When it comes to fitness bands, Xiaomi’s Mi Band has been leading from the front.
Every other quarter when global numbers for fitness bands are out, Xiaomi is always seen on the top. In Q3 2018, for instance, according to IDC, Xiaomi had a 21 percent market share globally with 6.9 mn wearables shipped. Mi Band 3 managed to sell over a million units by end of March this year.
With the festive season fast approaching, Xiaomi has launched the Mi Band 4 at Rs 2,299. The last few generations though, Xiaomi has had some competition from its Chinese counterpart Honor Band series as well. This time around, the Mi Band 4 is competing against the Honor Band 5 (review). Let’s see how it holds up and whether it will still rule the fitness band segment this time around.
Colour displays are becoming mainstream
It looks like entry-level fitness bands with colour displays are now a thing. As with the Honor Band 5, the Mi Band 4 also comes with a 0.95-inch display with a 240 x 120-pixel rectangular shape and a pixel density of 282 PPI. Between the two devices, I would say in terms of brightness, the Honor Band 5 is quite good. It was a struggle to read the Mi Band 4 in bright daylight with the default brightness settings. I had to boost it up all the way to the maximum. In terms of sharpness, both the bands are at par and get the task done. Only when you get notifications from apps such as WhatsApp or Telegram do you notice some amount of pixellation as the text size is quite tiny.
The design of the Mi Band 4 is not very different from that of earlier Mi Bands. Visually speaking, the only difference is that the circular depression below the display on the Mi Band 3 is replaced by a flat surface on the Mi Band 4. You still have the band module housed inside the silicon frame which is part of the band that you wrap around your wrist.
This time around, Mi Band 4 features a button lock mechanism, which could take a second longer to fix soon. I preferred keeping the band one notch looser as otherwise, the perspiration would make the wrist itchy. Removing the Band module takes a bit of effort.
The good thing here is that you are not stuck with one strap colour, unlike the Honor Band 5, which offers no option for replacing band straps.
Usability and performance
You will need to pair the Xiaomi Mi Band 4 with the Mi Fit app on your phone. I paired the Mi Band 4 with the iOS version of the Mi Fit app. The first order of the day is to sync the Mi Band 4 with the app. You do that by hitting on the ‘+’ icon on the top right-hand corner of the app’s homepage. The Mi Fit app can be paired with the Mi Band, a Watch (which I am assuming is the Amazfit series of watches which are owned by Xiaomi), Scale and Smart shoes.
Once paired, you will see four main tabs such as Status. Walking, Running and Cycling. The last three come with a map interface and a Go button. These are meant to be used only if you want to track your walking, running or cycling workouts on a map. Since the Mi Band 4 itself does not have a GPS tracker, it uses the one on the phone paired with the Mi Band to record that data. The Status tab is the one you will interact the most with. At a glance, if gives you your daily walk data, last night’s sleep stats, heart rate and if you have any streaks or achievements, then they show at the bottom of this tab as well. To see more granular data you will have to tap on the individual activity you want to see — you will get a day-wise, week-wise or month-wise look at the stats. The sleep tracker feature gives you an idea of your quality of sleep along with some insights depending on the data. It also tells you how you compare with the rest of the Mi Band community. The app is really well designed, and pleasing to look at and tinker around with. You also get a variety of watch faces to have as your display background.
The interface is relatively quick to respond compared to the Honor Band 5. But on the Band itself, you can’t activate a lot of things such as notifications or calling features, etc. You will have to activate these things from the Mi Fit app. The Band does register false steps when you are driving or taking a flight, when even though you are sitting stationary, the surrounding vibrations are counted as steps.
Activity and workout tracking worked as expected. Heart rate readings take a while to show up, but they were in line with the ones I had seen on my Apple Watch, within a tolerance of 8-10 beats.
Music controls are provided in the 'More' section, and you can control the music playing on your phone with the Mi Band. But it was a clunky experience and I would certainly not use the Mi Band to control my music. It keeps losing the Bluetooth connection, so every time you wake the Mi Band, it will take a second or two to sync to the music being played. Increasing and decreasing volume is also quite a task. Overall, a feature best avoided.
Oh, and something to be aware of, stray water drops can trigger the screen.
Xiaomi Mi Band 4 comes with a 135 mAh battery. While Xiaomi claims a 20-day battery life, you should take that with a pinch of salt. In the couple of weeks that I used the Mi Band 4, I had to charge it once. If you are not using the workout portion of the band on a daily basis or have most notifications off, then you can touch the 20-day battery life mark — but that’s not what most users would do. I managed to finish one full charge off around the 12-13 day mark in this mode. This is pretty darn good considering its competitor, the Honor Band 5 (which has a 100 mAh battery), gave a 5-day active battery life. It takes around 90 or so minutes to charge completely from a single-digit battery percentage, but you will have to remove the Band 4 module from the casing and charge it in the proprietary charging pod — so don't misplace the charging pod.
Mi Band 4 Verdict and Price in India
Xiaomi Mi Bands have been acing the fitness band volumes every year, and there’s a reason for that. You are getting a feature-packed fitness band at an extremely affordable price point. Of course, gone are the days of getting the Mi Band under Rs 1,000, but it makes sense as fitness bands with displays don’t come that cheap. At Rs 2,299, the Mi Band 4 comes highly recommended.
Is it significantly better than the Honor Band 5? Not really. In fact, in terms of display brightness and overall looks, the Honor Band 5 is certainly better off. But the Mi Band 4 offers stellar battery life, which would really attract a lot of buyers. Honestly, it’s all down to personal preferences. Even if you are going for the Honor Band 5, you are well off too.