I’ve been wearing the Microsoft Band for a month now, which is long enough to get past the novelty factor and get a sense of what the device is like to live with.
In short, I like it, but of course that’s an entirely subjective view – and my first big learning is that I think it’s difficult to have anything other than a subjective view of a device like this. In the introduction to this series I said that wearables were more intimate than other smart devices, and I’m now even more convinced of that.
It is very much mine and the idea of anyone else deciding what appears on it is quite uncomfortable. If we do want to use wearables for learning this is something that we need to consider.
That said, there some practical observations that I can make now that I’ve worn it for a while. Some do remain personal to me, some are specific to the Band and some are more general.
- Wearing it, quickly became normal – this is important as wearing a device like this requires more effort than wearing a regular watch (which is a largely passive device).
- For starters, you have to think about charging. It’s primary role is as a fitness tracker and as such it’s intended to be worn 24/7, including when you are asleep. The battery lasts around two days, which means you either need to give it a full charge every other day, or a shorter charge daily. I’ve got into the routine of putting it on charge when I’m showering (it isn’t waterproof) and occasionally popping it on charge when I’m sat at my desk as that’s where the charger lives.
- Charging it at my desk works well as I have found that it does get in the way when I’m typing on my laptop, although the same is true of a regular watch. It’s fine when I use an external keyboard.
- One of the selling points of wearables is that they reduce the time spent checking notifications on your phone. I’m not a big notifications person – in fact I have pretty much all of them switched off on my phone and laptop – but I have the Band set up to receive alerts for calls, text messages and calendar items (but not email, which would be unbearable). It works well and I like being able to quickly glance at my wrist to decide whether it’s something I’m going to deal with or ignore.
- Using the Band rather than my phone to check the time has removed one more opportunity for distraction.
- It is primarily intended as a fitness tracker (albeit a slightly more sophisticated one than a Fitbit or similar) and it’s done that job well. In some respects it outperforms my Garmin – it gets a GPS lock more quickly and appears to record routes more accurately.
- My Garmin has so many features and I fretted about not knowing what to do with all of the information it was giving me. I like tracking my exercise, but too much data to analyse takes the fun out of it. I like the simplicity of the Band and will probably stick with it.
- The sleep tracking feature is interesting, not just because of the tracking but because of the feedback you receive from the Microsoft Health app (or the web based dashboard). After a couple of weeks it started to make comparisons between my sleep patterns and that of other people with similar age and activity profiles (the quality of my sleep is below average). This week it has started to make specific suggestions – for example it highlighted that I’m very restless when I first go to sleep, which may be a sign that I need to do more to relax before going to bed.
- The fact that it is storing data and analysing it over time is an interesting thing to consider from a learning and performance perspective. L&D typically treats technology as a delivery medium, as way to get content to learners. What if we used it as a way to gather performance data from learners, analysed it and then presented feedback? I don’t know how that would work, but it merits further thought.
For the moment the Band remains primarily a fitness tracker, but Microsoft have recently released a full SDK allowing developers to create apps on Windows Phone, Android and iOS. It will be interesting to see what people come up with.
If you have any ideas for ways to use the Band (or other wearable devices) please do share them in the comments.