Xiaomi Mi Band
Mi Band – a fortnight later

Mi Band – a fortnight later

In the past year or so, Xiaomi has shaken up the ‘gadget world’ by introducing a range of products at very reasonable prices. Add the Mi Band and Mi 16000 mAh power bank to the list.

Even though both were available towards mid to end of 2014, they weren’t being sold in India. Add to that the ‘flash sale on select sites’ theory where stuff typically gets sold out in seconds. Earlier this month, there was an announcement that both these products could be bought off the Mi site, starting 09-Jun-15, 2 pm onwards. I wasn’t too optimistic of snagging ‘em but at 2 pm sharp, I was thrilled to see both products shown as available before realising I hadn’t even created a Mi user account :p Managed to quickly do so, add both products to the cart, and make the payment. Right, so its been a fortnight since then, and overall it has been a decent experience.

At Rs. 999, the Mi Band is among the cheapest (wearable) activity trackers around, besides apps on your smartphone. It is a basic and simple looking band with no display. The unit itself is a polycarbonate body with 3 LEDs on it, and shaped like a capsule. It has a couple of charging points at the end, which slip into the shell in the charger which accompanies it.

Once fully charged, it needs to be inserted in the casing of the band, which is available in multiple colours, for Rs.199, though some colours are often out of stock. Putting the capsule in and removing it takes a bit of effort, which is cool since there’s no worry of it accidentally coming off. Along with an accelerometer, there’s a Bluetooth 4.0 chip and a 41 mAh Lithium-Polymer battery. The more advanced trackers have additional sensors, like an altimeter (to measure inclines, stairs etc), blood flow sensor (to measure heart rate), perspiration sensor (to gauge workout intensity) and so on.

The hypoallergenic silicone band (made of TPSiV – a thermoplastic elastomer, suitable for sensitive skin) is comfortable to wear and has enough slots to accommodate even the thickest of wrists. I wear a watch on my left wrist when I’m outdoors, so I’ve taken to wearing the Mi Band on my right wrist.

Mi Band

Someone had shared  a picture of his wrist getting a rash due to the band. I’ve worn it throughout since purchase except when having a bath (although it can be worn even then thanks to the IP67 water-resistant certification) and haven’t experienced any rash/itch/irritation on the skin; in fact, I don’t even ‘feel’ I’m wearing a band.

It has been subjected to slight rain and the usual chafing while writing or typing on the laptop. Not much of visible wear and tear so far, or maybe it’s because I’m using the black one. Bands with lighter colours could get / look soiled quicker. I do recall there being a skin rash related issue with the Fitbit Force a year ago though.

As the Mi Band has no controls or display, it is managed entirely via the Mi Fit app and syncs via Bluetooth. Pairing the device took a few tries more than expected, as did completion of sign up on the app. Once that was out of the way, things were pretty smooth. The device and app are compatible with smartphones supporting Bluetooth 4.0, running Android 4.4 and above, or iOS 7.0 and above; the app is available for download on the Play Store and the App Store.

The sign up process requires adding date of birth, height, weight and gender, along with a suggested ‘target’ number of steps per day, based on that data. When you complete 1/3rd of that target, a single LED lights up and so on till you achieve the target for the day.

Mi Band
Mi Band

Within the app, you can access information on how many steps you’ve walked/run, as well as your sleep patterns. Based on your height, weight and activity level, it shows how many calories were burnt – not very accurately though. The sleep tracker measures your total sleep time as well as how much of that duration was light or deep sleep, when you went to bed, when you woke up. The information can be viewed as a daily/weekly/monthly summary too.

The app also has other settings through which you can set alarms, vibrate on incoming calls, unlock your phone, sync with Google Fit – I haven’t tried any of these features yet, except the alarm. Sharing to social media is enabled for those who want to.

Mi Band

It is not without some quirks though. Since it is worn on the wrist, there are times when excessive hand movements/gestures could be recorded as a walk/steps although I’ve not seen too much of that. It also doesn’t seem to track afternoon naps; only sleep during the night is tracked. If I decide to move to another app or band or even if I want to feed in the data elsewhere, there’s no way to export information from this app. However, unlike another friend, I didn’t see car rides being counted as steps, so that’s good.

It was otherwise interesting to see the variations in data captured by the Mi Band, Google Fit and apps like Runkeeper or Runtastic, although that was to be expected. The “average exceeded by” data as per Google Fit is odd, since I usually walk 3 km or so in the morning. In terms of steps and total distance the Mi Band shows 2.12 km / 2,845 steps v/s 2.16 km / 2,814 steps in Google Fit. Runtastic shows the least distance walked – could be a GPS glitch.

Mi Band

Mi Band

All said and done, it is a cost-effective and basic level activity tracker with fantastic battery life (supposedly 30 days, usually lasts much longer). Most smartphone fitness apps will also show similar data though they’re usually GPS-based.

Should you get one?

Well, it depends; if you’ve never been particular about activity related data or used a wearable tracker before, the Mi Band is worth a try to see:
a) how you feel about using one or even showing off one 😉
b) whether you’re comfortable wearing it almost 24X7
c) if you want more accurate and detailed activity tracking with increased use

before spending on more expensive devices from Garmin, Jawbone Up, Fitbit, GOQii, or Basis.

There’s also competition from Micromax, who have launched YuFit – their activity tracker, at the same price point of Rs.999. It has a display which shows the time and other indicators, and also integrates with the HealthifyMe fitness app, but not much more is known about its specifications or availability as of now.

The Mi Band was initially available only on the Mi site (where it’s out of stock), was then available on Flipkart – where it now shows up as “Permanently Discontinued”, which is strange. You might have to wait a bit to get your hands on it.

Update: 25-Jul-15 *It is available on Amazon as of now. Grab it before it goes out of stock again.* 

Incidentally, the entire Fitbit range from Rs.4,000 – Rs.19,990 can be pre-ordered on Amazon right now, and will be available from 03-Jul-15. You may want to have a look at those too.

Do you use an activity tracker? Which one? Do share your experience.