With the official Apple Watch release set for this Friday, April 24th, most companies are adding new software features and extras to their apps and services. Microsoft began the week with Apple Watch updates for some of its most popular apps, but it’s also adding new features and software upgrades to its own Apple Watch alternative, the Microsoft Band.
Microsoft has yet to officially announce the changes in a press release, but a report from The Verge indicates that there’s a huge upgrade heading out to Microsoft Band owners and buyers today.
Today’s updates are focused on offering a better experience for bike riders than what was possible just a few days ago. Apps upgrades focused solely on that better biking experience include integration and tracking support for Strava and MapMyRide. New algorithms and software upgrades allow the Microsoft Health companion website to analyze what times of the day are best for a specific user’s workout routine. The Microsoft Band itself is now able to measuring oxygen volume during work outs.
The most notable feature is Microsoft Health’s new support for smartphones with their own internal sensors and software for measuring steps. Following the update, iPhone and Android users won’t actually need to purchase a Microsoft Band if they’d prefer just using Microsoft Health as an app and service for their phone’s built-in sensors. Microsoft’s MSN Health & Fitness app already does this on Windows Phone. Switching the Microsoft Health app to this will give Microsoft Health more leverage as it seeks to grow its health related platform and edge out iPhone’s HealthKit and a slew of other services vying for users. Microsoft says that users can expect this update soon, but doesn’t elaborate more than that.
The Microsoft Band is already Android and iPhone compatible. Costing $199, the wristband has display dedicated to letting users see how many calories they’re burning. Built-in apps offer a set of extensive works plans and exercise advice, while the free Microsoft Health companion app analyzes all the information the Microsoft Band collects from its sensors. Inside the device is an optical heart rate monitor, accelerometer, microphone, ambient light sensor and UV sensor. What’s more, there’s a built-in GPS system so that users can leave their phone at home and still go for a run complete with tracking.
Like the Apple Watch, the Microsoft Band attempts to make pulling out your smartphone something that you don’t need to do on a regular basis. There’s a caller ID, Messaging App, Alarm, Email and Starbucks app. These apps work on every platform. The Microsoft Band also includes integration with Cortana, the personal assistant exclusive to Windows Phones for now.
No doubt, Microsoft is hoping that the changes included in today’s update and the Microsoft Band’s cheaper price tag will help lure users away from purchasing the Apple Watch when it finally arrives on store shelves.
The Apple Watch Sport will start at $349 with an aluminum case and a white arm band. Prices will go up from there. What Apple is simply referring to as Apple Watch will cost as little as $549. There’s a version called the Apple Watch Edition that’ll cost users thousands of dollars at the most.
Apple is already taking appointments in stores, allowing potential buyers to try out the device before they purchase online. Users who pre-ordered their Apple Watch should find them on their doorstep this Friday, but Apple Store’s won’t have them readily available for sometime.
After a rocky launch Microsoft recently expanded sales of the Microsoft Band. The device is now available for order in more European countries. Many Best Buy stores now offer the Microsoft Band too.