The Xiaomi Mi Band is the Chinese answer to the Fitbit and similar devices, offering a "no frills" method of fitness tracking. Instead of a display, it has three 256-color LED lights, and it doesn't have some of the fancier fitness tracking methods like heart rate and blood pressure monitoring. This is both good and bad, however, as you'll come to find in the review. Throughout the review I didn't use the standard app that comes through the Google Play Store, instead I used an unofficial customized app which extends the notification capabilities.
The Mi Band is a two-piece design, with the actual electrical and tracking component being independent from the silicone or leather band you wear it in. The actual tracking module (which I'm just going to call the "pebble" from this point on) measures in at 36mm x 14mm x 9mm and weighs just five grams. It has no buttons to press, just two gold plated studs to charge it with (although the top cover may be sensitive to touch in some way). The pebble's face is an aluminum plate that has three small "dots" (which are actually just sets of 90 or so micro-drilled holes injected with silicon) for each of the three individual LED lights.
The band it comes with is available in a number of different colors
The band it comes with is available in a number of different colors, including pink, light blue, teal, orange, a fluro green and the standard black band -- this range of bands are made of Dow Corning's TPSiV which is not only hypoallergenic but also has some significant anti-UV and antimicrobial properties. The Mi Band has also since come out in a leather and metal variation, although it is significantly more expensive.
The Mi Band is certified IP67 water resistant and can withstand temperatures as low as -20°C and as high as 70°C.
The Mi Band allows a user to track their steps and groups it into individual periods of exercise. This also includes identifying whether or not the wearer is jogging or just walking, although I've found that bit to be fairly inaccurate - it would say I'm running when I was just walking, or that I was walking when I was just running. It still recorded the steps accurately, just didn't correctly identify the actual activity.
This part is not without it's issues, however. It does not support Google Fit, but I believe this in the works based on some of the product's forum threads.
Sleep tracking is something the Mi Band does that I found to be fairly reliable. It doesn't have a sleep mode or button to push and the sensing works automatically. I'm the type of person who falls asleep every night to a film or TV show, so I'd be in my bed for about an hour before falling asleep. For the purposes of testing the Mi Band, I tried to push this to two hours just to stress test it.
I found that it actually knew when I was just laying there compared to when I was legitimately asleep, and that was pretty interesting (that is, if I got into bed at 10pm and fell asleep some time around 12am, it would log that I fell asleep around 12am rather than closer to when I actually got into bed). It does have some issues, specifically with assuming that I wake up 3-4 times in middle of the night for a minute or so each time. Looking at my statistics from last night, I seem to have done this several times. I'm assuming it's just me moving around in bed and not actually waking up and forgetting I did.
Notifications is something that comes with the standard Mi Band app for calls, but the custom app I used extends this functionality into notifying the user for whatever app you want, for however long you want, with the LED lights flashing as many times and in whatever color you want. The notifications have been -- hands down -- the best feature of the Mi Band so far, especially when driving. I set a number of different apps to work with the Mi Band, including
The notifications have been -- hands down -- the best feature of the Mi Band
- WhatsApp (with the LED lights flashing in green),
- SMS messages (with the LED lights flashing in blue),
- Twitter (with the LED lights flashing in light blue),
- The clock (with the LED lights flashing in white),
- Gmail (with the LED lights flashing in red),
- Inbox by Google (with the LED lights flashing in orange),
- Agent (with the LED lights flashing in purple).
The above basically covers all of the notifications I care about, and the Mi Band was extremely handy for most of them. Agent is something similar to Motorola Assist and I've set it to automatically mute my phone when I'm driving and after 11pm. When Agent is enabled, the Mi Band vibrates and the colors let me know that my phone is now muted. I can continue to receive notifications through my Mi Band, however, and I can quickly tell what is and what isn't important. The functionality of this increases with range, as I no longer have to look at my phone to know exactly who notified me: I can be 20 feet away and still have an idea of what's going on.
This works really well for meetings or sensitive moments where you don't want want to be staring into a screen but still don't want to be completely unplugged.
Another feature for the Mi Band which is limited to those with MIUI (Xiaomi's Android OS) and Android Lollipop is automatically unlocking the phone with the Mi Band. I'm on 4.4.4 KitKat so I can't test this, but I can see how it would be useful.
The battery life on the Mi Band is phenomenal. At no point should you expect any less than 30 days of battery life, and this can go as high as three months on a single charge. For me personally, I last charged it two weeks ago and even with my very heavy usage I still have 55% battery life remaining. This means that I should be looking at at least another two weeks before I have to charge it, and at most another three weeks. Which is crazy.
I'm convinced it's the wearable for people who don't like wearables
This is part of the reason why I'm convinced it's the wearable for people who don't like wearables, because you can put it on and forget about it. One thing that turned me off other wearables such as the Microsoft Band and Apple Watch and such is the ridiculously short battery life. Yes, I understand they have screens and that consumes most of the battery, but even the Fitbit Flex gets around five days of battery life: almost nothing. I don't want to remember to charge yet another electronic -- especially one that is unnecessary.
That's what I have with the Mi Band: something I can put on and forget about for literally weeks -- if not months -- at a time.
If you've read my review of the Xiaomi Piston 3.0 IEMs, you probably saw me cheer them on as being extremely well priced with the quality of something a lot more expensive. The Mi Band is exactly the same. Priced at $15, it has left me legitimately confused. I don't understand how Xiaomi is doing it, but they are and they're doing it wonderfully. There are plenty of Fitbit clones out there, even smartwatches for $25 or so, but the Mi Band is something else. If not for the price, then for the months-long battery life. I called it a "wearable for people who don't like wearables" for a number of reasons:
- It's cheap. You don't need to spend $100 to count how many steps you've taken. $15 is a price that is reasonable in developing countries and only gets more reasonable in more developed countries.
- Forget about charging it. It will go longer than you would ever expect, so you can just wear it and forget about it. You don't even have to take it off when you shower -- it's water resistant.
- It doesn't and doesn't even want to replace your watch (if you wear one at all). It isn't a "watch" and it doesn't want to be one. You can wear it on the arm opposite to your watch, or if you're the type of person that doesn't like wearing watches, then it won't annoy you like a watch would. It's light and comfortable enough.
- It is as little or as most annoying as you want it to be. You can pair it with an hourly chime app so that it vibrates every hour on the hour, or you can disable all notifications except for calls and use it primarily as a daily fitness tracker. You can even set how strongly and how often it vibrates, so there is a lot of power in this regard.
I don't think it's able to convert people from their current smart bands for a number of reasons. Most specifically, it's because the app is lacking in features. The Mi Band doesn't have support for Google Fit (although I'm pretty certain it supports Apple's HealthKit) the Mi Band app itself doesn't do much. By "doesn't do much" I mean you can only look at the current day's stats in detail -- you can't go back in time and compare it to, say, a week ago. You can view a brief overlook of the last two weeks, that is, you can see how much you walked a week ago, but you can't see a breakdown of what happened and what you did. The sleep monitoring is the same. It also doesn't include anything for monitoring food intake nor does it "motivate" you like some of the other products out there, although there is an option to monitor how many skips on a skipping rope you do or how many sit-ups you do. This isn't automatic, however, and you have to manually enable it for each session . There is light at the end of this tunnel, however, as Xiaomi has expressed interest in making it work with Google Fit and some other apps, like the Jawbone app, seems to play somewhat nicely with it. Some third party apps also allegedly work with the Mi Band but I haven't tested them.
You're also able to "upload" the data, although I didn't play around much with that.
All in all, it's difficult to fault at this price point, and in my opinion the price point forgives almost all of its issues. At least in my case, it did everything I expected and more, and based on this I can't recommend it enough.
If you're interested in the Mi Band, you can pick it up from Gearbest for just $14.99. Gearbest sells additional straps for anywhere from $2.60 through to $3.60, but note that these are likely to be made by a third-party and lack the quality of the original Xiaomi bands.