Wednesday, July 22, 2015

First-impressions: Xiaomi Mi Band

Sometimes, cheap can be good...

I never gave Xiaomi products a second look.
Seems that one of China's fastest emerging tech companies is coming up with some really great stuff at value prices.
One of their goods that caught my attention was the Mi Band, a really cheap fitness tracker.
On the Malaysian Xiaomi website, these are sold at RM59 each. 
Out of the box, the Mi Band is packaged with a fitness tracker pod, black silicone band with a metal clasp and a charging stick.
There are no fancy paperwork that goes with the Mi Band, which kept it as a minimalist item.

The benchmark.

As far as "blind" fitness trackers (with no information window for steps and calories) are concerned, it will be hard to beat a Fitbit Flex.
But at a pricetag of RM350 a piece, the Flex is nowhere compared to the Mi Band.
Why? Here are a few simple points:


  • Sleep mode is automatic.
  • The band connects to your phone via Mi Fit app (from Google Play & Apple) and is capable of giving alerts for incoming calls and SMS messages.
  • The tracker pod is robust and waterproof.
  • Has a battery life of 30 days and beyond (some recorded 40 days from a single charge).
  • Replacement bands (four colours) are sold at RM10 each. This is by far, cheaper than the Fitbit Flex and Garmin Vivofit replacement bands that cost more than RM130 for a pack of three.
  • A fraction of the price compared the Fitbit Flex and Garmin Vivofit.
"Made in China", a stigma

There's always the argument about inferior products from the Motherland. Such, we can argue till the cows come home.
But, having seen the quality, fit and finish of the Mi Band, I would say that it's at par or even better than some of the more expensive fitness trackers.
Now, let's face the fact that most of these gadgets are "Made in China". Doesn't matter if they are "designed in the EU, USA", but the principle remains: it's manufactured in China.




Screenshots of the Mi Fit app and Mi Band integration


Usability and performance

The Mi Band is best optimized with it's application: the Mi Fit which you can download from Google Play for Android phones or Apple Itunes for IOS phones.
It's a very straight-forward app and can be hacked to integrate with the Mi Smart Scale (not officially available here in Malaysia, sold by third-party retailers).
I have used the Mi Band for more than a month (37 days) and logged in some 259.6km (walking).
Paired with the Mi Smart Scale, with an initial weigh-in at 101.0kg, I lost 5.8kg through exercise and controlled food intake.
So, as far as performance is concerned, the Mi Band is flawless. Even if it goes kaput, I won't be sore because it costs only RM70 from a third-party reseller.
The default Mi Fit app from Google Play does not support the Mi Scale, so, one would have to manually install the China-version of the Mi Fit app from Xiaomi's official website. During installation, the updated app will overwrite the current Mi Fit app on your smartphone.
Once paired, both the Mi Band and Mi Smart Scale is a formidable tool for weight management and your daily exercise.

Availability

The Mi Band retails at RM59 from Xiaomi's official website in Malaysia. But it's "out of stock" at the moment. You can get this from third-party resellers at RM70 at the lowest. The highest retail price is RM89 at the PJ Digital Mall. For the bargain-hunter, try Low Yat Plaza in Kuala Lumpur.


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