Xiaomi MiBand

Who needs an expensive fitness band?

$13. That's how much the Xiaomi MiBand costs. Or it would if you could walk into a shop in China and buy one. But what is it? Xiaomi isn't a company we're overly familiar with in Europe and North America but its best known for its MIUI custom version of Android and for its smartphones. But this is neither of those, this is one of the lowest priced fitness trackers that money can buy.

We've managed to get hold of one and we'll be doing up a proper review in due course, but read on for a few first impressions.

The $13 price tag is a little misleading, I'll admit. When you do the straight up currency conversion that's what you're left with. This one actually cost $32 including shipping to the UK, but even then, it's remarkably well priced. It's also remarkably simple, which will certainly help keep the price down. It isn't much to look at, and while I've got the black version here, the MiBand comes in a whole range of much brighter colors.

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A Fitbit or smartwatch though, this is not. What it is, is a simple adjustable silicon wrist band with a dongle that plugs into it. You only ever need to take the dongle out of the band for charging, and even then it's not necessary that often since Xiaomi claims up to 30 days battery life from it. It's also a proprietary charger, so best not to lose it. The only visual aids on the whole band are three LEDs that blink in different ways based on your daily progress towards a self appointed step goal.

Xiaomi MiBand app

So what does it track? Essentially it tracks walking/running and your sleep patterns, and right now that's about it – though Xiaomi is taking "votes" on which other sports activities to support. The data is synced to the MiBand Android app via Bluetooth and should work just fine on any Android phone running 4.4 KitKat and above. Using the MiBand with a Xiaomi phone unlocks some added functionality such as bypassing your phones lock screen password. It'll also wake you up in the morning with a silent, yet strong vibrating alarm. It's also IP67 rated, so you can even take it in the shower with you.

So, first impressions, then. It's pretty comfortable to wear, in no small part due to how light it is. The band is highly adjustable so it's really easy to get it just right for your wrist. It's also pretty discreet, it isn't that big and is easy to wear beneath a long sleeve shirt. I've a few early reservations about how accurate it actually is since apparently I did 80 steps this morning before getting out of bed, but at the same time I'm not overly concerned about it. It's still better than counting them manually. The sleep tracking does at least seem to be close enough, as with a newborn baby I'm more than aware how much I'm waking up in the night. And the data seems to reflect that. And the alarm is plenty strong enough.

It'll take a little while to properly put the MiBand through its paces – especially those battery life claims – so we'll be back with a full review in the coming weeks. In the meantime if you're interested there are a bunch of places online you can grab one (sadly not for $13) including Amazon, so there's a quick link for that below.

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