Smart bracelet: my experience with the Mi Band 3

I was an early adopter of fitness bracelets with heart-rate monitoring. I use them to track my heart rate at rest. You heart rate should be around 65 if you are fit. If it goes much higher than 65, you might be getting unfit or you might have a medical condition. I also like to track the quality of my sleep.

I don’t really need this data right now in the sense that I am in good health. However, it is hard to keep good habits on the long term. I can easily monitor my weight by looking in the mirror, but it is easier to let my physical condition slide. I have ever saw bad numbers, it might nudge me into correcting my habits.

I have never tried the Apple Watch, which I hear is great. However, I am looking for something that I do not need to recharge every day. Also, I prefer to pay less if I can.

I have owned a couple of Fitbit watches. Fitbit bracelets and watches have been a major disappointment. They are expensive, the software is often buggy, the hardware tends to crash periodically, it is not durable, and so forth. Though on paper the Fitbit watches have many features like notifications and so on, they are finicky to setup and often fail mysterious. Fitbit has good social networking features and it makes good looking products, but that is all.

When my last Fitbit watch broke apart, I decided that I would never buy a Fitbit product anymore. Too expensive, too buggy.

I should say that one of my sons as well as my wife swear by their Fitbit bracelets. They seem to have good luck with them. The only difference between me and them that I can see is that I sleep with my bracelets whereas they do not.

So I tried my luck with a Chinese product, the Mi Band. It is $35. It is almost an order of magnitude less expensive than equivalent Fitbit products.

I have been wearing it for about a month now. Here are my thoughts. Firstly, the negatives:

  • When I got it, it was in Chinese with a Chinese-only manual. I panicked slightly. Thankfully the mobile app was available in pretty much all languages. I setup the app and had trouble initially pairing my phone with the bracelet (which remained dark), until I realized that I needed to recharge the bracelet. Then it worked but the bracelet kept its display in Chinese. I was annoyed. I tried many things, until, mysteriously, the mobile app downloaded an update and after syncing with the bracelet, everything has been in English.
  • The Mi Band does not look as nice as Fitbit products. It is slightly ugly. However, I should say that I don’t find the Apple Watch particularly pretty.

    Note that this is my personal taste. Several people have commented that my Mi Band looks good.

  • It is entirely possible that the Communist government of China can access some of my data.

Secondly the positives:

  • The mobile app has been rock solid. It looks good. It seems less buggy than the Fitbit app which I often needed to restart.
  • Notifications actually work! That is, if someone calls me or if I have a meeting, my bracelet will vibrate. In theory, Fitbit watches do that as well, but I never could get it to work reliably. It really improves my quality of life!
  • The bracelet works, it is responsive. I find it easy to use and configure.
  • Even though the bracelet continuously record my heart rate, the battery life is excellent.
  • Did I mention that it is only 35$? I have the Mi Band 3. If the Mi Band 4 comes out next year, I will be eager to purchase. I would gladly pay 35$ a year for a smart bracelet.
  • For a tiny bit of extra money, you can purchase third-party products to change the look of the Mi Band. I bought a dark steel enclosure for 12$. It is great.
  • I have not checked the accuracy of the device. However the heart-rate and sleep numbers are quite similar to what I was getting with the Fitbit watches.