The Xiaomi Band 2 might be the Chinese company’s latest fitness tracker, but if you want to go even more budget, don’t forget about the first generation Xiaomi Mi Band and the Mi Band Pulse.
These two little trackers are light, durable and both seriously cheap. However, Xiaomi’s budget wearable can also be very temperamental, so it’s a hit and miss experience. Likewise, its second wearable, the Xiaomi Mi Band Pulse is ludicrously affordable considering what that its offers basic activity and heart rate tracking but it’s not perfect.
Here’s our top tips and tricks for getting the most out of your Mi Band.
1. Be realistic about steps and distance
The biggest tip we can give you for using either of the two older Mi Bands for long term fitness or weight loss goals is that, in our experience, it overestimates steps and distance. One way to counteract this is to take the band off when you’ll be moving your arm a lot. Like when you’re typing at work for instance.
This also means the handy estimates of calories burned are also probably too high. This doesn’t make it useless – it’s still possible to see progress in walking more steps one week than you did the week before.
Just be aware that Xiaomi is being kind.
2. Hook it up to Google Fit/Apple Health
Chances are if you own a Xiaomi Mi Band or Mi Band Pulse, it’s your first tracker or even your first wearable. But if you use an Android phone, hooking it up to Google Fit (via Accounts in Settings) means you will have all your activity in one place – from your phone when you’re not wearing a wearable and from third party apps and services like Strava and RunKeeper. iPhone users can sync Mi Fit data including step counts, sleep, calories and weight to Apple Health.
This is particularly helpful for the heart rate data as Xiaomi’s own Mi Fit app simply gives you a list of individual readings with ‘slow’, ‘normal’ or ‘fast’ labels and a hint or two on bpm training.
It’s not particularly easy to export Mi Fit data into CSV files but if you want to, some enterprising internet types have done the leg work for you.
3. Don’t worry about turning Bluetooth off
If you don’t need call alerts – the Mi Band doesn’t do messages or WhatsApps – and you’re worried about your smartphone’s battery, use the Xiaomi tracker as an anchor to keep you moving during the day and sync it at intervals.
If the Mi Band had more alerts features and its three LEDs were more reliable, we’d say make full use of this addition but as they are still limited to three apps so this is a viable option.
4. Try the smart alarm
As the Mi Band is light and comfortable enough to wear in bed, its smart alarm feature actually makes sense. It will vibrate 30 minutes before the alarm time to give you a gentle nudge that it’s time to wake up.
Sleep tracking is automatic on the Mi Band but we’re not sure the system registers the alarm or not to help it get a better estimate of your night’s kip.
5. Move your gadgets away when pairing
We had quite a bit of trouble pairing our Mi Band to our Android phone – Xiaomi’s Mi Fit app kept either asking us to try again or picking up other devices. Eventually on something like the fifth time, it paired so be patient.
It’s an annoying niggle that pairing seems to be much smoother on iPhone than some Android phones but the Mi Band was especially irritating to set up. If you are on Android, clear the area first.
6. Share your achievements
Xiaomi’s Mi Fit app doesn’t have the community or competitive elements that you’ll find in other fitness services but it is heading that way. Right now you can share that you hit your step goal, for instance, with friends via Facebook, Twitter or Line.
This is a Chinese device which has already sold millions in China so it’s no surprise that users of WeChat – which has 400 million users – can compare progress and compete on activity goals. It’s a little lonelier in the US and Europe for now.
7. Set daily activity and sleep alerts
In the Mi Fit app, you can set up a daily progress alert for a certain time each day – in this case, locked to 9.30pm – and a similar alert that details how much light and deep sleep you got throughout the night, after you wake up.
If you’re trying to tweak your lifestyle in a meaningful way, this is probably more useful than constantly checking – and possibly feeling guilty – throughout the day.
Another neat feature that we’re missing in the US and Europe is the ability to link up Xiaomi’s budget Mi smart scales to Mi Fit too – that’s possible via the iPhone and Android apps in China and hopefully we’ll see it around the world soon.
8. Swap out the band for some colour
Xiaomi has only made the Mi Band officially available in black in Europe and the US which is a bit of a shame. If you want to try out the more fun, colourful rubber bands, you can buy Mi Band er, bands in green, blue, yellow, pink and orange for as little as $2 (plus shipping) on eBay and just pop out the main Mi Band module from the boring, bundled black band.
More stylish leather-style straps are also available online if you hunt around – the default band gets scuffed up really easily.
9. Make your sleep data more accurate with HR tracking
If you’re willing to go in for more regular charging of your Mi Band Pulse, then head to settings and turn on the sleep assistant feature. This measures your heart rate periodically (every 10 minutes) while you sleep to make the sleep tracking more accurate – and trust us, it’s measuring, you might wake up and see the green light of the optical HR monitor lighting up the room.
10. Don’t rush heart rate readings
The Mi Band Pulse takes its sweet time to get a reading so allow 20 to 30 seconds per measurement. Not so helpful when you’re in the middle of a sweaty workout and want to make sure you’re (probably) in the right zone.
11. Log in on your desktop
If you’re having trouble setting up and logging in to your Mi Fit account (as we did), try signing in on your desktop, or mobile browser then go back to the iPhone or Android app. Hey, it worked for us.
12. On WinPho? Download Bind Mi Band
Xiaomi doesn’t officially support Windows Phone but if the Band 2 is a little too expensive for you, download the Bind Mi Band app. It’s free but it supports both Xiaomi bands, including the heart rate monitoring on the Pulse. Sleep tracking is unlocked when you upgrade to the Pro version of the app.