On July 2014, Lei Jun first introduced the Xiaomi Mi Band at its press conference. The crowd was astounded at the humble price tag to the tune of $13. Unfortunately the Mi Band was a unicorn in the wild, a tracker seldom seen and rarely heard of as it only worked with Xiaomi phones.
It was only in November the same year that the official Mi Band Android app was released. I was one of the eager followers who got my hands on a Mi Band shortly after it was announced and never got to actually try it until late last year. Read on for more.
LOOK AND FEEL
The packaging is simple and clean. You’ll find a charging cable, the Xiaomi Mi Band tracker unit and the wristband with a set up manual. The video should give you a good idea of what you’ll see within the box.
The Xiaomi Mi Band is a pellet sized tracker that is slotted into a thermoplastics elastomer wristband that suspiciously resembles the one on Misfit Shine. Then again, Misfit did raise $40 million from Xiaomi and others last year.
There are no controls nor buttons. 3 indicator lights, which can be customised to the colour of your preference, does the sole job of highlighting your progress en route to your goal.
When the Mi Band was announced, there were news and press shots of accompanying accessories but you’ll probably see the black band version sold more often than not.
The 3 indicator lights show the progress towards days’ goals. 1 light is about 33%. Once you reach your goals, the Mi Band would vibrate and a mini-LED light show of sorts will come on. Nothing fancy but you’ll definitely know you’ve reached your goals.
It takes practice to get the indicator lights to come on. The trick is to raise up the band as if you’re looking at your watch and hold for a second or two. I would have appreciated perhaps tapping on the tracker to check the progress but at $13, it’s forgivable.
The charging port is powered by a USB end and charging from flat to full takes about an hour or so.
FUNCTIONS AND DATA PRESENTATION
The Xiaomi Mi Band was paired with a LG Nexus 5 running Android Lollipop for this review. The iOS app is also available.
In order to pair the Mi Band, you’ll need a Xiaomi account. Setting up is straightforward. You set your gender, birthday, height and weight.
Like all other activity trackers, the Xiaomi Mi Band tracks steps but further categorises it into steps clocked while walking and steps clocked while running. The same goes for distance traveled and calories burned. This feature is similar to that of the Withings Pulse where running is auto-detected.
I personally found the step count to be on the high side. Nonetheless, it gave me a gauge of activity levels and also the occasional run I do.
The Mi Band also has a unique feature of tracking the users skipping rope activity and sit ups. And it’s pretty accurate! The feature is still a bit unstable as it often cause the Mi Band app to close at the end of rope skipping or sit up tracking. There’s an option for users to vote for more exercises like football, volleyball riding and so on.
Automatic sleep tracking has become the de rigueur of high end fitness tracking bands. And I was extremely impressed to see this feature on the lowly priced Mi Band. And i would like to add that sleep tracking duration is pretty spot on. There were days when I removed the band after waking up and forget to put it on again, the Mi Band continued to track me as sleeping, for close to 18 hours. 😛
The Xiaomi Mi Band is vibration enabled so users can set vibrating alarms to wake up to. A shake of the wrist band stops the alarm. I was blown away really.
Find my band
There’s also a “find my band” feature which when activated, causes the Xiaomi Mi Band to vibrate which might help somewhat if it’s tucked beneath the bag of in between cushions. You’re out of luck if it’s beyond the connection range of your smartphone.
Incoming caller alert
The other feature normally found only in high end fitness trackers or pseudo smart watches is the incoming caller alert. Whenever a call comes in, the Mi Band can be set to vibrate so there’s no missing of important calls. Though it is stated in the app that notifications from smartphones will also cause the Mi Band to vibrate, I haven’s had any success with this feature even though I’m running stock Android.
The arrival of Android Lollipop has enabled a feature called “Smart Unlock” that allows the smartphone to unlock as long as its within vicinity of a designated and paired Bluetooth device. I was able to test this feature and it worked most of the time.
The battery life is a unbelievable 30 days. I’ve been running the band for close to a month and it’s not far off. The Mi Band is also IP 67 rated so showers and shallow swims up to 1m should pose no issues. I’m not sure what other forms of testing Xiaomi put the Mi Band through but it’s been advertised to work from -20 to 70 degrees celcius, drop tested from 1.2m and corrosion tested with petroleum jelly.
Unfortunately there’s no adding of friends who also own the Mi Band. That feature would have made the Xiaomi tracker the one to rule them all. You can still share your achievements on multiple sharing platforms within the Mi Band app.
IN A NUTSHELL
- Tracks steps, distance, calories burned, activities
- Auto sleep detection
- Vibration enabled for incoming calls, alarms, notifications, find my phone
- Customisable indicator light colour
- Excellent battery life
- Wireless syncing via Bluetooth 4.0
- Smart unlock
- Value for money
- Compatible with Google Fit
- No friends addition platform
If you only have $13 to spend on a tracker, buy the Mi Band. Nothing comes close, not even second close. It is chocked full with features usually seen only in high end fitness trackers upwards of $100. Xiaomi has certainly set the bar sky-high with the Mi Band. If you can get your hands on one. Do check device and OS compatibility.
The Mi Band costs about $13 USD depending on where you buy it. The Singapore Xiaomi site is selling the Mi Band for $19.99 SGD. That is cheap, way cheaper than when the Misfit Flash went for half price during the holiday seasons. To put in perspective, a Jawbone UP24 will buy you the equivalent of 10 Mi Bands or thereabouts.
The Xiaomi shop is retailing it for $14.99 USD as of publication. An update in April allows data from Xiaomi Mi Band to be shared with Google Fit.
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