Microsoft Band 2. Image source: Microsoft.

While Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) was late to the mobile game, it is decidedly not letting the same thing happen in wearables. The software giant was prompt with getting in the wearables game by launching Microsoft Band last year, and the company just refreshed the wearable fitness tracker earlier this week with a new Microsoft Band 2.

The new model addresses some legitimate criticisms about the first-generation model. With Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) quickly becoming a dominant player in the wearables market with Apple Watch, the Mac maker will inevitably become a sort of baseline. Like it or not, all wearables makers will be judged by the standards that Apple sets.

How does Microsoft Band 2 stack up compared to Apple Watch?

A tale of two wearable devices
As far as comparing the technical specs of the two devices, here's a breakdown of some of the more pertinent categories.

Technical Specification

Microsoft Band 2

Apple Watch


320 x 128

272 x 340 (38mm) or 312 x 390 (42mm)

Display type




Optical heart rate sensor

3-axis accelerometer/gyro



Ambient light sensor

Skin temperature sensor

UV sensor

Capacitive sensor

Galvanic skin response


Heart rate sensor

3-axis accelerometer


Ambient light sensor

Battery life

48 hours of normal use

18 hours of normal use

Water resistance



Virtual assistant



Operating system compatibility

Windows Phone, iOS, Android


Health data tracking

Microsoft Health

Apple Health

Sources: Microsoft, Apple.

Band 2 has a few advantages over Apple Watch, most notably better battery life and a greater array of sensors. By adding a curved display, Band 2 also addresses one of the weaknesses of the first-generation model, since that model's flat display made the device sit awkwardly on the wrist.

Apple Watch. Image source: Apple.

There is a pretty wide gap in terms of pricing, though. Microsoft Band 2 is priced at $250, while Apple Watch pricing starts at $350 and quickly climbs much, much higher. This is due to Apple's positioning of Apple Watch as a luxury fashion accessory as well, which it hopes will grant it greater pricing power than the competition. Since Apple won't disclose specifics about Apple Watch financial results, it's hard to know how successful this strategy has been in terms of average selling prices.

To be smart, or to not be smart
Microsoft and Apple are tackling the wearables market from different angles. Microsoft Band 2 is positioned more as a smart fitness tracking band, while Apple Watch is more of a smartwatch that also tracks fitness. It's a subtle distinction, and the line continues to blur more and more every day.

Just ask Fitbit (NYSE:FIT), which is trying to move upmarket into smartwatch territory by adding more and more features in order to increase prices and bolster engagement.

Technically speaking, market researcher IDC considers the main distinction of a "smart" wearable the ability to run third-party applications. IDC estimated that Apple Watch comprised two-thirds of all smart wearables shipped in the second quarter, and believes that smart wearables will continue to grow share over basic wearables (devices that don't run third-party applications).

Band 2 and Apple Watch both run third-party applications, so they both qualify as smart wearables, but Microsoft is still definitely trying to undercut Apple on price. Considering Microsoft's recent emergence as a legitimate hardware company, the Redmond giant should not be underestimated.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.