Why I Really Like my Microsoft Band

I don’t usually write about tech here on GoFatherhood since I have AskDaveTaylor to cover all my tech and gadget needs, but as a father one of the things I am constantly trying to balance is my love affair with technology and devices and my desire to not just model good behavior in terms of device/life balance, but also pay attention to my children when I’m with them too.

If you’re more familiar with the top of your teen’s head than you are with their face and if you can’t actually remember their eye color, well, you know exactly what I mean.

Sure we can do that classic parenting thing of just lecture, telling them “get your face out of your darn phone” or “enough with the screens already!” or similar. I do that too. And ya know what? It’s completely ineffective.

One of the greatest frustrations in parenting turns out to be that the little buggers pay a lot more attention to what we parents do than what we say. If you’re always telling them to be charitable and you never spare a dime for a favorite charity, if you’re lecturing your children on why it’s important to be open minded and embrace diversity but your friends are all just like you in race, socio-economic status, political and religious beliefs and gender orientation, well, do you think they’re going to be open minded or just like dear old dad (and mom)?

That’s where this tech thing is a huge problem, because I really enjoy the social media world, email, text messages, news updates (BBC! CNN! USA TODAY!) and so much more that I have access to on a minute-by-minute basis.

And so I consciously do my very best to put the darn phone away when I’m with friends and family, or at least flip the screen down so it’s there and I can glance at it — what I’ll be doing if you need to visit the bathroom while we’re having lunch together! — but it’s not constantly drawing my attention to it like moths to the proverbial flame. I know how annoying that can be because a dear friend of mine refuses to ever put her phone away and when we’re talking, playing games or enjoying a movie together, it’s never not annoying to have her screen keep lighting up and her using it.

Enter the Microsoft Band. For $199 it’s less functional than an Apple Watch, but at a much lower pricetag. It’s really a notifications device, but it really is a smart band that constantly shows the time and has a raft of smart apps for sports monitoring (steps and calories burned), health monitoring (constantly measuring heart rate and can measure sleep quality and time), weather, and oodles of notifications from a paired smart phone.

And here’s the really cool thing: it can pair with an iPhone or Android phone, not just a Microsoft Windows Phone. Very smart, Microsoft. And the iPhone app is splendid, btw.

Here’s what it looks like on my wrist:

my microsoft band

You can see that there are two buttons on the underside of the unit. That’s it. The entire interface other than the fact that the screen is touch-sensitive, so a swipe reveals other apps, text messages, email, etc.

How does this fit in with my discussion of trying to model a healthy balance of tech/life? Because with the Microsoft Band iPhone app, it’s simplicity itself to configure it to show you some notifications (text messages) but not others (friends posting something on Facebook, a like you received on Instagram). With its silent “haptic” vibration feedback, I know when something’s happened in my digital world but can decide whether I want to glance at it or not.

Balance.

The notifications are there without the annoyance of my phone sitting on the table telling everyone else that something’s happened — and I have it set to display every possible notification I might receive, since I’ve disabled almost all notifications on my computer — so I can make the decision, minute by minute, whether it’s something that should draw even a brief second or two of my attention away from the other person.

And the cool thing is that the Microsoft Band really is fun and useful, with lots of apps and a rich set of configuration options (including color and wallpaper). Heck, I can even pay for my Starbucks purchases directly from the Band by having the barista scan the barcode that shows up on the wrist when I tap the Starbucks logo.

Just because I think the image is super cool, here’s a exploded view of its components:

microsoft band exploded view

Suffice to say, it’s a darn complex device.

Since it looks like a watch, if I don’t look at it much at all, I get the benefit of knowing I’ll be alerted to critical things, like a text message from one of my children that they need to be picked up or are in a bind, without me sending the subtle message to my friends and companions that they really aren’t quite as important as my device and the people who are on the other end of the device.

Turning everything off and walking away from everything would be better, but I’m not quite ready to do that, nor should I. But modeling balance to my children, demonstrating how I stay sufficiently connected to make sure they’re safe and nothing critical is happening, while still minimizing the interruption is a win in my book.

And the Microsoft Band? I recommend it. It’s pretty sick, as my son would say.

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