When my smartphone is in my pocket, I often don’t notice it vibrate, which leads to me missing calls and texts. This issue has plagued me for a long time, but I may have found the perfect solution; a fitness tracker. In addition to tracking steps, many fitness trackers have the option to vibrate when you receive a notification on your smartphone. By moving the vibration from my jacket pocket to my wrist, I haven’t yet missed a call or a text.
Fitness trackers typically have very small screens, so you can only see a short preview of the notification. In many cases, knowing who sent the message is enough to decide whether it deserves my attention, so a short preview works very well for me. If I am going to read and respond to a message, I am going to do that on my smartphone anyway, so I personally can’t justify buying a more advanced ‘smartwatch’ such as the Apple Watch.
The Xiaomi Mi Band 2
I received a fitness tracker in 2016 as a gift, so I’ve had past experience with such devices, but that was a generic device from China and the experience was terrible. A few months ago I found the Xiaomi Mi Band 2 on sale for £12 from gearbest.com, so I pounced on the deal. Usually, the price hovers between £15 and £20, and believe me when I tell you that it’s worth every penny. If you want to know more about buying from China, have a look at my blog about it here. The Mi Band 2 from the tech giant Xiaomi has excelled in popularity for a variety of reasons, several of which I will outline in this blog.
Physically, the Xiaomi Mi Band 2 is similar in size to many other fitness trackers. The device itself is an oblong pebble which securely clips inside the included strap, which makes band replacements very easy. The enclosed capsule allows the module to be IP67 waterproof, I’ve used it in the shower and swimming without any issues. On the front, you have an OLED display and a touch-sensitive button, and on the back, you have a heart rate sensor. The display is smaller than a 5p coin, which means that the software is very efficient with space, but the flipside is that battery life is very good compared to similar fitness trackers.
As previously mentioned, the main reason for buying the Mi Band 2 was for mirroring notifications. The free Mi Fit app does an ‘OK’ job at doing this, but my gripe is that it doesn’t show enough detail about notifications. By using a 3rd party app from the Play Store, Tools & Mi Band, I have configured the band to show the app icon and the contact name (or the e-mail subject). You can set it up to scroll the whole message across the tiny screen, but I decided that wasn’t worth it.
Having notifications on my wrist works well and I very rarely miss the vibration, where previously I wouldn’t feel them through my pocket. The vibration is subtle enough that it doesn’t disturb other people in a quiet environment, but it still gets my attention, even when I’m moving around. An advantage of showing the notification preview is I know whether it’s important enough to warrant taking my phone out. I can now differentiate between a text from a family member (unimportant) and Twitter highlights (very important) with just a glance at the wrist.
Step counting and sleep tracking
Fitness tracking wasn’t a feature which I was interested in when I bought the fitness tracker, but I have slowly become more interested in my step count and sleep quality, simply because the statistics are being collected by the tracker. If you’re not interested in fitness tracking then that’s fine, you can simply just ignore the statistics, but for those who are interested, I’ve found the Mi Band 2 to be very reliable.
This is just like any other day. I’m always this active. Honest.
Step counting seems reliable, except when driving, when it will count a few steps accidentally (but nothing major). I counted 100 steps and it correctly recorded them within an acceptable margin of error, so I’m quite happy that the step counting statistics are realistic. The Mi Band 2 also has a heart rate monitor, which also appears to be quite reliable. The measurements it takes are concordant with those from a generic heart rate monitor app. If you’re curious, I wrote a blog about how you can measure your heart rate with any smartphone.
Sleep tracking is harder to verify, for obvious reasons, but it does correctly detect when I’ve woken up, so presumably, it’s able to detect when I’ve fallen asleep and hence calculate the total amount of sleep each night. As for the deep sleep and light sleep statistics, I can’t comment. They seem realistic at least, and I can’t see why they would be wrong.
Why I prefer the Xiaomi Mi Band 2
The main reason for preferring the Mi Band 2 is because it’s already a popular fitness tracker. As a result, there are several 3rd party apps on the Google Play Store for extending its functionality, such as the aforementioned Tools & Mi Band which customises notifications. The software experience is also well refined, and Xiaomi can push software updates to the fitness tracker through their Mi Fit app, which can’t be said for most generic fitness trackers.
Tools & Mi Band - 3rd party app
The battery life is quoted to be 20 days without a constant Bluetooth connection, but other people have been reporting longer than this. On the other hand, with Bluetooth enabled and tracking enabled, I’ve only been getting a week of usage before I need to charge the battery (which takes 1 hour for a full charge). Perhaps I have a defective battery, but for the price I paid, I’m perfectly happy with 1-week battery life. This is far better than the generic fitness tracker which only managed a day or two.
Having a fitness tracker has completely changed the way I interact with my smartphone. I no longer take it out my pocket to check every notification, I can now judge with a quick look to my wrist. I have also developed an interest in the fitness tracking which might continue to develop into something more, who knows.
What do you think of fitness trackers, would you consider buying one for the purpose of receiving notifications?