Mi band redefines the low-end smart wristband market

Mi's web pages are slick

There’s a lot of hype about the Apple Watch, as the first shipments arrive of the smartwatch, which qualifies as one of the most expensive pieces of wearable tech to date.

If you really, really want an Apple Watch, and you want it now, just stump up $1300 and press the “buy it now” button on eBay. Or you can order directly from Apple, pay $699 and wait for it to ship sometime in June.

At the other end of the scale, plain old smart wristbands are now available for under $20 – not second-hand, not yesterday’s model, but current products.

The Mi band from Chinese telco giant Xiaomi is a good example: Now shipping via Amazon.com for $18.99 or €20.70. And if you happen to break the silicon band (which feels fairly robust), spares are available starting at less than a buck.

It’s a completely different world at the budget end of the band market, but we’re very impressed so far with the Mi Band – starting with the packaging.

In contrast to smart wristband rivals like Fitbit, Xiaomi has a fully recyclable, eco-friendlier cardboard-only box – and the product presentation still looks gorgeous. The online presence is pretty good, too.

The wristband is a step counter that also tracks sleep, and even comes with some unexpected bonus features – for example, it can vibrate to notify the user of an incoming call on their smartphone, and Android users can use its proximity features to automatically unlock their phone when the wristband comes into range.

iPhone users can’t use this feature – but the Mi band is fully compatible with the Apple Health app, and that’s unlike anything from Fitbit.

Xiaomi is perhaps the biggest smart tech company you’ve never heard of – with claims on Wikipedia that it’s the world’s third-largest smartphone maker, behind Samsung and Apple.

The Beijing-based firm is certainly expanding its eco-system of products, with a Mi Pad, Mi TV, the smart wristband … and portable batteries for power-hungry electronics, a market sector that still seems to be only just catching on in Europe and the US.

We’re putting the waterproof Mi through its paces to see if the “military grade sensor” is any more accurate than the usual crop of smart bands, and whether the 30-day battery life claim is true…


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