Thursday, 13 August 2015

Affordable MiBand Fitness Tracker for Teens

We were looking for an affordable activity and sleep tracker for our teenager and discovered the Mi Band by Xiaomi, a Chinese company. They claim their mission is to bring to market high-quality technology that doesn't need to cost a fortune. The Mi Band is an activity and sleep tracking wearable made with top quality components and durable battery life. We decided to test drive the Mi Band and see if it lives up to its claims.

Once ordered, the Mi Band arrived promptly in the post, in a small, smart box containing a black silicone band, pill-shaped device, USB charger and instructions in Chinese. Thankfully the Mi Band website contains plenty of information in English to help with the setup. Said teenager was keen to try out the wearable and only charged it for a few minutes, and the device remained charged for several weeks. It certainly lives up to its claim of 30-day battery life.

Activity & Sleep Tracker

The activity tracker tracks your movement in steps and can detect between walking and running.  However I wouldn't replace my run tracker device with the Mi Band.  You can set a daily goal for steps (found in the "profile" of your mobile app). The sleep tracker is also pretty nifty and can detect between light and deep sleep.  One thing I learnt was that my teenager doesn't get enough quality sleep.  However I'm not sure every teenager would be happy to share their sleeping patterns with their parents.

The data collected by the Mi Band synchronises with a mobile app via Bluetooth.  The Mi Fit app is available on the App Store / Play Store as a free download.

Once you have the app installed, you need to pair your Mi Band with your mobile.  The process was somewhat clumsy and we had to try it several times before it found the device.  Once you are paired, you don't need to keep Bluetooth on as the Mi Band will collect data and then sync with your mobile when you next switch on Bluetooth.  However if you want to use a notification feature, available through another app, you need to keep your Bluetooth on.  This has no effect on the Mi Band battery life, but we noticed it affected the mobile battery life.  You do need to open the Mi Fit app to sync the data with your mobile.

Vibration Notification Feature

My son, found the notification feature of the Mi Band the most useful. There are a few apps available that allow for more features for the Mi Band. He uses the Mi Band Tools app (only available for Andriod) which allows him to select which apps he would like to notify through the Mi Band. The Mi Band vibrates a few seconds after your selected notification on your mobile. As a mother I love this feature, my teen is now responding to my calls and sms messages, where previously he was unaware he received a message.

We think there is definitely room for improvement within the native Mi Fit app and hopefully as the band becomes more popular the company will improve the app.  For example it would be very useful to set the notifications within the native app, rather than using another app for this feature.

Great Built Quality

So far, the Mi Band seems very robust. My 15 year old has not removed it since he got it and even wears it in the shower. We were however disappointed with an additional colour band we purchased (it was not an official Mi Band silicone band) as it only lasted a week before it fell apart. The black silicon band that came with the device seems durable and hasn't caused any irritation on his skin.

Mi Band Alarm

I was so impressed with the Mi Band, I decided to get one myself. I really like another feature - the Alarm. You can set up a different alarm for the week, Saturday and Sunday and the Mi Band vibrates 5 times at the set time. The vibration is persistent enough that I was woken up every time.

I've set up another feature on my Mi Band, which allows you to intelligently unlock your phone when your Mi Band is in its proximity.  You set up this feature in the Mi Fit App.

We've been very impressed with the quality of the Mi Band and will continue to review its performance.

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