Seven Days with the Xiaomi Mi Band: A Model of Simple Wearable Tech UX for Business

Worn Out With Wearables

That well-worn maxim about keeping it simple, stupid (KISS) now applies as much to wearable tech (see what I did there?) user experience as it does to mobile or web apps.

The challenge is to keep on keeping “it” simple as product managers and nervous C-types push for more bells and whistles in a wearable tech market going ballistic. Simplicity is a relative term in the fast changing world of technology. Thankfully, the Xiaomi Mi Band has been kept simple and the UX relates to me.

mi_with_apple_color

The Mi Band worn alongside Apple Watch (42mm version) for size.

I first heard about the Mi Band with a heads-up from OAUX AppsLab chief Jake Kuramoto (@jkuramot) last summer. It took me nearly six months to figure out a way to order this Chinese device in Europe: When it turned in up Amazon UK.

topper

We both heard about the Mi from longtime Friend of the ‘Lab, Matt Topper (@topperge).

I’ve become jaded with the current deluge of wearable tech and the BS washing over it. Trying to make sense of wearable tech now makes my head hurt. The world and its mother are doing smartwatches and fitness trackers. Smartglasses are coming back. Add the wellness belts, selfie translators that can get you a date or get you arrested, and ingestibles into the mix; well it’s all too much to digest. There are signals the market is becoming tired too, as the launch of the Fitbit Blaze may indicate.

On a winning streak: Mi Band (All app images are on iOS)

On a winning streak: Mi Band (All app images are on iOS)

But after 7 days of wearing the Mi Band, I have to say: I like it.

Mi User Experience Es Tu User Experience

My Mi Band came in a neat little box, complete with Chinese language instructions.

Inside the little box: A big UX emerges.

Inside the little box: A big UX emerges.

Setup was straightforward. I figured out that the QR code in the little booklet was my gateway to installing the parent App (iOS and Android are supported) on my iPhone and creating an account. Account verification requires an SMS text code to be sent and entered. This made me wonder where my data was stored and its security. Whatever.

I entered the typical body data to get the Mi Band setup for recording my activity (by way of steps) and sleep automatically, reporting progress on the mobile app or by glance at the LEDs on the sensor (itself somewhat underwhelming in appearance. This ain’t no Swarovski Misfit Shine).

bmi

Enter your personal data. Be honest.

Metric, Imperial, and Jin locale units are supported.

Metric, Imperial, and Jin locale units are supported.

I charged up the sensor using yet another unique USB cable to add to my ever-growing pile of Kabelsalat, slipped the sensor into the little bracelet (black only, boo!), and began the tracking of step, sleep and weight progress (the latter requires the user to enter data manually).

I was impressed by simplicity of operation that was balanced by attention to detail and a friendly style of UX. The range of locale settings, the quality of the visualizations, and the very tone of the communications (telling me I was on a “streak”) was something I did not expect from a Chinese device. But then Xiaomi is one of the world’s biggest wearable tech players, so shame on me, I guess.

The data recorded seemed to be fairly accurate. The step count seemed to be a little high for my kind of exertion and my sleep stats seemed reasonable. The Mi Band is not for the 100 miles-a-week runners like me or serious quantified self types who will stick with Garmin, Suunto, Basis, and good old Microsoft Excel.

For a more in-depth view of my activity stats, I connected the Mi Band to Apple Health and liked what I saw on my iPhone (Google Fit is also supported). And of course, the Mi Band app is now enabled for social. You can share those bragging rights like the rest of them.

But, you guessed it. I hated the color of the wristband. Only black was available, despite Xiaomi illustrations showing other colors. WTF? I retaliated by ordering a Hello Kitty version from a third party.

The Mi Band seems ideal for the casual to committed fitness type and budding gym bunnies embarking on New Year resolutions to improve their fitness and need the encouragement to keep going. At a cost of about 15 US dollars, the Mi Band takes some beating. Its most easily compared with the Fitbit Flex, and that costs a lot more.

Beyond Getting Up To Your Own Devices

I continue to enjoy the simple, glanceable UX and reporting of my Mi Band. It seems to me that its low price is hinting at an emergent business model that is tailor-made for the cloud: Make the devices cheap or even free, and use the data in the cloud for whatever personal or enterprise objectives are needed. That leaves the fanatics and fanbois to their more expensive and complex choices and to, well, get up to their own devices.

So, for most, keeping things simple wins out again. But the question remains: how can tech players keep on keeping it simple?

Mi Band Review at a Glance

Likes

  • Simplicity
  • Price
  • Crafted, personal UX
  • Mobile app visualizations and Apple and Google integration

Dislikes

  • Lack of colored bands
  • Personal data security
  • Unique USB charging cable
  • Underwhelming #fashtech experience

Your thoughts are welcome in the comments.

4 comments

  1. Thanks for publishing. I enjoyed this one a lot. Helped out by my 11 year old on the pictures. I should say the batter life (long) works well for me too! Cannot wait for the Hello Kitty band..:)

    I’ll look into more of what Xiaomi can offer.

  2. Hi Ultan,

    I was pleasantly surprised to see your post. I’ve been using the Mi band for about a year. I used a Nike FuelBand (which lasted a year, got replaced by Nike, then lasted a year – RIP) for a couple years before that.

    The Mi band is much more lenient on counting activity than the Nike FuelBand, but I’ve read comparisons that are pretty consistent about the stinginess of Nike’s formula.

    What I like about the Mi band:
    – battery – lasts a month
    – vibrates for incoming calls which is GREAT when my phone is silenced (often)
    – so simple
    – sleep tracking – light and deep
    – colorful bands (ok I had to buy them separately, but they are inexpensive)
    – cheap but not cheaply made
    – not missing much from the Nike FuelBand, plus I gained sleep info

    Cons (all pretty minor):
    – display is very minimal; I could use more motivation (Nike was ok at that)
    – tough to get the display to light up… you have to move just so, and be standing up. that said, it’s easier and more informative to just check the info in my phone
    – it has fallen out of its bracelet a couple times, so I also got some after market bands that go over and hold it in. now i can color coordinate w/the bracelet 🙂
    – Nike had more detail available in the history, but I haven’t really missed it.
    – Does the Chinese gov’t now know everywhere I go and everything on my phone? Xiaomi does say in their doc they’ll tell the gov’t anything it asks for… hmm… one of the reasons I don’t give it my Google info or hook it up to Google Fit.

    I was so impressed with it I got one for my 9 year old who was bugging me for a Fitbit. No way I’m investing in one of those for a 9yo.

    I got it from Amazon (US) as well, but was very careful to pick the vendor and make sure AMZN would take it back in case I was sent a fake. The fake ones apparently do not work with the Mi app. Some reviewers were not careful and received fakes. Who would bother to fake a $20 device?

    You seem to have more screens in your iPhone app than on my Android. I don’t have a dashboard.

    – Christina

  3. Hi Christina,
    Thanks for the comments. Xiaomi are a strong player in the market for sure.

    The Mi price point and value is excellent.

    I love my Hello Kitty band btw!

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