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Xiaomi band rebounds

Xiaomi returns with its third fitness tracker, adding waterproofing and a touchscreen writes BRYAN TURNER.

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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.

 

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New iPhone pricing for SA

The iStore has announced that the latest iPhones, the Xs and Xs Max, can now be pre-ordered at www.myistore.co.za , and will be available in stores starting 28 September 2018.

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iPhone Xs and iPhone Xs Max feature 5.8-inch and 6.5-inch Super Retina displays that offer remarkable brightness and true blacks while showing 60 percent greater dynamic range in HDR photos. iPhone Xs and iPhone Xs Max have an improved dual camera system that offers breakthrough photo and video features, A12 Bionic chip with next-generation Neural Engine, faster Face ID, wider stereo sound, longer battery life, splash and water resistance,

Pre-orders will be open for cash purchases and on iStore’s revised payment plan in partnership with FNB Credit Card, allowing customers to pay off their iPhone at a reduced interest rate. However, the contract period is 37 months rather than the usual 24 months.
*FNB Credit Card Payment Plan, price per month over 37 months, a 40% trade-in value after 24 months

How to pre-order – Pre-ordering online for either cash or the FNB payment plan gives customers the benefit of reserving their purchase without having to queue and the added convenience of having purchases delivered directly to their door. Pre-orders of iPhone Xs and Xs Max are completed online by visiting www.myistore.co.za.
FREE iCare Plus – Exclusive to iStore, all customers can get its 2-year extended warranty, which includes one Apple Certified screen repair, that normally sells for R1 999, for FREE. To qualify, customers should secure a voucher online now at www.myistore.co.za , and subsequently redeem it when they upgrade their contract or purchase any new iPhone at iStore (iPhone 8 and newer) between now and 31 December 2018. Offer is limited, secure your voucher now.

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Accenture opens Fjord design centre in Johannesburg

Accenture has launched its first design and innovation studio on African soil, Fjord Johannesburg.

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The company says the move significantly expands its design capabilities and demonstrates its commitment to unlocking Africa’s innovation potential through the creation of experiences that redefine industries in our constantly evolving digital era.

The new studio, opening in November, will be located at Accenture’s new 3875m² offices in Waterfall. It will be led by Marcel Rossouw, design director and studio lead for Fjord Johannesburg.

Said Rossouw, “Brands are constantly asking, ’how does one take a business need or problem, build that out into a definition of a service experience, and then bring it to market?’ It’s about re-engineering existing service experiences, identifying customer needs, prototyping rapidly, iterating often and proving or disproving assumptions. But it’s also about getting feedback from customers. The combination of these factors helps companies advance towards the ultimate service experience.”

Fjord is the design and innovation consultancy of Accenture Interactive. The Johannesburg location marks its 28th design studio globally, solidifying its position as the world’s leading design powerhouse.

Working in the same location as Accenture Interactive will allow Fjord to fuse its core design strategy DNA with the digital agency’s expertise in marketing, content and commerce to create and deliver the best customer experiences for the world’s leading brands. Accenture Interactive Africa‘s blend of intelligent design and creative use of technology has already been used by some of South Africa’s largest and most prominent brands, including Alexander Forbes, Discovery, MultiChoice and Nedbank. The digital agency has also earned industry accolades for its innovative and compelling business results, most notably two gold awards in the Service Design category at the 2017 and 2018 Loeries awards.

“Great design tells great stories,” says Wayne Hull, managing director of Accenture Digital and Accenture Interactive lead in Africa. “It unifies a brand, drives innovation and makes the brand or service distinctive and hyper-relevant in both the digital and physical worlds. This is critical to achieving results. Having Fjord Johannesburg as part of Accenture Interactive, and collaborating with all of Accenture Africa, will provide unique experiences and forward-thinking capabilities for our clients.”

“Businesses in South Africa are becoming more design-aware and are looking to take greater advantage of design skills to compete with the rest of the world,” said Thomas Müller, head of Europe, Africa and Latin America at Fjord. “We’re excited to open our first design studio on the continent and to be part of an emerging market that is ripe for design and innovation, and open for business. Developing markets like South Africa are challenging assumptions and norms about what digital services and products are meant to be, and we’ll strive to put design at the heart of the innovation being produced there.”

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