I’ve considered buying a fitness band for some time, such as the Fitbit, but wasn’t quite prepared to pay the 100 euro+ price tag.  After attending a presentation a few months ago at The Hague University (where I work part time) on ebusiness in China, I thought I’d try out ordering something from AliExpress.   I did a bit of clicking around after searching for “Fitband”.  I was looking for something that:

  1. was simple
  2. I liked the look of and is comfortable
  3. reasonable price
  4. reasonable quality
  5. will motivate me to move more

My main goal was just to try out a tech wearable without making a big investment.  I did some recent research as well over on my DutchAustralian blog on ordering from outside the EU, and learned that if I kept the price under 22 euros, I didn’t have to pay any import fees/taxes.

What came up as a winner was the Xiaomi MiBand. For just under 20 euros, I ordered a Xaomi miBand in black with an extra turquoise (blue) band.

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This was being offered from many sellers, but I chose one from a store that had a high number of orders & positive feedback ratings.  In fact, I see since I ordered, it’s even dropped a few euros in price. I’m not sure how long this link will stay current, but you can click on the screenshot below to go straight to the store (but may have to set up an account & log in to AliExpress).  I ordered on 15 March, and it arrived today (09 April).  I was expecting a 5-6 week wait so that was a nice surprise to come earlier.

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I also checked out the official website of Mi here before I bought it, and again now I have it to remind myself of the features: http://www.mi.com/en/miband/#09

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So to go back to my initial criteria:

1. The MiBand is simple.

It has just a few main features:

  • sleep tracking
  • step tracking
  • distance tracking
  • Wake up alarm
  • heart rate monitor

If you have a Xiaomi phone it can apparently also act as an unlock feature.

It’s also really easy to set up.  You search for and download the MiFit app and then it will search for your band via Bluetooth.  Tapping on the band will connect it.

At time of writing this, I haven’t yet tried the sleep tracking.  The step tracking could better be seen as “activity”.  For the first few hours, I wore it on my right (dominant) hand.  During this time I was simply making dinner, sitting at my computer and going a few times up and down the stairs.  It seems that every movement of your arm counts as a step.  I’ve swapped it to my left hand, as this should be a bit more realistic.  I think the conclusion of most reviews I’ve read, and already my feeling so far, is that it’s not going to be able to track steps very accurately, but will still give a general indication of how active you are.  Same story with the distance tracking.  Haven’t yet tried the wake up alarm but see there are some recent complaints about this on their app reviews, so I’ll see how I go this week.  The heart rate monitor feature is not a continuous thing (which I quite like) but you can do this at any time via the app.

2.  I like the look of the MiBand and it’s comfortable

It seems that fitbands vary in terms of look – some are quite wide and have digital numbers and screens, most look pretty sporty, but not many are very classy.  The MiBand though looks really nice.  I like the simple black & silver.  I rarely wear jewellery, with the exception of earrings.  I haven’t even worn my wedding ring for years.  I work a lot on a computer and find things on my wrists/fingers annoying and distracting.  I did have a few bracelets on that I’ve worn for about the last week though and added the MiBand today – it looks very much “at home” with them, don’t you think?

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It’s very light and once it’s in place, you barely know you’re wearing it.  I did swap the band and bracelets over to the left wrist (due to the step tracking issue above) which is slightly less comfortable for me personally, but I think give it a day or two and I’ll probably be used to it.  It’s also splash-proof so I don’t have to worry about it when washing hands etc.  Some reviews have called it waterproof and shown demos dropping it in a glass of water with no problem, and some users have posted reviews that they’ve worn it swimming.  However I think I would take mine off for showers, but good to know that if I forget it’s not likely to be a major drama.

3.  The MiBand is not only a reasonable price, it’s cheap!

As you will see on their official website link and screenshot above, the retail price is USD14.99 (and I paid a little more with the blue band at EUR19.92, which had free shipping).  As a few reviews I’ve seen say, it’s pretty much the cheapest fit band on the market right now – but does it also offer quality?

4.  The MiBand is actually above reasonable quality

This YouTube review below does a head to head comparison with a much more expensive fit band and it does really well.  As mentioned above, I think you have to have the attitude that the measurements will not be totally accurate, but more a guide.  The quality of the parts do seem to be above what you would expect for the price point, and it certainly doesn’t look “cheap and nasty”.  The band itself is sleek and strong and the clasp is easy to adjust and sits firmly.  You need to push the actual electronic part into the bracelet with a fair bit of force but this does mean that once it “pops in” it won’t fall out.  I think it could handle a few bashes and drops.  They call it a “military grade sensor” (whatever that means) and if you want actual specs, you can find them here.

It comes packaged nicely in a quality box which was a bit hard to open actually but added to the quality feel – very “Apple” style actually.

5. I do think the MiBand will motivate me to move more

My final criteria was that I wanted a fit band to motivate me to get off my computer regularly and move more.  The app says that the World Health Organisation recommends to exercise for 40 minutes daily, and this has been translated into an activity goal on the app as 8000 steps.  You can set goals on the app from 2000 up to 30,000 per day.  It’s still quite a novelty to look at the app and try to reach my goals, but as above, I don’t really trust the reliability so that may make me a little lazier.  Overall though, I do think even just wearing it on my wrist is a bit of a reminder to move.

So overall, at less than 20 euros, I find that the MiBand quite easily met all of my criteria.  I’m writing this review on the same day I bought it but will pop back for an update in a month or so.

Not only that, it does extra things too….

  • syncs some data with the Health app on my iPhone
  • gives a battery percentage on the app (and apparently battery lasts about 2 weeks and the charger is a sleek USB you just plug it into)
  • vibrates with an incoming call (haven’t tried yet)

My only concern is a general one about wearable technology.  It hasn’t been around long enough to really check the effects – they are supposed to help monitor health but I wonder whether wearing a wifi/bluetooth enabled device constantly is a good thing.  I’d like to give it a try for a month or so though and decide, and at this price point, you can do that.

Do you have a fit band or other wearable technology?  Love to hear about your experiences in a comment.

Renee