Xiaomi, the premium Chinese technology brand, has been increasing in popularity as a smartphone of choice, due to its combination of high-quality products and low purchase price. Its range of smart products includes everything from smartphones to smart home devices.
Its Mi Band fitness tracker line has offered step-counting, sleep-tracking and heart rate monitoring. The Mi Band 3, however, is a major overhaul, adding 5 ATM waterproofing (5 atmospheres of water pressure), a much larger screen and a responsive touchscreen. The Mi Band looks and feels like fitness trackers from Fitbit and Garmin, but costs far less. At a glance, people have mistaken it for a Fitbit, due to the form factor and whitish-blue OLED screen.
The overall design of the screen is really something to appreciate, as it groups and outlines what users want to know by vertical swipes between categories (watch, fitness, heart rate, weather, notifications and more apps) and horizontal swipes within categories (in fitness: steps, distance, calories burned and battery). The sunken circle is intuitive, and acts like a home button when pressed, taking the user back to the watch face, and a function button when long-pressed.
Apps within the Mi Band 3 are fairly standard compared to other fitness trackers, like quickly checking distance walked and three custom watch faces. A great differentiator is the notification feature, which pushes notifications from the paired phone and shows the last five items when swiping through to that section. Another great feature is “Find device”, which makes the phone ring if it is misplaced. A stopwatch is included in the “More apps” section, which is useful in quick workout situations where the phone is not available.
The materials used in the Mi Band 3’s strap are hypoallergenic and suitable for all skin types. The TPU plastic is also soft and sweat-resistant, making this one of the best bands for fitness activities. The only drawbacks are that TPU plastic wears down fairly quickly over time, as the oil from one’s skin can break down the plastic; and there is only one size of the Mi Band strap in the box, which is not ideal for those with larger wrists. That said, replacement straps range in price from R10 to R250 on GearBest, depending on whether the replacement is plastic, silicone, metal or another type of special design.
The Mi Band’s app has a minimalist layout, focusing on steps in a large circle and outlines sleep and heart rate below it in a graph. This, in conjunction with the design of the Mi Band 3, delivers a premium user experience. This data is also not garden-walled to the app, unlike other fitness tracking solutions, as it easily integrates with services like Google Fit and Apple Health. In the Mi Band’s device section, alarms can be set, notifications can be customised on an app basis, the Mi Band can be triggered to vibrate if lost, and the weather location can be set.
What is truly amazing is the firmware update frequency, which brings in stability updates and even new major features. A recent firmware update introduced a major feature to lower the Mi Band’s screen brightness at night, to save battery and reduce eyestrain. Another recent update added a smoother, easier-to-read font for notifications and checking the weather. These firmware optimising updates even pushed the battery life of the Mi Band to 23 days of light notifications and a few workouts.
At R400, there is no similarly priced alternative for the Mi Band 3 at the quality it offers, coming in at five times cheaper than the Fitbit Charge 2. Compared to the Fitbits and Garmins, the main trade-offs are the brand name, the reliable tech support and the social challenges. Overall, the Mi Band 3 is fitness tracker that acts more like a smartwatch at a price point where nothing competes with it.
The Mi Band 3 can be bought from GearBest for under R400 during the GearBest September sale. Click here for more information.