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Monday, December 22, 2014

Complete Guide To Mi Band Activity Tracker

Xiao Mi Band
Image Credit: Xiao Mi

The market for Fitness Trackers have exploded in the recent 1-2 years ! It seems like more and more people are interested to own one of these little devices. Whether to lose weight, get in shape or just for fun, these activity trackers have evolved into highly sophisticated technological devices, with powerful sensors, beautiful touch screens and highly accurate heart rate monitors.

小米 (Xiaomi), the chinese smartphone maker, have also jumped on the bandwagon with the latest release of their own version of the activity tracker, the 小米手环 (Xiaomi Band). It was released for sale in Singapore on the 16-DEC and i managed to get my hands on one of them. :))

Lets move on to the Mi Band Review:


Xiaomi Band
Mi Band Package

Mi Band Back Packaging
Back of the package

As with all Xiaomi products, the packaging is minimalist, sleek and of decent quality. The Mi Band is shipped with a USB charging cable and an English user guide. 

See unboxing video here:



Mi Band - Strap, Sensor and Connector
Strap, Sensor And USB Connector

As you can see from the picture(s), there are basically 2 components to the Mi Band - The sensor portion (pedometer) and the strap. The battery life on one of these bands purportedly lasts for 30 days* on a single charge. 

*I have yet to confirm this, but i will update this blog again after 30 days.

Fitting the Sensor into Connector
Fitting the Sensor into the USB connector

To charge your device, simply remove the sensor from the strap, plug it into the USB cable and connect it to any USB chargers (Yes, iPhone or Android phone chargers will also work).

Whilst charging, you can proceed to download the Mi Band App. This is available on Android (English) and iOS (Mandarin *English!) . This application would be your user interface / control panel. Think of it as a dash board for your progress.

* Latest Update 1.0.14 on the 23-DEC-14. Works for iPhone 5 and above!

After installing the application, using your Mi account (create one here if you don't already have it), login to the app. Once logged in for the first time, you will be prompted to setup your statistics (gender, height, weight (be honest), age (be MORE honest). These are the basic indicators that activity trackers would need to calculate your calories burnt, etc. Finally, you can set your goals. The recommended number of steps is  8000 (roughly a 40 minute walk).

Set Gender
Male or Female
Set Your Goals
Set Your Goals

The next step is the pairing of the band with your phone (Remember to turn on the blue tooth radio on your phone). Once paired, your Mi Band will be able to download all your recent activity to the application. I guess it is not necessary to have blue tooth switched on all the time but leaving it on will result in more 'real-time' updates of activity to your dash board.

Next, there are a couple of options you can play around with. I will explain a little more on these topics later in this post.
  1. Unlock your Mi3 or Mi Note phones
  2. In-coming call alerts 
  3. Set alarms - Alarm will make your band vibrate 5 times
  4. Set the hand on which your Mi Band is on 
  5. Progress Tracking (via movement)
  6. Change LED light color
After all the options are set, you are good to go!.
Customize Options Screen
Easy to Set Options


Physical Appearance and Initial Feel

After wearing the band for 3-4 hours, i noticed that it is light (barely noticeable), feels comfortable and does not irritate the skin (like some of the other rubber strap activity trackers i have tried). As you can see from my pictures (i have a small wrist), the Mi Band will likely fit a woman as well. With the potential to customize the colors on the bands, i can foresee that this will be a popular entry level fitness trackers for both genders.

The device is water resistant (but not water proof), it survived being in the shower, but i would NOT recommend bringing it along for swimming or diving. 

Mi Band on Wrist
Band On Wrist

Suitable For Small Wrists
Suitable For Small Wrists!

Goal / Progress Tracking (via movement)

Remember that we had initially set our goals ? By moving your wrist up to your face, (my gripe here is that you will need a strong swinging motion), it will activate the LEDs to show your progress.

BLUE (Customizable LED Color - Red/Green/Blue/Orange)
1 LED blink = reached 1/3 of objective
1 LED blinking = exceeded 1/3 of objective
2 LED blinking = exceeded 2/3 of objective
3 LED blinking = reached objective

RED
3 LED blinking = Out of Battery

If you are the sort (like me) who digs graphs and visual indicators, the progress tracking screen on the application will be more exciting. Here, you will be able to make visual comparisons of your activity vs the previous days. Simply tap on the bar chart to show the statistics and your achievements !

Progress Tracking Screen
Someone's been slacking!

My Observations On Accuracy

The accuracy of the device is pretty decent. For example: i went to my office pantry and back (counting the number of steps was about 40). The tracker showed a cool 43 steps. Not too shabby for a 19.90$ activity tracker!

When leaving the office for lunch, I had tried leaving the activity tracker application turned on, to monitor the accuracy of wearing it on my wrist in real time. To my surprise, it was quite accurate.

Left office for lunch.
* The screenshots were taken before the english iOS version was released.
Track Steps
Step and Calories
2nd Screen Shot after taking 6 steps


Each Step is Updated on GUI
Each Step is Updated

Back to office, a total of 570+ steps were taken.



Total Steps Taken
Total Steps Taken

Alarm

A great feature that comes with the Mi Band is the alarm function. Basically, you can set the alarm on the iOS by accessing the 'Alarm' menu. 

Preset Alarm timings
7:25 AM Time To Wake UP!



Choosing the 'Repeat' settings allows you to control the frequency of your alarm (weekdays *mon-fri, once, daily).


Alarm Setting
Frequency and Early Bird Alarm


When the alarm activates, your Mi Band will vibrate five times, each between 1 sec pauses. There is no other configurable settings - just the standard vibration alarm. 

The Mi Band has an option to wake you up from sleep, 30 minutes before your alarm. The premise of this feature is to slowly wake you up from deep sleep (rather than being abruptly disturbed by your alarm). According to several sleep studies, you will feel more refreshed if woken after a proper deep sleep cycle. 

Incoming Calls

There is an option to set your Mi Band to alert you during incoming calls. This will work only if you have bluetooth turned-on on your phone (and paired with the Mi Band). You can also configure the alerts from 3 seconds all the way up to 30 seconds. This means that after 3 seconds of ringing (on your phone), the Mi Band will start to vibrate. At the same time, the middle LED on the Mi Band will also light up.


Sleep

Its alive !!!. The Mi Band can actively track the sleep duration of the wearer. 

I went to bed early last night, around 11:05PM. As you can see from the screenshot captured the next morning, the Mi Band was able to analyze and determine that i had fallen asleep around 11:08PM - not too shabby! 


Based on the chart, i had a total of 3 Hr 48 Mins of Deep Sleep and 3 Hrs 57 Mins of Light Sleep. It also seems like i woke up twice in the middle of the night, sometime between 1AM and 3AM, for a total of 8 minutes ! 


Similar to the activity tracking screen, tapping on the individual bars will indicate the start and stop times of each sleep cycles.

Sleep Cycle Chart
Sleep Cycle

Summary

The Mi Band is an awesome activity tracker for beginners. It is simple to setup, easy to use and well built for its price. Although it lacks some features that i would personally love to have (Example: heart-rate-monitor), i am more than satisfied with its existing features for a device that costs $19.90.


  Pros:
- Strong Battery Life
- Durable and Comfortable Rubber Strap
- Water Resistant
- Easy To Setup
- Great Price Point (19.90$)

Cons:
- No Heart Rate Monitor
- No Display
- Only Mandarin Display for iOS App. The latest iOS Mi App Update 1.0.14 is in ENGLISH

*Update 25-DEC-14:
The Xiaomi Band is known to work for iOS7 devices, namely 4S, 5, 5C, 5S, 6, 6+. 

(iPhone 4 will probably not work due to the lower version of Bluetooth hardware).


*Update 20-JAN-15:
True to its word, the Mi Band delivers on its 30 Day battery life promise. After running for 30 days straight, i am left with 22% battery life on my Mi Band.

*Update 19-APR-15:
I have had some questions on how to remove the sensor portion of the band for charging. Well, its pretty straightforward and hopefully this video will give you guys an idea how its done!.




Note: I had my Bluetooth turned-off for a good 70% of the 30 days i had the Mi Band on. Only switching it on for a sync 3-4 times a day.

*Update 05-MAY-16:

Mi Band Pulse replaces the obsolete Mi Band. The new wearable includes an in-built heartbeat sensor.