Mi Band vs Apple Watch: Not Either-Or For Me

I’ve resisted the whole smartwatch / fitness tracker thing for a while now. At some point a few years ago, my wife bought a fairly simple one that I ended up using until I lost it.

Recently, I decided I needed another one as I’ve been starting add exercise into my routine. In July of 2018, I ended up getting a Mi Band 2. Had some basic support for notifications from my phone, tracks sleep, and steps, and it was pretty cheap: under $30. Also, it easily lasted over two weeks on a single charge.

In April, I decided I needed to up my game a bit, so I bought a Mi Band 3. It was a little bit bigger, had slightly better sensors in it for sleep and heart rate tracking while working out, still about $30, and still amazing battery life.

A recent software update made the whole process of syncing the band with my iPhone a bit of a pain in the ass. In a couple cases, it completely forgot workouts I did. During workouts, it would stop syncing with my iPhone so I couldn’t track my heart rate. Or, if I initiate a workout from the band itself, I could easily monitor my heart rate, but it wouldn’t track my location or reflect the kind of workout I was doing.

When I was just doing stuff on the treadmill, this wasn’t a huge deal. Since I moved onto walking and running outside, I found that having this stuff “just work” to be of high value.

As I started looking at the other fitness trackers out there, I realized the price for anything else I’d consider getting was basically in the same price range as an Apple Watch. Sure, they might have better battery life and have possibly better fitness features, but let’s face it: anything other than Apple products are second class citizens in the Apple world.

So, I bought an Apple Watch 4. I probably should have done it ages ago, but I finally did it. And I have to say, so far, I’m not regretting the purchase.

One of the things I was afraid of with an Apple Watch is that I’d be seeing notifications on my wrist. I had tuned down my notifications on my iPhone ages ago so I wasn’t getting many to begin with. I tuned it down further with the Apple Watch, both on the phone itself and, in some cases, specific to the Apple Watch.

I do appreciate the gamification the Watch has around keeping moving. “Closing your rings” is definitely a thing for me. I set a “moderate” fitness goal, which has me burning 700 calories, exercising at least 30 minutes, and standing at least one minute every hour for 12 hours of the day. You get gentle nudges to “stand up” and even “breathe” for a moment.

At least for the first week or so, I’ve had no trouble meeting these goals. We’ll see how this works when shiny metal tubes are involved.

The main concern I had with the Apple Watch was battery life. The good news is that getting through an entire day hasn’t been a problem so far. It would be much better if it could go several days between charges, something the Mi Band 2 and 3 both do quite easily.

While there are sleep tracking apps for the Apple Watch, it hardly makes sense to use them given the battery situation. This is where the Mi Band is still proving useful as I can wear it overnight to get an idea of how well I slept (or didn’t).

I may pick up a Mi Band 4 for curiosity sake as it appears to have added a lot more to the package while maintaining roughly the same price point. No chance it will replace my Apple Watch, but for those who are looking for an inexpensive fitness tracker with some basic notification support, it may still be just the thing.






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