For the most part, I've been really enjoying the Microsoft Band that I bought the day they went on sale.
Like the rest of the world, I learned about the landing of some new Microsoft Health apps in the various app stores on Wed, Nov 29, and like the rest of the world, was thrilled to hear the next morning that they were available for sale. Serindipidously, I had broken my last watch (of 8 years!) only weeks before, and was holding out on buying a new one in case we released something. Then we did, so I was ready to buy.
Since my purchase, I have been continuously pleased to have certain bits of information on my wrist. I've never really had any useful information on my wrist before. Sure, I had a Casio Data Bank watch in the 80's like any good geek.
But I'm talking about useful information. The difference between a helpful computer and a truly useful computer, in my opinion, has always been connectivity. A computer without connectivity is a glorified calculator. So there's a big difference between my Data Bank and my new Band.
But I had one gripe.
My Band was not glancable. When I glanced at my Band, I saw a black screen. I assumed this was a concession that just had to be made because of battery, and I was okay with it, but I was slightly disappointed on a regular basis that I had something on my wrist, but was not able to have a glance and note the time. It was not just disappointing, but somewhat disorienting, since this glancing was a strong habit from the last 8 years with a normal watch.
There was one more caveat to my gripe. I didn't have any way that I could find to see the date. Seeing the current date is a major use case for me. When I sign something at a register, I don't have time to actually think about what the current date is, I like to simply have a quick look at my watch. The Band, however, didn't have this information for me - it was just a black screen.
Sure, I found watch mode in the settings, but immediately made the wrong assumption. I assumed that watch mode was going to keep the screen on full all the time. Intuitively, that would be an unacceptable battery drain, and likely a bit of a distraction. Even if the screen were to remain on all the time, it wouldn't solve the second part of my gripe - information about today's date.
Recently I actually gave watch mode a try and am absolutely thrilled to realize that both of my problems are solved.
Certainly there will be an amperal impact to keeping certain pixels white 24/7, but my intuition tells me it won't be much and my colleague Tobiah Marks tells me he's been using watch mode and still gets at least 1.5 days. I don't have any trouble, as I initially thought, finding time to charge my Band, so this is absolutely fine with me.
Watch mode actually works a bit like the much-loved glance feature on Microsoft's Lumia phones - it blacks the screen and shows the time in white. In the case of the Band, it also shows the date. Now I have the time and date at a glance all the time and that makes me super happy. When I wake the Band up with a power button press, I still see the date on the main screen in place of the steps. In essence, then, watch mode has told my Band that I use my device a bit more like a watch than a fitness band. Which is correct in my case. I'm thrilled to have all of the fitness features, but primarily I want a watch that makes me feel like I'm on the Starship Enterprise.
Beam me up, Cortana.