A fitting band?

Last year (2017) my employer launched a new employee benefit initiative, focusing on employee health. There has been inspirational talks, fitness trainers visiting and micro training stations have been set up too. Very nice, and while there was potential for tinfoilhattery, it is hard to deny that being healthy is a good thing in itself – I don’t mind that the company benefits from healthy employees being productive employees too 1. They also offered a fitness band to everybody, gave rise to a bit more tinfoilhattery, which was speculative and unfair, but at least should raise awareness that wearable devices allows collection of a new degree of private information – caveat emptor). The bands were all MI Band 2 from Xiaomi, and soon lots of colleagues were wearing them around the office. I put mine in my cabinet-of-stuff and mostly forgot about it.

I haven’t thought much about wearable tech in general. I briefly considered getting a smartwatch back when the first android watches came out in 2014, but found them to be more gadgets for early adapters and just an additional device to keep track of instead of a real benefit. 3 years later the concept has matured and battery life times improved. Also, I meet collegaues and friends who are happy with their wearables and news coverage confirmed that it is time to reconsider. Then what could be easier than picking that box out of the cabinet-o-stuff for a first run?

Getting started with the MI Band 2 was simple enough, because even though I could not read the all Chinese instructions, I can recognize a QR code and scan it with my smart phone. From there it was all a matter of following instructions on screen. It turned out I already had a Xiaomi account from the time I toyed with MIUI, so I didn’t have to create that either (but had to recover the long lost password, a process that worked just like that sort of thing usually does).

If anything my expectations weren’t high, although the device is actually getting good reviews like this one from techradar.com. My own impression so far is mixed.

Starting with the good: I like the step counter is great. Knowing that on a regular work day I easily walk 7 kilometers is great and having set a simple daily minimum target has several times sent me out on a late evening walk.

On the bad side: the pulse measurement seems useless, for example, during a hard workout it still measured a pulse below my rest pulse, so I cannot us the MI Band 2 for that purpose. Then again, given the cost of the device, what is reasonable to expect?

Likewise, since the basic function (counting steps) is well fulfilled on a cheap device, I don’t want to call anything “the ugly“, but I actually do have problems making the device work as a wrist watch. It can tell the time, but only if tap the device with a finger on my other hand, which means that I cannot check the time with a quick, discrete look (there is a setting to turn on the display when the surface is held up, but it doesn’t work reliably). Alse, the shape of the band is such that it gets stuck in shirt and jacket cuffs, making it generally impractical.

So I like the step counter, but the MI Band 2 cannot replace my old wristwath. I like the step counter enough to keep the band on my right wrist for now, but have also started looking for a replacement.

The Week

I am back at work after the holidays and making ends meet.

  • I am waiting for the Spectre and Meltdown patches to hit my PC. We shall see how bad the day-to-day usage performance hit to my i5-2500K rig will be, but since the primary CPU heave work I do is image processing I am not overly concerned. Time will tell.
  • This week’s music for commuting, working and (new 🙂 evening walks were supplied by the Enigma project. Some albums are great to re-visit, even if age is showing, and some I missed before and are great to dive into.
  • Am still watching plenty of My Little Pony, but I sense the saturation point approaching.
  1. As mentioned in my disclaimer, the views put forward on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer, although I am sure that in this case we agree. Also, I am in no way related to Xiaomi or any other business whose products I mention on this site, unless explicitly stated.