Microsoft’s first fitness-friendly golf-tracking Band 2 smart band has a lot going for it, but the name isn’t one of those things.

There are plenty of watches and smart bands out there, and now there’s one more, as Microsoft delivers its second-gen “Band” to Australia.

Now that everyone has a smartphone that also happens to be a fairly capable computer — and if you don’t yet, you will very shortly — wearables are the next big market for companies to take on. We’ve seen them for the past few years, and 2016 looks to be bigger for the wearable computer than ever, as the manufacturers dabble in new technologies and straddle the line between smartwatches used for telling the time and getting notifications, and then fitness wearables aimed at helping you lose weight and understand how you’re doing physically.

There is a middle ground in this area, though, and that is the “smart band”.

This gadget takes much of the technology seen in a smartwatch, including the screen and ability to receive notifications, but wraps it around your wrist in a band, allowing people not really into the whole “watch” thing to have something similar strapped to their body.

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We’ve seen a few of these before, and most of them tend to be specifically for fitness, including the wearables from Jawbone and Fitbit, though Samsung and LG have both dabbled with smart bands featuring OLED screens on them for more than just fitness tracking, and now it seems like Microsoft is doing the same with the “Band 2”.

Now if you’ve visited the Microsoft Store in Sydney since its launch last year, there’s a good chance that this might seem like old news, because in a way, it is.

Officially, Microsoft’s second-generation Band was made available to anyone who walked into that store when it opened back in November, but you had to buy it physically in the store.

Head to another store — a JB HiFi or a Harvey Norman — and that wasn’t going to happen, with Microsoft’s Band 2 only available at the first Microsoft Store outside America.

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Not anymore, though.

This week the Microsoft Band 2 gets in front of more eyes and potentially more wrists as the smart band is rolled out to Harvey Norman, JB HiFi, Rebel Sports, and Microsoft’s online store for Australia.

That’s good news for Microsoft, and good news for customers keen to see a different take on the smart band and even the smartwatch, because the Band 2 kind of fills in the spot of both of them.microsoft-band-2-2016-official-launch-06

 

Arriving in three sizes — small, medium, and large — the Microsoft Band 2 brings a pretty strong assortment of sensors to the smart band arena, with a heart-rate monitor, barometer, accelerometer, GPS, UV sensor, and even galvanic skin response sensors, making it fairly fleshed out.

The last sensors are particularly interesting and are used to measure moisture skin conductivity and moisture, with only one other smart band that we’re aware of in Australia supporting this technology.

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Working together, Microsoft’s Band 2 wearable will be able to tell you how well you’re doing, giving you the basics such as steps, distance, and calorie tracking, while also bringing a heart-rate tracker to the table and ultraviolet sensitivity telling you if you need to slather up and slap some sunscreen on, which in our country is more or less a no-brainer, but it could still be helpful, altogether.

At night, the Microsoft Band 2 can be worn to track sleep, and this information will be tabulated into a score to tell you just how well you’re doing.

You can see how well you’re doing on a phone, tablet, or computer, too, or you can just use the touch AMOLED panel on the Band 2 itself, with a small screen able to tell you what’s going on, and even who has called or if anyone has left a message.

Android and Apple phones are supported for this functionality, and if you have a Windows Phone, you’ll even find support for Microsoft’s search assistant Cortana as well as a small keyboard to send messages back.

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When you’re ready to get back into the exercise thing, you’ll find work-outs can be downloaded to the band helping you to get off your proverbial, while GPS information can be tracked for getting around a run with markers placed every kilometre and speed tracked from slow to fast.

Even individual sports can be tracked, with golfers able to track shots and courses, cyclists able to monitor heart rate over track speed and elevation, and exercise tracking for things like strength training or yoga.

“Microsoft band is really designed for people to take control of their health in a more personalised way,” said Adam Pollington, Product Manager for Microsoft Band in Australia.

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Indeed, Microsoft’s Band 2 looks like a fairly fleshed out fitness tracker and wearable, and its price certainly reflects that, bringing a recommended retail price of $379.99 to Australia store shelves when it arrives later this week.

We’ll definitely say we’re curious about this one, not just because we’re seeing Microsoft’s second attempt, but because the sensors in this device aren’t necessarily what we’d call the template for fitness trackers, which could mean the Band 2 is capable of doing some different things.

Granted, it doesn’t have the best of names, but its feature set does look quite interesting.

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In fact, at the press conference for the Microsoft Band 2, the company suggested that new features would be rolled out to Band 2 owners on a fairly regular basis, telling us that there’s more the wearable can do.

We’re also very curious by the design which is worn screen inwards, something we’re not used to seeing.

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From the looks of things, you could wear it screen outward like a watch, but the UV sensor is on the back and it would probably make more sense to sit on the top of your arm rather than the bottom.

In any case, look for a review of the Microsoft Band 2 soon enough because we’ve already put the wearable on for review, though if you can’t wait, JB HiFi, Harvey Norman, and Rebel Sport are where you’ll find this new gadget from this week.

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