Posey's Tips & Tricks

Wearable Technology: How Practical Is It?

Brien takes a spin with Microsoft Band smartwatch.

Lately I keep hearing people saying that wearables are the next big thing in technology. The consumer space is completely saturated with tablets and smartphones, so wearables will be the next must-have thing. At least that's the theory that is being repeatedly presented. That being the case, I decided to try out a wearable for myself to find out how practical it really is for day-to-day use.

I have to admit that going in, I was more than a little skeptical about wearable technology. There are two reasons for this. First, look at the track record for wearables. Google Glass has gotten something of a reputation. Rather than upsetting the lawyers at Google, I will simply let this rather amusing review  speak for itself.

Then of course there are smartwatches such as the Apple watch and Fitbit. I perceived smartwatches as being more practical than Google Glass, but of limited use. After all, there is only so much tech that you can cram into a wrist watch.

The other reason why I was initially so skeptical about wearable tech was because when it comes to accessorizing, I have always been a minimalist. Sure, I hardly ever leave the house without my Windows Phone, but that's not what I mean. I am the type who never wears any jewelry or accessories. I never wear a watch except on days when I have to catch a flight. I haven't even worn my wedding ring in at least 18 years even though I love my wife dearly. In other words, I just couldn't picture myself actually wearing a wearable with any sort of regularity.

As you might have heard, Microsoft recently released their own smartwatch -- the Microsoft Band. Oddly enough, I have yet to see a single advertisement for the Band, but I digress. Being that I write about Microsoft stuff for a living, I decided to go ahead and try out the Band, which is designed to work with iPhone, Android, and Windows.

When my new Band first showed up in the mail, I was immediately concerned about the screen. For one thing, the screen was oriented so that the text was perpendicular to my wrist. I feared that reading the screen would be awkward. My other concern was that I might not be able to read the screen at all. My vision isn't the best and the screen was only 1.2 inches by 0.4 inches in size.  Even so, Microsoft has crammed almost 34,000 pixels into the space. The result was a display that is bright, crisp and really easy to read (especially if you use the orange background).

OK, so what about the practicality of using the Band for day-to-day use? In my case, the first day or two felt really awkward. I wasn't used to having something on my wrist, plus there was a little bit of a learning curve involved in learning the device's various nuances.

By the third day I found that I really liked the Band. There were several reasons for this. For starters, the Band tracks steps taken, calories burned, hours slept, and overall progress toward achieving your fitness goals. I try to take care of myself and I like that the Band helps to keep me accountable.

The main reason why I like the Band, however, has nothing to do with fitness. Every time that I get a text or an e-mail message, the Band vibrates and then the screen turns on for a few seconds to display the message. While this might initially seem trivial, it has made my life easier.

I get about a zillion messages a day and I find myself constantly checking my phone in case there are important e-mail messages that I need to respond to. Now I don't have to do that. My Band keeps me in tune with what's going on and I no longer have to whip out my phone every few minutes. I'm sure that my wife and my friends probably appreciate that too.

As much as I like the Band, I still can't get used to having to charge up my watch. The battery lasts for roughly about two days, but it's easy to forget to charge it. It seems odd to me that the Band is designed for 24 hour use (it tracks your quality of sleep), but you have to take off the Band to charge it. To Microsoft's credit, the band charges in less than an hour and a half. Still, I usually let mine charge overnight.

The other thing that I have noticed is that I tend to take the Band off a lot. Although the Band seems quite durable, I am somewhat paranoid about accidentally destroying it. This fear isn't completely unfounded. I have lost count of the number of electronic devices that I have accidentally destroyed. Even so, I find myself taking off the Band on a regular basis. For instance, yesterday I removed it while I was cleaning my gutters.

All in all, I think that the Band is a real winner. It has made me more productive and I think that Microsoft was smart to make it cross-platform compatible. However, I am still baffled as to why Microsoft does not seem to be advertising the Band.


About the Author

Brien Posey is a 22-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.


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