It you are curious about fitness bands, or the whole wearable tech segment, but don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on something you’re not sure about, take a close look at the Xiaomi Mi Band.
Xiaomi is a large Chinese smartphone maker that recently has been expanding its products. This includes a fitness and sleep tracker, the Mi Band.
The Mi Band is gaining a lot of attention due to its low cost. Even if you have to order it online and have it imported, like I did, it still shouldn’t cost much more than $30. This makes it considerably cheaper than any other fitness band, not to mention smartwatches.
What comes in the box is a pill-shaped device, a plain black strap and a charging cable. The instruction piece that came with mine was in a language I couldn’t read, but setup was thankfully straightforward.
The black band that comes with every purchase is far from flashy, but the rubber is comfortable and the clasp is secure. If you want something a little more stylish, replacement bands come in a variety of colours and a couple new styles have just recently been added.
The fitness tracker itself is very unassuming with an aluminum face and a black plastic body. Three LED lights are concealed on the face. No other display is present, so if you want an immediate count of how many steps you’ve taken, you need to open the accompanying app. Basically, you just put it on and forget it.
Before I talk about the app, I want to highlight two big positives.
The first is that the Mi Band is waterproof. This means you can wear it while doing water sports and you never have to take it off to shower.
The second is a big one, and sets it apart from any other wearable on the market today. The Mi Band has an amazing battery. Xiaomi claims the battery life is 30 days between charges. All the reports I’ve read say that is conservative and most can get about a month and a half of use before needing to recharge.
The app, Mi Fit, is available on both the Google Play store and iTunes. If you have a Blackberry, the app can be sideloaded and it does work properly.
After downloading and opening the app, you will need to create a Xiaomi account. It is not optional, and I must say, it’s not the easiest thing to do, but once done you don’t have to worry about it again.
To start, let’s focus on how Xiaomi intended you to use the Mi Band.
Once logged in, you can immediately see your progress. The home screen shows your current amount of steps and how close or far you are from your goal.
A quick tap brings up a more detailed graph, outlining your distance traveled and how many calories burned.
One annoyance is that it only shows the current day and you can’t see your past if you want to compare. EDIT: You can see previous day totals by pressing the button in the upper left.
A swipe to the left shows the info I’m most curious about – sleep data. I am impressed with how accurate this appears to be a shows the amount of deep and light sleep. Another tap reveals more in-depth details.
(Eagle eye readers will notice how bad of a sleeper I am. I’ve always wondered why I wake up tired.)
From either the daytime or nighttime top screen, you can press the settings button at the top right to further customize the device. This is where the fun can really begin.
Here you can edit your profile and set the band as an alarm. This is a neat feature as you can set it to lightly vibrate to gently wake you.
But, the submenu that contains the Mi Band’s most interesting features is “My devices.” Here you can change the LED colour, set which wrist the band is on, and set the Mi Band as a friendly device to unlock your phone.
You can also have the Mi Band vibrate after you receive a call. But, there is no setting to have it vibrate instantly, a 3 second delay is the closest you can get.
Now, if this were all the Mi Band was capable of it would be a fine, cheap fitness tracker. If you already had a fitness band, it likely wouldn’t make you want to switch, but if you are looking for an entry-level device, the Mi Band is a great product.
But, the Mi Band IS capable of more.
Thanks to the Android community and its belief that everything can be made better, a patch has been made to the app that unlocks the Mi Band’s true potential.
What started as a simple translation project, a member of the Xiaomi forum created a tweaked version of the Mi Fit app that turns the Mi Band into a notification tool.
With this version of the app loaded, a new “Notification settings” option is added to the “My devices” menu. From here you can see all of the apps on your phone and select which ones vibrate, how many vibrations, how long, LED colour, number of flashes and the hours you do not want to be disturbed.
As a result, the Mi Band becomes a handy device to wear, since it counts your steps, monitors your sleep and can give you notifications.
To be clear, the Mi Band is NOT a smartwatch. You can not read texts, respond to them, or see other info from your phone on your wrist, but it’s light and comfortable – especially while working out, – it’s waterproof so you never need to take it off, and if you’re in a situation where your phone needs to be silent, you can still know when you’ve received a message.
The bottom line, I highly recommend the Xiaomi Mi Band to anyone looking for a fitness band.
I’ve only had mine for a short time, but I couldn’t be happier. I will update occasionally to let you know if my opinions change as I live with the Mi Band longer.
Tell me what you think about the Xiaomi Mi Band. Are you considering the purchase of a fitness tracker?