Mi Band vs the Google Fit app: Fitness tracking on a budget

Lose weight, not your beer money with this budget duo

Need help with all that flab, but watching your budget more closely than your waistline? That excuse won’t do any longer with the new Mi Band and the Google Fit app

You remember what happened to that DSLR and that gym membership you got? Let’s take a wild guess - after that initial spurt of enthusiasm, the DSLR lies tucked away in a cupboard, taken out once in a blue moon. As for the gym, you’ve been saying ‘tomorrow’ for the past six months. We’re right, aren’t we? So why spend all that cash on a fancy fitness band that you’ll forget about come the weekend?

What’s the Mi Band all about?

At just 999, Xiaomi’s Mi Band seems to be a heck of a deal when you look at the more expensive fitness bands around – they might give you more features, but hey, you could pick up a Mi Band for every member of your family (Fido included) for the price of a Jawbone or Fitbit. But no matter how fancy it is or how low-priced, a wearable device has got to look good (that would be the first, second and third rule of Wearable Computing). Guess what! We’re in luck as while the Mi Band might be cheap, it doesn’t look cut-rate. And you can certainly make it more cheerful by dumping the boring black strap for something brighter. Or become the centre of attention at an art soirée with a leather strap.

The Mi Band in action

You want to know what we love most about the Mi Band? The sleep tracking feature that shows how much time you spend in the various stages of sleep. Yup, it’s kinda cool to see how partying till late at night can reduce the quality of your ZZZZZZs. Other stuff that floats our boat is the ability to add the Mi Band as a trusted Bluetooth device which lets you use it as a ‘key’ for keeping your phone unlocked (as long as it’s connected, you don’t need to use your unlock PIN), and the LED strip and the vibration alert that are pretty handy for passing on notifications. Then there’s also the awesome 30-day battery life and IP67 water-resistance.


But all’s not peachy with the Mi Band. It tends to horribly overestimate your activity at times. Waved goodbye? That’s a dozen steps. Run your hands through your hair? Congratulations, you’re a fitness maniac. Overall, we reckon the Mi Band exaggerates your activity by almost 30%! It’s very, very annoying, but we’ve learnt to factor that in when estimating how lazy we’ve been all weekend. Also in the ‘this could have been better’ column is the Mi Band app, which has rather limited support for other activities and doesn’t let you share your fitness data with other services. And finally, this is a minor nitpick, but the notification mirroring and vibration alarm feature gets old rather soon - It is useful but it’s also annoying to be woken up by what feels like a buzzing mosquito on steroids.

Budget of zero? Get Google Fit

No fitness bands and no app subscriptions - Google Fit uses your phone’s sensors to track your activities. Although it’s not going to be that accurate if your phone’s not on you at every waking moment. But the Fit isn’t just a pedometer - Walking? Cycling? Basketball? Try harder.... You can manually enter data for over 100 activities, ranging from run-of-the-mill, to exotic ones that sound more like torture. Yeah, you can now go paddle boarding or sand running and yet track how many calories you expend.


Google Fit also works like a dashboard that unifies your activity data from quite a few other fitness apps, including RunKeeper, Runtastic, Strava and Nike+ Running. But the best part about Fit is that it works with any Android Wear device, turning your new smartwatch into a proper fitness band.


What would we get?

If you already have a smartwatch, it’s a no-brainer – the Google Fit app is good enough. That also applies if you aren’t that serious about fitness tracking and just want to get a feel for it – just make sure your phone’s on you at all times, and you’ll be surprised how accurate this app is.


But if you’re ready to take the next step with your fitness plan and yet don’t want to spend too much, the Mi Band might just be what you’re looking for. Yes, it seems a bit too sensitive and the Xiaomi app doesn’t connect to other health and fitness services, but we can live with it. Then there’s the sleep tracking feature, which seems to be spot on and can be a pretty good aid for diagnosing sleep issues. On top of that, you get some fantastic battery life, notification alerts, and the ability to keep your phone unlocked via Bluetooth. Factor in all of these, along with the rather sweet price - 999 - and you can’t help but think that the Mi Band makes for a pretty good way of getting started with fitness & activity tracking. Yup, that’s what we’d get!