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30 March 2015

How to set up a Xiaomi Mi Band

I have absolutely no interest in fitness bands... well, that was until I got myself one. It was all +Michael J King's fault. He posted a link to a site in America that was selling them off cheap. After a quick chat with Michael, I was convinced to give one a go. And since Mrs Uke was poking her nose in, I got her one too!

Although I bought the bands from America, the goods were shipped direct from China and took about 3 weeks to arrive. You can get the bands in all sorts of colours... yep... I got two black ones.

I've been using mine for a couple of weeks. I set up Mrs Uke's tonight. Because I can... here's a run through of what I did...

Mi Band

"Unlock your phone without a password
Monitor Fitness Level
Track Sleeping Quality
Smart Alarm
30 Days Standby
Industry's most power-efficient Bluetooth chip and accelerometer
Water Resistant IP67
Always On"

I was asked by +Jake Tolbert why I should get a Mi Band over say a standard pedometer? I've never had a pedometer, but I'm guessing the difference lies in the additional features mentioned above. The sleep feature is pretty interesting (I still haven't figured out how it's doing what it does). I haven't figured out how to do the automatic unlocking or alarms yet. I thought I'd also read somewhere that it could be set up to alert you when you receive a phone call and your phone is on silent. Again, I haven't found out how to do this, so who knows whether it is possible or not.

This is the neat little box you get your Mi Band in. Xiaomi have taken a leaf out of Apple's book here. You do get some instructions with the band, but they're in Mandarin and I'm a little rusty.

You get a rubber bracelet; Mi "lozenge" which I've fitted into the bracelet; and a usb charger.

This is how you charge the Mi unit. From memory it only took a couple of hours to fully charge and the bumph says it lasts for a month. I can't comment on this at the moment. 

Here's a close-up of the Mi lozenge. There are two pins on one end for charging and three LEDs on the top. You can configure these to shine Blue, Orange, Green or Red. This might be a great feature, but if you read my earlier post then you'll understand why I'm not getting excited about this.

The lozenge itself vibrates when you've hit achievements and you can touch it to trigger things (like pairing it to your phone).

I'm not sure if there's more to it than that.

The Mi is useless without some sort of smart-phone App to collate the data and generally manage the Mi. You might have spotted that the picture above is of Mrs Uke's iPhone. I would be amazed if you couldn't get the same app for other devices too. One thing... it looks terrible on the iPad and I don't think it actually works on there.

The app you need is called Mi Fit

Having downloaded the Mi Fit app, you're asked to agree a few T&Cs to let it read and write data to your phone. Agree to this. 

Next, the App needs you to have an Xiaomi account. This is the trickiest part of the whole set-up. Select the "Create MI Account"... 

This is the screen you're presented with to create a new account. I tried creating an account using my phone number, but I never managed to get it to work. I suspect it is because my phone company is blocking texts from China.

No matter.

It isn't obvious from this screen, but slide it up... 

Aha! See the "Register using an email address" option at the bottom?

Select it! 

Once you've filled in your email address, Xiaomi send you an activation email. Select the "Activate account" button in the email... 

As part of activating your account you need to enter a password... twice...

This is the next step in the activation. I think I abandoned the email at this point and hopped back into the Mi Fit app... 

Yep... here I am back in the Mi Fit app. Sign in with your email address and that new password you just set up... 

At last! We're in!

Just a few more details and we're off and running!

Select your gender... 

Select your age... 

Select your height... 

Select your weight... 

Set yourself a daily goal... 

Oh hold on a second! Yes, the bracelet needs to pair with the phone. One thing to bear in mind is that all the comms is being done via bluetooth, so you'll need to have bluetooth switched on to get the most out of the app. I haven't been in the habit of having bluetooth switched on unless I've needed to use it. Now I just leave it on all the time and damn my batteries!

The Mi Fit app starts searching for your bracelet automatically at this point. You need to quickly get it on your arm and hold it close to the phone. 

If everything goes well, the app will find the bracelet. When it does, the app tells you so and the bracelet starts to flash away. Tap the surface of the lozenge to finish the pairing. 


We're all done! You can go explore the app and start walking around the house with purpose. 

Oh hold on a second! Yes, the bracelet ships with out-of-date firmware. It realised this pretty early on with mine, but it took about an hour for Mrs Uke's app to realise. The good news is that the app handles it all for you. Here it is applying the new firmware.

So, what good is the Mi Band?

Good question.

It seems pretty hit or miss with trying to figure out when you're walking. I guess it all averages out, but if you're just pottering about the house, it does seem to think you're covering a lot of distance, when really, you're not. I've seen it working best when doing proper outdoors walking.

See above my 9 min workout. Can you guess what I was doing? Ha ha... no, not that... I was playing my banjo! Honest!

The sleep feature is interesting. Somehow it seems to know when you're in bed and it claims to be measuring deep and light sleep patterns. I don't know how it is doing this, but it does seem to know when I've been awake in the night. Though, saying that, this was my sleep from last night and I know for a fact that I got up before 6:00, so it's got that wrong! Maybe it's measuring up until I've had my second cup of morning tea?

Is it worth the money?

Yeah, I think so. Anything that gets me doing more has got to be worth it.

There you go. It's still early days, but I'm feeling pretty positive about my Mi Band. I'll be sure to stick up an update if anything else pops into my head... ;-)

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