In the technology war on your wrist, Microsoft has made a key move. The company announced today that it is scaling up the production and distribution of its Band smartwatch.
The Microsoft Band is a $200 fitness wearable, which works as a streamlined smartwatch. While it was only previously available online and at Microsoft’s own stores, the Band will now be sold at major retailers Best Buy, Amazon, and Target, as well as being made available in the UK, its first market outside America.
The Band will be available in the UK for nine days in April before the Apple watch is unveiled.
In a month’s time, the Apple fanfare will reawaken, as the Apple Watch begins to be shipped. Although reaction to its various unveilings have been mixed, to say the least, it’s claimed that the Band has been a hit. Stopping short of giving disclosed sales numbers, Microsoft say the product has been constantly out-of-stock in their stores, and only available for consumers with names added to wait lists. Equally, there have been rumours Apple may struggle to satisfy the demand in production.
Arguably a skimmed down lite take on a smartwatch, Microsoft’s Band concentrates on core tasks, giving it advantages in battery life and general performance. It works with the major smartphone operating systems including iOS, Android, and of course Microsoft Windows.
Like Apple’s smartwatch, the Band has been marketed on its potential health benefits. It can monitor health, heart rate, and track sleep. It can send and receive SMS text messages, pay wirelessly at Starbucks, and check stock prices. And while the Apple watch starts at $350 for the lowest end model, the modest Band sells for $200.
On the other hand, or wrist, the Apple Watch is making a more ambitious play, with more apps and more flashy customisation options. But will it be at the cost of performance and battery life? Apple’s watch is said to last around 18 hours between charges, while the Band is said to keep going for roughly two days.
Will that really be much of an issue for people who will be well used to regularly charging devices?
That might only be known once devices have been on the wrists of a number of early adopters for some time. However, critics are always likely to argue against its proprietary nature, in that it only works with iPhones.
In a fascinating show of tactical posturing, the two smartwatch strategies of these tech giants has been markedly different. Microsoft announced their Band, made it immediately available in the U.S. and has now given a strong kick to production and availability. Meanwhile, we’re still waiting for Apple’s much maligned smart watch.
Time will tell whether Microsoft’s Band can truly steal a march.