Keeping track of your fitness should not be expensive. After all, you’ve probably already spent plenty of dough on new-age foods and exercise equipment to keep you in tip-top shape. So when it comes to simply tracking your day-to-day activity, a welcome thing would be a product which doesn’t cost the earth — a fitness band that’s, say, $13.
The Xiaomi Mi Band is just that. It’s a fitness band and sleep tracker that’s significantly cheaper than the likes of the Jawbone UP3 and other products such as the Withings Activite. The key difference between the Mi Band and other fitness trackers though is that the Mi is very difficult to get ahold of – it’s only on sale in China, where Xiomi sells plenty of them.
But we’ve managed to get ahold of one of these fitness bands. So what’s it like?
Fitness bands aren’t fashion statements – they exist for a purpose; to track one’s activity. But it’s always nice when a company manages to merge practicality with a sleek design, which is what Xiaomi has managed to do in large part with the Mi Band.
There are two parts to this device – a rubber band, and an aluminium pill-like device that slips into it. The rubbers bands are available in a variety of colours, but I got mine in black. The band is a high quality silicone that resists wear and tear and allows you to get it wet. It only serves as a holder for the brains of the device though – an aluminium-magnesium pill that’s packed full of clever technology including an 8mm battery, Bluetooth chip and gravity sensor.
All in, the device weighs just 13g, with 5g of that made up by the pill.
The pill is well protected by the rubber band which encloses it, with only the top aluminium-magnesium side showing. It feels sturdy and as if it’d hold up well to some proper abuse – banging it on the train simply isn’t an issue. On the front of the pill are three LEDs which can show blue, orange, green and red – these can be customised from within the Mi application.
Overall, the Mi Band looks sleek and blends into any style of dress well. It’s also light and well made, and looks like it costs way more than its $13 price tag.
Software and features
While the Mi Band tracks and stores your fitness metrics, you can play around with the Mi application. This application is free to download and available on Android and iTunes. It is through the app that you view your daily activity, with the Mi band tracking:
- Daily distance;
- Daily steps;
- Daily calorie burn;
- Walk distance;
- Walk time;
- Walk calorie burn;
- Run distance;
- Run time;
- Run calorie burn.
I found the Mi Band to be extremely accurate in its daily activity tracking. On an hour’s walk, it accurately tracks steps and it isn’t affected by having your hands in your pockets, which is fantastic because a couple of times I forgot to put on a pair of gloves!
The app also has a number of helpful activity tracking features for the following; jumping rope, sit-ups and running and more sports are on the way, and you can vote for sports from within the app which is a nice touch. The Mi Band also has a handy vibrate function, which can be set up to work as an alarm, to notify you of an incoming call that isn’t answered after 3 seconds and also to find the device if you lose it – although this feature isn’t really effective as the Mi Band doesn’t vibrate particularly hard.
Just as interesting as the daily activity tracking is the sleep tracking feature. By wearing the Mi Band at night, you can discover the following:
- Time in bed;
- Deep sleep time;
- Light sleep time;
- Fell asleep time;
- Woke up at time.
Because I was asleep, it was hard to judge the accuracy of this feature. But, I can confirm that I fell asleep within 20 minutes of what the Mi Band said by looking at my watch. What was alarming was the level of deep sleep I was getting, so I need to sort that out – thanks Xiaomi. The sleep mode automatically turns off once you start to move in a way that the Mi Band sees as being awake and out of bed.
All of these features can be tracked in real-time by leaving Bluetooth turned on and your smartphone and Mi Band synced. Or, you can turn Bluetooth off on your phone and simply sync the latest data when you feel like it – it’s a painless process overall.
One feature that is not so good is the gesture for seeing your daily goal – you essentially raise the arm that’s wearing your Mi Band as if you were looking at a watch, but this feature rarely works – unless you get the gesture spot on. It would have been better to be able to doube tap the Xiaomi Mi Band for this. Get the gesture right, and the three LEDs will light up to give you a visual indicator of how far you are to reaching your daily goal.
For me, battery life is a key consideration for any kind of wearable technology. The Mi Band has a 41mAh lithium-ion battery with a Xiaomi-rated stand-by time of 30 days. I found this to be entirely accurate; I received my Mi Band on the 24th November and I didn’t put it back on charge until the 25th December – and even then, there was 7% battery left.
Battery life therefore is not an issue – in fact, it’s excellent. You can check the battery life of the Mi Band at any time by accessing the app and going into Settings > Devices. The battery is charged through a USB cable with a unique end that lets you slide the pill into it. It charges to 100% in around one hour from a wall socket.
The Xiaomi Mi Band costs RMB 79 in China, which translates to $13 USD and £8.50 GBP (as of 14/01/15).
But that’s not the price people in the US and UK can expect because there are shipping fees and other extra costs. You can expect to pay around $35 or £28 to get one shipped over from China.
The Xiaomi Mi band is everything an activity and sleep tracker should be. It’s feature-packed, the application is intuitive and well-designed and the battery life is excellent. The band is also comfortable to wear and water resistant, so doing the washing up or showering with it on shouldn’t be a concern. The only improvement that could be made is the gesture for seeing your daily goal – but overall, there’s little not to love about this plucky little wearable.