure their overall fitness, is a feature not found on many other fitness bands.
Like before, the Band's battery life is somewhat limited; Microsoft says it should last up to 48 hours on a charge, provided you're not using GPS. That's par for the course for most smartwatches, but low compared to fitness-focused bands, most of which will last up to a week. The charging port has been moved, from underneath the display to the clasp.
We're interested in seeing what else the Band can do; as we noted in our review of the original Microsoft Band, it had a lot of compelling features, but was held back by its bulky design. It looks like Microsoft has addressed that issue, and then some.