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.
Face App grabs SA attention
South Africans generated more than 100 000 search queries for “Face App” on Wednesday, while only generating 50 000 for “Mandela Day”. The Internet wentcrazy over the two-year-old app, which uses artificial intelligence to create a rendering of what users might look like in a few decades. Face App went viral as users posted their aged likenesses on social media in the #faceappchallenge. Privacy experts, however, warned that the app (made in Russia) may pose a threat to users’ privacy as it stores photos on its servers, with US Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, appealing to the FBI to investigate the app.
In other top searches on Google this week, “Johnny Clegg” garnered more than 500 000 search queries on Tuesday as the news of his passing broke. The ‘White Zulu’ of Juluka and Savuka fame was an internationally acclaimed musician who was also an important figure in the fight against apartheid. Tributes to Clegg have been flooding media and social media over the past couple of days. Clegg succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 66.
More than 200 000 search queries were generated for “Mark Batchelor” on Monday after the former soccer star was brutally gunned down outside his Olivedale home in Gauteng. Investigations into the shooting are still ongoing. Batchelor played for Orlando Pirates, Wits University, Kaizer Chiefs, Mamelodi Sundowns, Moroka Swallows and Bafana Bafana.
“Jacob Zuma” also garnered more than 100 000 search queries on Monday as he made his first, much-anticipated appearance in front of the Zondo Commission on state capture.
On Sunday “Macdonald Ndou” picked up more than 10 000 search queries after reports of theMuvhango actor’s arrest made the rounds. Ndou was held on various charges including extortion and kidnapping. The Hawks have reportedly provisionally withdrawn charges against the TV star, but a spokesperson said the decision to withdraw does not mean the charges will not be reinstated.
“Serena Williams” garnered more than 50 000 searches on Saturday as the tennis superstar suffered a 6-2, 6-2 defeat against Simona Halep in a Wimbledon final that lasted just 56 minutes. Williams later told Agence France Presse, “She [Halep] played out of her mind” and “I was like a deer in headlights”.
Last Friday, South Africans produced more than 20 000 search queries for “Duduzane Zuma” as the Randburg Magistrates Court found the former first son not guilty of a charge of culpable homicide. In February 2014, Zuma was involved in a car crash that took the life of Phumzile Dube when his vehicle crashed into the taxi she was travelling in.
Search trends information is gleaned from data collated by Google based on what South Africans have been searching for and asking Google. Google processes more than 40 000 search queries every second. This translates to more than a billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year, worldwide. Live Google search trends data is available at https://www.google.co.za/trends/hottrends#pn=p40
Homemation creates comfort through smart homes
Home automation is more than just turning the lights on and off, Homemation’s Gedaliah Tobias tells BRYAN TURNER
The world is taking interior design notes from the Danish, in a style of living called hygge (pronounced hoo-gah). Its meaning varies from person to person: some see hygge as a warm fire on a cold winter’s night, others see it as a cup of hot coffee in the morning. The amount of “good feelings” one gets from these relaxing activities depends on what one values as indulgent.
But how does technology fit into this “art of feeling good”?
We asked Homemation marketing manager Gedaliah Tobias to take us through a fully automated home of the future and show us how automation creates comfort and good feelings.
“The house is powered by Control4, which you can think of as the brain of the smart home,” says Tobias. “It controls everything from the aircon to smart vacuum cleaners.”
The home of the future is secured by a connected lock. It acts like other locks with keypads and includes a key in the event of a power interruption. The keypad is especially useful to those who want to provide temporary access to visitors, staff, or simply kids who might lose their parents’ house keys.
“The keypad is especially useful for temporary access,” says Tobias. “For example, if you have a garden service that needs to use the home for the day, they can be given a code that only turns off the perimeter alarm beams in the garden for the day and time. If that code is used outside of the day and time range, users can set up alerts for their armed response to be alerted. This type of smart access boosts security.”
Once inside, one is greeted with a “scene” – a type of recipe for electronic success. The scene starts by turning on the lights, then by alerting the user to disarm the alarm. After the alarm is disarmed, the user can start another more complicated scene.
“Users can request customised scene buttons,” says Tobias. “For example, if I press the ‘Dinner call’ scene, the lights start to flash in the bedroom, there’s an announcement from the smart speakers, the blinds start to come down, the lighting is shifted to the dinner table. Shifting focus with lighting creates a mood to bring the house together for dinner.”
Homemation creates these customised scene buttons to enable users to control their homes without having to use another device. In addition to scene buttons, there are several ways to control the smart home.
“Everything in the smart home is controllable from your phone, the touchscreens around the house, the TV, and the dedicated remote control. Everyone is different, so having multiple ways to control the house is a huge value add.”
We ask Tobias where Homemation recommends non-smart home users should start on their smart home journey.
“Before anything, the Control4 infrastructure needs to be set up. This involves a lot of communications and electrical cabling to be run to different areas of the home to enable connectivity throughout the home. After the infrastructure is set up, the system is ready for smart home devices, like lighting and sound.”
“For new smart home users, the best bang for their buck would be to start with lighting once the infrastructure is set up. Taking it one step at a time is wise.”
• For more information, visit https://www.homemation.co.za/