The Xiaomi Mi Band allows you to do enough for a wearable that costs Rs. 999. It isn't enough for a fitness freak or others who are serious about health though. What it may do is push you to buy other wearable devices, which cost about five times as much as the Mi Band.
The much talked about Xiaomi Mi Band is finally in India and it takes the right step in an area where everyone else has failed, the price. But first, let’s take a look back at the market for a second. Mobile companies have more or less turned their attention towards the mid and budget range segments, and by extension, the Tier II and Tier III cities. The push is towards getting the next billion users. But what does the Tier I segment do then? They still need something to spend their money on, right? That next gadget to flaunt, or better, ‘use’ to its fullest?
Enter wearables. There’s a budding market, filled with smartbands and smartwatches, little wearable gadgets that track your every move. From walking, to running, to sleeping, these gadgets are on your person all the time, much like your phone. What they’re missing is the affordable price tag.
Apple created a smartphone market like no other, but it was companies like Samsung that really pushed the Indian market into the smartphone revolution. The key aspect here has always been the price, we may be buying a lot of iPhones and Galaxy S6s now, but we started with a lowly Galaxy Young (yes, that phone that you’ve never even heard of).
Coming back to the point, the Xiaomi Mi Band, with its Rs. 999 price tag does what no other wearable does. Have you read our Moto 360 review? We liked that smartwatch, but let’s face it, the average consumer is not going to spend that kind of money on buying a smartwatch or fitness band right now. Wearables right now stand at a place where many of us want to try them, but we’re unwilling to spend big money to do so. See what I’m getting at?
And hence, that leads me to this Xiaomi Mi Band review.
The Band: Simple and well built
The Mi Band is made up of two units, the dongle and a rubber strap. The dongle is the real gadget, which houses the accelerometer and Bluetooth chip (for pairing). It fits into the rubber strap to form the complete band unit. Xiaomi also offers this strap in a bunch of styles and colours, allowing you to customise your Mi Band.
What I really like about this inexpensive little device is that it’s unintrusive. Once I put it on, about two weeks ago, I didn’t really remember that it was on my wrist. I didn't feel any weight and it didn't intrude on my day to day activities, except maybe a little while I’m sleeping. I like to sleep with my hands underneath my head and the band on my wrist got in the way of that.
The dongle has three lights on it, which show you how much of your daily goal (number of steps taken) you’ve achieved. The lights can be triggered using the ‘look at your watch’ motion, but it barely ever works. To be more precise, you have to be standing up, with your arm on your side. You have to then raise your arm as if you’re looking at your watch and then the lights come on. While shooting the Xiaomi Mi Band review video, we had to do this about 15 times to get a usable shot.
Overall though, the Mi Band is well made and doesn’t look like a cheap device. On the contrary, it looks quite nice and simple and more than fits its price tag. It is also IP67 certified, which means you can go for a swim or take a shower wearing the band. It will feel a little uncomfortable right after the shower, but the water should evaporate soon enough, especially during summers.
The App: Work in progress
My problems with the Mi Band are mainly with its app, or Mi Fit as Xiaomi calls it. The brain of the Mi Band is on your smartphone. Whatever data it records, it shows you through the app, which means the app is just as important as the band itself, even more so, since the band doesn’t have a display of its own.
The Mi Fit app seems to be too much of a work in progress right now. I’ve been using this app for a good two weeks now and I’ve been able to share my progress on social media once, thanks to the fact that the app crashes every time I try to share my progress. I’ve tried it on a myriad number of phones, but it seems to be a bug that Xiaomi needs to fix.
In addition, the Mi Band can notify you about activities on your phone as well. Unfortunately, this part of the Mi Fit app also doesn’t work. There’s a tweaked apk that you can download from the XDA or MiUI forums, but even then, the notifications don’t seem to work with all phones. It worked fine with my Moto X (1st Gen), but didn’t with my Moto Turbo. Yes, you have to go into your Security settings and allow the app to access notifications, but it still doesn’t seem to work.
The good news is that the Mi Fit app is available on both Android and iOS devices, which makes the Mi Band compatible with both Android and iPhones.
Features: Enough for a Rs. 999 smartband, not enough for fitness freaks
The Mi Band and Mi Fit app together comprise the Mi Band’s full functionality. This includes an alarm feature, which I really like. The Mi Band allows you to set an alarm through the app. You can then turn on the ‘Early Bird’ alarm feature. This will result in the band vibrating half an hour before the time you’ve chosen to wake up. The idea is to wake you up gradually and ensure that you feel fresh when the alarm is actually supposed to go off.
You can also go into the app manually to turn on the Jumping Rope and Sit Ups features. Their usage is pretty self explanatory. Further, the My Devices option in the Mi Fit app will allow you to change the colour of the lights on your Mi Band. You can also turn on the screen unlock option through this, which allows your phone to remain unlocked when the Mi Band is paired to it.
Overall though, there are two basic functions that the Mi Band allows, tracking the number of steps you’ve taken and tracking your sleep patterns. Even better is the fact that it is largely accurate. The Mi Band can go off by about 500 steps at best, which happened to me when using the official Mi Fit app. I also woke up each day with about 250-300 extra steps.
Battery: Lots of juice in this baby!
The Mi Band also redeems itself in the battery department. While the Mi Fit app conveniently shows that I’ve charged the band 55 days ago, while I’ve been using it for merely two weeks (yes I charged it completely before using it), the battery does last. I haven’t charged the Band yet and it has dropped only to 71% at the time of writing this review.
It is safe to say that the battery lasts for at least a month and a half.
Going back to the beginning, the Xiaomi Mi Band gets that one key area right, which is the price. At Rs. 999, this is the perfect entry level smartband for those looking to try out a wearable device. It gives you a feel of what other devices can do, and going by Xiaomi’s history, we wouldn’t be surprised if more features were added to the band in the future. For now, the Mi Band is not something a fitness and health freak would want to buy. It is a basic smartband, or rather, the basic smartband, which can give the user the push required to buy wearables. Once you buy it though, you may want to move on to the bigger and better stuff, which cost about five times as much.
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