Microsoft Band 2 now available Australia-wide through Harvey Norman, JB Hi-FI and Rebel Sports

Microsoft's second take on a fitness tracker – the Microsoft Band 2 – is now available Australia-wide through Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi, Rebel Sports, and Microsoft’s online store at a recommended retail price of AUD$379.

While the Band 2 went on sale locally at the beginning of November, it was only sold through Microsoft’s Sydney based-flagship store.

Microsoft Australia Wearables Category Lead Adam Pollington says the Band realises Microsoft's vision to make computing more personal.

"The Microsoft Band is really designed for people to take control of their health in a more personalised way," said Pollington. "I like to think of the Microsoft Band as a personal trainer and a personal assistant on my wrist."

The Band 2's claim to fame is the 11 sensors it boasts under the hood. These include an optical heart rate sensor, three-axis accelerometer, gyrometer, GPS, ambient light sensor, skin temperature sensor, UV sensor, capacitive sensor, galvanic skin response sensor, microphone, and a barometer.

Through the use of these, the Band 2 is said to provide a holistic approach to fitness tracking. In addition to traditional fitness tracking features such as step and calorie counting, the Band 2 can log runs, bike rides, games of golf, and workouts. When used with the companion app, metrics such as duration, average heart rate, ending heart rate, peak heart rate, UV exposure, and cardio benefit are all available to the user.

In addition, the Band 2 is able to separate calories burned into fats and carbohydrates, and provide a suggested recovery time in between workouts. 

Band 2 users are able to build their own workouts, as well as download guided workouts designed by experts.

When it comes to sleep tracking, the Band 2 measures whether a user is sleeping heavily or lightly. It can use this information to judge quality of sleep, and for a silent smart alarm, which picks an optimal time (up to 30 minutes prior to the alarm a user sets) to wake its owner, based on where they are in their sleep cycle.

After a user spends some time with the Band, it will provide a "VO2 max" measurement, a metric that tracks the body's capacity to transport and use oxygen. This is said to be the most precise measurement of one's overall fitness.

While the Band 2 is rated IP67 for water and dust resistance, it is not waterproof. As such, it is unable to track swimming, or any other underwater activity.

Pollington says the Band is best referred to as a "smart band", rather than a fitness tracker or smartwatch.

"[The Band 2 is] first and foremost a health device," said Pollington, "but it's pulling across a lot of features that you'd traditionally see in a smartwatch."

The Band 2 can show email previews, calendar notifications, text messages, and be used to control music playback on its paired device. Windows Phone owners can also use the Band 2 to summon Cortana and reply to text messages. For those without Windows Phones, the Band 2 can also pair with iOS and Android devices, and works with both Windows and OS X.

Much like with Windows 10, Microsoft has committed to adding new features to the Band 2 regularly via the Microsoft Health companion app. Music playback controls is one of the new features that the company added recently.

Looking forward, Microsoft's goal for the Band 2 and the Microsoft Health platform is to provide users with a greater level of analysis, ultimately to the point where it becomes a proactive product.

Initially, Microsoft hopes the Band 2 will be able to answer questions such as "do I run faster when I eat breakfast" or "how well do I run when I have a busy work week?". Going further into the future, this could go as far as being able to predict whether a user is getting sick, based on changes in their fitness metrics.

Microsoft says the Band 2's battery should last two days between charges, but this will vary depending how much a user relies on features such as GPS. A 30-minute charge is said to bring the Band 2 back up to 75% capacity, and a further hour will top it up completely.

The Microsoft Band 2 is available in three sizes: small, medium, and large. A small is designed for wrists with a circumference between 143mm and 168mm, medium for wrists between 162mm and 188mm, and large for wrists between 180mm and 206mm.

If a customer's wrist circumference is on the threshold between two sizes, Microsoft advises purchasing for the larger option, for a more comfortable fit.   

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