I like to walk.
I love technology.
When I got crook, I knew I needed to do something about it and deal with this old mainframe of a body, making it a little leaner, battery charged and backup capable so that I could do things like…. You know. Walk to my letterbox and back to the front door. 12 Steps. Those 12 steps meant something and still do.
Now I walk 7,000 – 12,000 steps a day and feel a whole lot better.
Given my need for measurement and knowing technology meant I started looking around at fitness trackers and smart watches. I started with a Tom Tom Touch I picked up at a local JB hifi in March for about $134 on sale. It had cardio, it had a step counter and it told me what time it was. There was heart rate tracking and the battery lasted me about 2 days before needing to recharge. But I couldn’t go swimming in it and for me to start acting like Cliff Young in the pool I needed ATM waterproofing.
So, given this I started looking around and the apple iwatch pricing didn’t suit me at all so started looking at Google’s Wear OS smartwatches. You could do all sorts of crazy stuff with it like MP3 audio listening, swimming, heart rate and developers were making apps. I was in business! I found a hot looking, but massive Fossil Misfit and bought it for $279 shipped.
The whole user experience was a a total and utter fail.
The WearOS operating sytems is immature, a huge battery drain and on the misfit, the battery lasted about 4 – 6 hours. The google fit app on my Android and iPhone was inaccurate and the watch needed regular cleaning for the charger to even work. The Misfit Vapor even had a strange charger. After I optimised the watch function a number of times after a significant amount of reading and switching some functions (that I liked) off the watch would still only last for about 10 hours without a full charge. Nope… that wasn’t the beast I was after. I started to look at the tic watch E and other products but they were just too darned big. I was frankly burnt by the negative reviews and more reading on reddit about the vagaries of WearOS and the fact that you still had to pair with your smart phone to use most of the products out there. I don’t take my phone EVERYWHERE and frankly don’t want to so that was out. Sure .. I wanted it all but “all” but what I essentially just need is to log my steps, give me a way to communicate with my mates via notifications and tell me the weather in a waterproof way.
Meanwhile, the Apple Watch 4 had come out and looked amazing and the total solution. AMAZING. But still, buying a return airfare to Bali and a week off meant more to me than buying another watch. So, I started moving back into looking at fitness trackers as the way forward.
Then .. I found the mi band 3. At $55 shipped to my door with good reviews, the fact that I could swim in it, google fit synced and had support and it came with a damn good Mifit app of it’s own, I gave it a crack.
I’m 3 months in since purchase and I’ve found my “thing”. It tracks my steps accurately, battery with the heart rate constantly being checked lasts for about 10 – 14 days. The watch has a good notifications and the weather app syncs well in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and all over Bali and Shenzhen in China (All the joints I’ve taken it with me). $55 bucks AUD! The more I kept reading about my thing the more I liked it. So, here are the tech specs, the downsides and the lowdown on how to get one and make it look a little less like a run of the mill big rugged man smartwatch or something you would only wear with active wear.
Processor::- Low Power Consumption processor from Dialog
Operating System:: – Proprietary OS
Display:: – 0.78″ inch Color OLED 128×80 pixel
RAM:: – 1m flash memory
Battery:: – 110 mAh 20 Days of Battery Life in standby
Sensors:: – ADI ultra low-power acceleration sensor + photoelectric heart rate sensor
Bluetooth:: – LTE 4.2
Non geeky translation of above:: – … (yes mum, aunties, and my other women of steel, I mean you) :
- The OS is the operating system and it’s kinda like saying “Mac versus windows”. The OS being proprietary means that like the fitbit and the tom-tom, the little thing is driven and run by Xiaomi, a Chinese manufacturer of a lot of Chinese market based phones and “bits”. They are known for making A LOT of low cost very good hardware and selling to billions of Chinese people. In essence the display is simple. You just need to know how to read and swipe nd press buttons. The battery specs are officially 20 days but that’s kinda crap. Think 10 – 18 . Depends on how many notifications you’d like to enable and how often you check your heart rate. Still pretty good.
- The sensors mean it will track steps accurately and how quickly you’re going and the heart rate is your ole ticker!
- ATM5M rated waterproofing is important. Yes! You can swim with this one. No deeps sea diving I’m afraid but swimming is A OK.
- I liked this tracker so much I went to China! Not really, but I did go to China and found some excellent style accessories that are ethically sourced and don’t cost a mint. Want to wear it as a pendant? Sure. Want a stack of watch bands to suit your look? Sure.
- The battery – it just “goes” …. Again, I walk 12,000 steps a day, wear it to bed, track my sleep and want to know what and when I get an SMS in a meeting, Don’t care about the fact that I can’t respond… I’ll nip out and use the phone if I can’t.
- Google fit support means that If I use another smart watch at different times for different reasons or use my phone for walking about then google fit mashes up and “understands” adding all the data up all the time for all your connected devices.
- Wear and tear. I’m messy and big into things, drop them etc. I reckon I’ve dropped this thing about 50 times and still works like a dream. Remember those old Nokia 3310’s everyone had in the 90’s and the way they just oddly always kept going? .. Well .. .yeah This tracker reminds me of those.
- Great alarms feature for taking your daily pills etc.
- The band will only store data and sync to your phone once very 24 hours at midnight. Keep your phone synced once a day. To be safe. Some users report up to 3 days.
- In bright sunlight you won’t see the screen and need to find some shade!
- The excercise monitor switches off during your pool routine and can be quite sensitive.
- The stopwatch will only run for up to 100 minutes and then tick over. .. nooo! I’m on china southern air and on a long haul flight.. tell me when I can get away from the man who just accidentally spat on me.
- The heart rate function can be a little dodgy.
- The step counter is 95% accurate. Good enough for me but not for those who are folks who “WANT EVERY SINGLE STEP COUNTED EVERY SECOND of the day” type humans.
3rd party apps:
The short answer is YES. There are a few available and I will endeavour to document and provide you info to find the best app for your needs. You’ll need to download the mi fit app for your iphone or your android smart phone (Mum, it’s like Evie’s phone versus your phone) as a start. then, the three apps I would recommend looking into are Notify, Gadgetbridge and Mi Band Tools. It really does depend on how you use the device as to how deep you’d like to get into the apps. Overall, Gadgetbridge is the only free one and has the added bonus of being a data storage app that allows you to store your activity outside the Xiaomi universe. If you worry about privacy and want your data stored in a different spot that you choose then I’d recommend this app. As for the others, both are under $5 each and each has their own costs and benefits. If you’re not a geek, don’t mind about the privacy bit and you don’t wish to spend time on customising your app just download the default mifit app. It’s free and will give you all the basics you need.
4.5 stars. This “thing” just works. It gets stepping out, it gets a long battery time, it gets notifications and weather updates without overloading the device with a lot of crap it doesn’t need, I’ve found some hot accessories I can use to make it a part of my daily work wardrobe and I can stick it in the water without an issue (I do so regularly).