While the public has seemingly waited with bated breath for every rumor or snippet of news about the Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) Watch, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) has had a wearable on the market since last year.
Though the Microsoft Band has not received anywhere near the hype of Apple Watch, it did sell out over the most recent holiday season, according to GeekWire. It's hard to know whether that's due to the company intentionally limiting supply, or based on actual demand, but it was likely a little of both.
"While we are currently sold out of Bands online, all brick and mortar Microsoft Stores will continue to receive shipments throughout the holiday season. We expect to have additional inventory online in early 2015," the company said in a statement to the technology news website.
That's not a huge shock as the company had used the words "limited quantities" when the Band was introduced heading into the Christmas sales season. Still, whether Band is popular or not, the question here is if it is a worthy rival to Apple's higher-profile wearable.
Both have similar features
While the Band has been pushed more as a fitness tracker than a fully functional personal assistant, it does a lot more than most wearables designed as exercise assistants. Like the Apple Watch, Band allows you to check your email and keep a calendar, and users can even use Cortana in much the same way they would Siri on Apple's product.
Both devices also allow for quick checks of things like text messages or sports scores via glances when you take a quick glance at your wrist. Band and Apple Watch also both have integrated GPS for directions and other map-related functions. and both facilitate taking phone calls when paired with a phone.
Apple's device, however, only works when matched with an iPhone while Microsoft's offers much of its functionality (but not Cortana) when coupled with phones running iOS or Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) operating system.
A question of price
Just looking at the two devices makes it clear Apple has delivered a more elegant design while Microsoft has created a look befitting a high-end sports tracker. The Apple Watch is a watch first and foremost, and some of the higher-end models are meant to replace luxury timepieces.
But, with Band costing only $199 while the Apple Watch starts at $349 for the 38-millimeter "Sport" model and $399 for the 42 mm version, it can be argued Microsoft is offering a better value. Once you move into the higher-priced Apple "Watch" models, which start at $549, and even into the "Edition" offerings, which will set you back at least $10,000, the difference becomes profound. Of course, once someone is willing to shell out thousands of dollars for a watch, he or she is probably looking for more than functionality.
It's about health
While Microsoft Band has been more explicitly marketed as a fitness device, both wearables have impressive capacities to track your health. Apple's product tracks your heartbeat and your movement -- telling the wearer when he or she should get in some more physical activity.
Band does the same thing, and its advertised 48 hours of battery life (though media reports say that can vary based on usage) allow for tracking sleep patterns. Apple Watch, which the company says carries an 18-hour charge, needs to be charged each day, and that limits its functionality in that regard.
Both devices offer an impressive set of fitness apps that not only track progress but suggest workouts and generally help users achieve their fitness goals.
A better value?
Apple Watch is a prettier device that looks like a luxury watch, while Microsoft Band looks like a fancy fitness tracker. If that distinction is important to you, then Apple Watch is the way to go. If, however, you're looking for a wrist-based digital assistant to help you track email, your calendar, and other information, it's hard to ignore how much Band can do for a much lower price,
The major caveat for both wearables is that they must be paired to a smartphone. Apple Watch only works with an iPhone while Band works with other phones but best with a WIndows Phone. If you have a Windows Phone (and less than 3% of people do in the United States) and you're not looking to make a fashion statement then Band is an obvious choice.
Apple Watch looks like an impressive device, but Band offers much of the same functionality in a far cheaper package. Whether that's worth switching phones for remains to be seen, but given the many price points offered for Windows Phone, Microsoft is clearly offering a better value for people looking to buy a phone/wearable package.