Getting yourself an accurate fitness tracker a few years back from an established brand meant shelling out nothing shy of 8-10 thousand rupees or say 150 USD, and that can be a huge deal especially in a price sensitive market like India. Enter Xiaomi in 2015 with their first-gen Mi Band, and the entire scenario of wearables in the country was about to change. What it offered for Rs. 999 was just unmatched and though it had a few shortcomings like the lack of a display which meant you had to pull out your phone each time you wanted to check your stats but the stellar battery life meant almost every negative aspect was ignored. The second iteration fixed the screen issue by adding a display, but it wasn’t that intuitive and didn’t offer a lot of features. The Mi Band 3 is here now, so let’s see if it’s just an iterative upgrade or a much-needed overhaul. Let’s get tracking!
Starting off with the looks, the exterior, the Mi Band 3 retains its traditional look with a pill-shaped tracker that fits snug into a matte black silicone strap. What’s changed though is the flat display on the Mi Band 2 is now replaced by a touch-sensitive 3D curved glass with an ever so slight depression at the bottom which acts as a touch capacitive button. Sunlight legibility was an issue with the Mi Band 2, and the Mi Band 3’s OLED panel, unfortunately, doesn’t do significantly better.
The heart rate scanner resides at the underside and one end of the tracker has contact pins which connect to the proprietary charger. Lose this, and you’re gonna have a tough time! The strap itself is pretty comfortable to wear even for long periods of time and does not cause any sense of irritation. The tracker is also water resistant up to 50m so it can take dunks without any issue.
Features of the Mi Band 3 remain largely similar to that of the Mi Band 2, especially in the fitness department, except for a few welcome additions. Let’s actually go through the menus briefly. When in an idle state, lifting up your hand in a natural time-check action will trigger the watch face that can be selected from three different options which we will take a look at in a moment. Swiping up leads to the status section which can be scrolled through by swiping sideways on the display. The number of steps you’ve walked, distance, calories burnt and the battery status can be viewed here. Swiping up once again takes you to your unread notifications which is an extremely nice addition. The Mi Band 2 did notify you of incoming notifications, but the Mi Band 3 actually lets you read your messages and dismiss them right from the band.
I’m sold. Well, at least I had purchased my first Mi Band for just the notifications! And while we’re at it, you can also silence or reject incoming calls, but the latter for some reason didn’t seem to work for me on Vivo Nex while it worked fine with OnePlus 6.
Then there’s the new weather tab, followed by heart rate, which didn’t give me erratic readings like the Mi Band 2. In fact, you now have the option to setup continuous heart rate monitoring which is a big deal for a lot of people. Then there’s a new exercise mode which tracks different workouts, finally followed by the “more” section which includes a stopwatch, an option to silence your phone, you can ring your smartphone if you can’t find it, and the option to change the watch face.
Overall, I like the overhaul!
Coming to the app, the homescreen shows you your daily summary, followed by the workouts tab which you need to manually turn on depending on what’s the workout you’re currently pursuing, and then your profile from where you can control and change every possible setting of the tracker itself. From individual app alerts to event reminders to incoming call alert, practically everything can be controlled from here. Sleep tracking is another area where the Mi Band has traditionally done well, and the Mi Band 3 doesn’t disappoint in this aspect either. It categorizes your sleep pattern based on deep sleep and light sleep and for greater accuracy, you can also enable heart rate monitoring just while sleeping if you want to.
Let’s now address what the Mi Band’s legacy has been over the years, battery life. I’ve been using the Mi Band 3 for little over a week now and out of the box, the band had 45% of battery which got me through six days of heavy usage. By heavy, I mean I had notifications for WhatsApp and Twitter enabled, incoming call alerts, continuous heart rate monitoring was disabled though, and with this kind of usage, you should ideally get through 10-15 days on a single charge. Charging time isn’t too long either, plug it in for an hour or so and you’re up and running. If you disable app alerts, however, and use the band just for fitness, 25-30 days of usage is something you can easily get through.
So, how do I feel about the Mi Band 3? I compared a few of the fitness features with my smartwatch which costs almost seven times as much as the Mi Band 3, and the accuracy seems spot on with a few miscounted steps at times which is entirely forgivable especially given the price and the features it has to offer. Is it bang for your buck? Hell yes! Should you get it? If you can, hell yes again! We bought it from China for 169 Yuan which is approximately Rs 1800. And it has now been launched in India for Rs 1,999, and at that price, it is unmatched and offers everything you would expect from an entry-level fitness tracker, plus some more. But again, as with every Xiaomi product, you need to wait to get your hands on one of these with the flash sale model, so if you think it’s worth your time, go ahead and get one, and you won’t be disappointed.