The Bands: First Impressions

On Monday I published my article announcing that I was going to spend a month wearing two fitness bands: The Fitbit Charge (on my right hand) and the Microsoft Band 2 (on my left hand).  In truth I picked them both up and started wearing them on Saturday, so as I sit here (Monday evening) I have a couple of days from which to give my first impressions.  Here they are!

Design

The Microsoft Band is the clear winner here.  I appreciate the craftsmanship of both devices – both can be mistaken for a bracelet if you are not paying attention – but whereas the Charge comes in four sizes (and you cannot buy the XL in stores) the Band comes as one-size-fits-all, with an extremely comfortable, ergonomic metal clasp that snaps in and then allows you to resize to your comfort.  Additionally the Fitbit strap is a cheaper rubber material, and the clasp is just two rubber clips that you have to push in tight.

Battery

Even before I left the store I knew that the Fitbit Charge was going to win this category – Andrew (the store rep) told me that I would have to charge the Band every two days, and the Charge would last five to seven days.  Andrew’s solution was that he charges it while he watches TV at night; I charged both devices on Saturday, but did not give either a full charge.  The Band died on Monday morning, and I had to charge it in my car again.  The Charge is still going, and if my experience with Fitbit is any indicator the charge will last most of the week.

Winner: Fitbit Charge

Charging

I have a love/hate relationship with charging Fitbit devices.  Every time I get a new device I have to change out the chargers… and as the devices evolve the charging solutions deteriorate.  The Fitbit Surge had the flimsiest charging cable I’ve ever used for any device… you had to balance the watch just so in order for it to charge.

The Charge has a better cable than the Surge did… but not by much.  When I plugged it in to charge at the Microsoft Store (as I wrote my first piece) it did stay put.  The cable is certainly flimsy – could easily be mistaken for a non-standard phone cable – but for this sort of device we have to weigh the benefits of weight versus requirement.  It is sufficient… so far.

The Band, on the other hand, has a solid cable with a quasi-dock that does not plug in to the back of the watch, rather it clips magnetically to the metallic clasp.  Of course, this means that there are wires running through your device’s band… but if the band is cut off your arm you likely have more important issues to contend with.

Winner: Microsoft Band

Apps

I want to reserve judgement on this category for a few reasons.  I have been using the Fitbit app for iPhone for over two years, and the Windows 8/10 app for even longer than that.  The first time I downloaded Microsoft Health for the iPhone was… well, Saturday evening.  I have not yet looked at it on Windows 10 yet… but I will. 

I will say that I was less than impressed with the pairing process of the Charge… my phone found it okay, but then crashed while the device was updating, and needed several retries to get it working… and only after I paired it with my Windows 10 machine did it finally work properly.  However once that was done it did add the steps I had taken before surrendering my Fitbit Surge (I synced it immediately before giving it back) and the steps I took with the Charge before it synced.  I think I’ll give it a pass on this one… but only because I lived with Windows Vista and learned to accept things not always working right the first five times.

Syncing my Microsoft Band onto my iPhone was easy… I downloaded the app (Microsoft Health) from the App Store and then followed the instructions to pair it on the device.  It took seconds and worked flawlessly.  I have not spent a lot of time getting to know the app (nor have I downloaded the equivalent on my Surface yet) but I will… and until then I will reserve judgement.

Winner: TBD

Comfort

The Band is going to be the clear winner here because I probably should be wearing the XL size of Charge, but the store only sells Large.  However again, this is my fault so I do not blame Fitbit

Display

This is not a fair comparison… if I was comparing the Fitbit Surge against the Microsoft Band it would be fair… and I think the Band would still win based on its crisp and clear multi-colour display, making excellent use of less real estate for a truly incredible result.  However it is probably still not a fair comparison… Microsoft has throngs of people working in User Experience (UX) for myriad devices while the Fitbit team is likely a fraction of the Microsoft UX guys.  Still and all, I do appreciate that for $80 less the Band takes a solid win over the Surge.

Winner: Microsoft Band

Accuracy

It is 6:30pm in Oakville, and according to my Microsoft Band I have taken 5,208 steps while climbing the equivalent of 16 flights of stairs.  According to my Fitbit Charge, I’ve taken 5,916 steps while climbing the equivalent of 11 flights of stairs.  What accounts for this amazing imbalance?  Simple… The Band’s battery died this morning, so while I did charge it in the car, I got out of the car and ran several errands before putting it back on.  What accounts for it registering more flights of stairs?  I don’t know… possibly it considers a flight of stairs to be 15 stairs while Fitbit is 20… I don’t know.  I will have to get on a treadmill at the gym tomorrow to determine which is more accurate.

Winner: TBD

Conclusion

If I had to take back one of the devices today it would be the Fitbit Charge, but it would be close… and don’t forget, while the Band may be more device, it is also double the cost.  I have not yet been to the gym with these devices, and that will come tomorrow.  I’ll let you know how that goes!

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