A year ago if you asked anyone about Xiaomi in India, chances were they would not be aware of its existence and even if some did know about it, probably dismiss it as yet another Chinese company. Fast forward to 2015 and not only does everyone know about it, many would even fish out a “Mi” smartphone from their pockets or tell you about how they tried to buy one in a flash sale that finished before he could click on the buy button.
Not content with being hidden in users’ pockets, Xiaomi is now looking at dominating everyone’s digital life with a range of connected devices or as the world likes to call “Internet of Things.” The Mi Band is first in a series of such products that include air purifiers, security cameras, light bulbs and if rumors are to be believed, even running shoes. The Mi Band goes on sale in India today at a ridiculous price of Rs 999. I’ve spent more than a week without taking it off my wrist and here’s my review.
Like many activity trackers, the Mi Band consists of a capsule, which is the core, and a plasticky band which has a slot for accommodating it. It comes with a black strap by default though there will be straps available in other colors to buy. During the 10 days I have worn the Mi Band, I found the strap to be comfortable enough that I haven’t felt the need to take it off. Unlike some of the other activity trackers, which feel uncomfortable to sleep in, the Mi Band almost felt non-existent while sleeping.
Having said that, the quality of the strap isn’t anything worth writing home about and in just 12 days there are visible scuff marks and scratches on it. But then the usual argument of what more can you expect in Rs 999 comes into play.
The capsule itself looks solidly built and if I may, one of the prettiest activity trackers I have seen (if you discount the Misfit Shine). At Rs 999, the Mi Band is better designed than any of the Fitbits I have owned in the past. Dare I say, it has grown on me enough to like it more than the now-discontinued Nike FuelBand, which was the sole activity tracker I have worn for more than three months.
The Mi Band has a nice powdered chrome finish on top, which is the only part visible when it is housed in the strap. There are three LED lights that can be configured to glow in different colors from the accompanying Mi Fit app.
What’s impressive is that the designers have taken enough trouble to provide chamfered edges, even though they are barely visible. But it does add to the look of the Mi Band, which to me is very important, considering this thing would be strapped to my wrist at all times. So much so that even the button to secure the strap has chamfered edges. When was the last time any company stressed so much about a device costing just Rs 999?
Coming to the performance, the Mi Band’s feature set sounds almost like a wish list for activity trackers. It is waterproof enough that you can take a shower while wearing it or even go out for a swim. Xiaomi claims that the Mi Band’s battery would last for 30 days but in my experience, it could easily reach two months. In 12 days of usage the battery is still 85 percent! And finally, you don’t need to configure the Mi Band in any way to track your sleep, it does that automatically.
These three features have been my major peeve points in most activity trackers and the Mi Band addresses them all. However, all is not well.
Firstly, I found the Mi Fit app that’s required to sync the Mi Band and check your stats to be less than intuitive. The app, for some reason, would track almost everything as a workout — anything from taking a shower to at times even a walk. At times it even tracked a couple of car rides as a workout.
Without a display on the tracker itself, it is very difficult to gauge the Mi Band’s accuracy. Yes, there were times when I woke up to realize I had already walked 100 metres (no, I don’t sleep walk) and my showers were tracked as nearly 500 metres. But overall, it gave a fair sense if not totally accurate, of my daily activity.
What the Mi Band impressed me the most is how accurately it tracks my sleep. It does not need any user intervention to put it into sleep mode and it invariably and accurately determined the time I went to sleep and when I woke up. It also told me about how long my deep sleep lasted, which, though difficult to prove scientifically, was corresponding with how fresh I felt after waking up.
Apart from tracking your activity, the Mi Band can also be used as a notification centre of sorts for your phone. You can configure it to vibrate whenever your phone rings and it is a good feature especially if your phone happens to be on silent mode. You can also configure a daily morning alarm and the Mi Band vibrates to wake you up.
Yes, there are a few things the Mi Band lacks. For instance, whenever you lift your arm and move the wrist to look at it, the LED lights are supposed to light up to tell you how close you are to achieving your pre-defined steps goal. But that is a trick I have failed to master.
Then there is the missing display. Initially, I didn’t miss it but after 12 days of wearing the Mi Band, I really wish it had some sort of a way to tell me the time. It feels strange to look at the Mi Band and glean no information off it. I understand that the display would have compromised on the 30-day battery life but there could be some other way of putting some information on it. Probably the next version could be a circular tracker with an analogue clock on top. All I know is that there is this constant need for getting some information off it.
The Mi Band might not be the most accurate activity tracker but in my books, it checks out on the most important features – battery, waterproofing and price. At a ridiculous price of just Rs 999, I would have to be out of my mind to not recommend buying it!