Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system has largely missed out on the smartwatch and fitness tracker fun, but with the new Microsoft Band it's finally in the game. And what's more, the Band actually works with more than just Windows-based mobiles: it syncs with your iPhone or Android phone too.
In terms of features, the Microsoft Band covers the field. It has common fitness tracker features like step tracking and more premium features such as GPS and a heart rate monitor. And it also offers features more typically found in smartwatches such as a colour touchscreen, notifications and payments when you're in Starbucks.
If that sounds good to you, then there's more good news: it's available today. That's if you're in the US and you have a spare $199; UK and Australian prices haven't been announced, but the US price converts to around £125 or AU$230.
The plastic band boasts an adjustable strap and a full-colour touchscreen. It's dust- and splash-resistant and powered by two 100mAh rechargeable lithium-ion polymer batteries that give you 48 hours on standby.
Don your running shoes or hop on your bike and the Band uses GPS to record the route you've run, biked, or hiked. There's a stopwatch and lap timer when you're on the track. You can set a target for the number of steps or calories you want to burn through in a day, or follow guided workouts set by experts the likes of Gold's Gym or Men's Health.
Even when you're not working out the Band is looking out for you: it monitors your heart rate 24 hours a day, records how long and how well you sleep and how often you wake, and checks UV levels when you're going out in the sun.
The data collected by the Band is synced up with an online service and app called Microsoft Health -- not to be confused with Apple Health or Samsung's S Health, of course. As well as working on most phones, Microsoft Health plays well with others, linking up with other fitness apps and services including MyFitnessPal, RunKeeper and MapMyFitness.
That's where many fitness bands stop. But because the Microsoft Band syncs with your phone, it can also offer you notifications about new messages, events and social network updates, showing your incoming calls and texts or a short preview of new emails and reminders from your calendar. When you get a new message you can fire back a pre-set response (although that doesn't work if you have an iPhone). There's an alarm too, to wake you up or let you know when it's time for your next appointment.
Or if you prefer to be undisturbed when you're in the zone, turn on the do-not-disturb mode and you won't get any notifications.
When you've finished working out and you're ready to reward yourself with a venti sugarcino, the Band stores your Starbucks card details so you can scan your wrist to pay without reaching for your wallet.
The Band works with Cortana, the voice-controlled Windows Phone personal assistant. As long as you have a Windows 8.1 device in your pocket, you can talk to the Band and dictate notes or set reminders. Cortana also gives you updates on current information like traffic conditions, sports results or the weather.
To use the Microsoft Band and Microsoft Health, you need a Windows Phone device with the 8.1 update, an iPhone running iOS 7.1 or 8, or an Android phone running 4.3 or 4.4. You need Bluetooth to pair the Band with your phone.