Reviews

Xiaomi Mi Band review

January 25, 2015
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The Xiaomi Mi Band. Front and back view.

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.

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The Mi Band tracker unit is removable.

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.

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The thermoplastic elastomer band stretches to fit the Mi Band tracker and holds it tightly.

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.

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The Mi Band is discreet and multi-functional.

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.

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One of 3 indicator lights. I set it to blue colour as the other colours look a tad washed out.

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.

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The “MI” logo is prominent at the back of the Mi Band tracker unit.

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.

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Charging nodes on the Mi Band tracker.

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.

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Sign up for a Xiaomi account.

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.

Activity tracking

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Mi Band activity tracking screen.

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.

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The Mi Band tracks sit ups and skipping rope reps.

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.

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You can access the daily, weekly and monthly activity stats from the Mi Band app.

 Sleep tracking

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Sleep tracking is automatic and the Mi Band further breaks it down to light and deep sleep.

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. 😛

Vibrating alarms

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The Xiaomi Mi Band is heavily customisable.

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.

Smart Unlock

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.

ANYTHING ELSE?

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.

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You can share your achievements easily.

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

Pros:

  • Tracks steps, distance, calories burned, activities
  • Auto sleep detection
  • Vibration enabled for incoming calls, alarms, notifications, find my phone
  • Customisable indicator light colour
  • IP67
  • Excellent battery life
  • Wireless syncing via Bluetooth 4.0
  • Smart unlock
  • Value for money
  • Compatible with Google Fit

Cons:

  • 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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2 Comments

  • Reply Daisa July 9, 2016 at 9:46 am

    I am looking for a product that will do the following:

    A. I indicate that I am starting a run. I input the minimum and maximum minutes and seconds per mile that I want to run. As I run, if my CURRENT speed or my OVERALL speed (since I began) is outside of that range, it will tell me. Ideally, it will be by a sound. Second best is that I have to look at it.

    B. It is self-contained. I don’t need to own or carry anything else.

    C. After I finish the run, I can also use any PC to display a graph of my speed at each point in time during the run.

    D. Ideally, I can also print a map of my path.

    Please let me know:

    E. How does it know how far I have run?

    F. The cost of the product.

    G. The monthly cost and commitment of using it.

    H. What national (United States) retail chain stores sell it?

    I. What United States web sites sell and ship it?

    J. What other functions does it perform?

    • Reply Michael S July 9, 2016 at 12:29 pm

      Hey there Daisa,

      You’ve posed some really specific questions! Alright I’ll try to answer the the best of my knowledge.

      A. I indicate that I am starting a run. I input the minimum and maximum minutes and seconds per mile that I want to run. As I run, if my CURRENT speed or my OVERALL speed (since I began) is outside of that range, it will tell me. Ideally, it will be by a sound. Second best is that I have to look at it.

      Most higher end GPS watches worth its salt are capable of doing what you asked for. Off the top of my head, 3 recent devices come to mind; Garmin Forerunner 235 and Garmin Forerunner 735XT. I’m listing both because both devices have wrist based heart rate monitoring as well. The third device is the Forerunner 230 which functions like the Forerunner 235 but without wrist based heart rate measurements. You have to invest in a HR belt for that.

      You can set pace alerts on both devices and have them go off once you fall out of the set range in terms of minutes per mile or minutes per km only.

      Both devices are audio (beeping only) and vibration enabled. And you can also see the stats on the screen. I suggest you read both reviews which are on this website.

      B. It is self-contained. I don’t need to own or carry anything else.

      Yep, it’s the the GPS watch and you.

      C. After I finish the run, I can also use any PC to display a graph of my speed at each point in time during the run.
      Not an issue for both watches

      D. Ideally, I can also print a map of my path.
      Garmin’s web platform allows you to print the training summary which include the map of your run. But it doesn’t always work. Your best best would be to screen grab the map and then print it.

      Please let me know:

      E. How does it know how far I have run?
      Of course! it’s both GPS and GLONASS enabled so your running route would be plotted on a map.

      F. The cost of the product.
      $249.99 (FR230) $329.99 USD (FR235) and $449.99 USD (FR735XT)

      G. The monthly cost and commitment of using it.
      Monthly cost is zero.
      H. What national (United States) retail chain stores sell it?
      Most respectable brick and mortar shops should carry it. You can use this link from Garmin.com to find a dealer near your place.
      https://www.garmin.com/en-US/dealerlocator

      I. What United States web sites sell and ship it?
      Plenty. Amazon, Best Buy and even Garmin.com
      J. What other functions does it perform?
      It’s an all day activity tracker that records your step, calories burnt, distance. It also has smart notifications and various training features. Again I encourage you to check out all 3 reviews on this site.

      Hope that helps!
      Michael S

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