Price-point is one of the big deterrents for people when it comes to getting a smartwatch. Xiaomi though, hopes that that barrier of entry has finally been lowered enough to be a serious consideration with their new device — the Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite.
This is Xiaomi’s lowest price smartwatch offering among their line-up, and at S$89, that is some serious value for a smartwatch. But let us take a closer look at the device to see if the experience is indicative of its low price.
With a squared watch-face design, it has that undeniable generic smartwatch look; the Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite does not pretend to be anything else. At that price, it shouldn’t need to either. Measuring at 1.4 inches, the display isn’t the largest you’ll find but is large enough to see the pertinent information you need on the screen.
Plastic is used for the watch face and the sensor underneath, and from our experience, durability could be a problem, at least for the latter. We noticed that the sensor had a scratch, presumably from the hook at the end of the band, which scraped it when taking the watch off our hand. Luckily, the visible top watch face seems to be more durable against these kinds of scratches.
It comes attached with straps made using TPU, and if you’re at all concerned about aesthetics, you can choose between three colour variants for the strap — White, Pink, Green, Blue and Black (which is the colour we have). Curiously though, the Lazada and Shopee online stores do not carry Pink or Green, so your options are limited should you purchase from them.
The TPU material for the Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite isn’t great. If you’ve ever had a flimsy phone case included with your phone, that’s basically what that material is made of, and it is easy to see why manufacturers have no qualms about giving it for free. It looks and feels cheap and is also overly ‘rubbery’, and that actually makes trying to wear it and taking it off more of a hassle than it needs to be because of how much the material grips onto itself.
On the bright side, once it’s on your hand, the material itself feels soft and doesn’t irritate the skin. The strap also catered to a multitude of wrist sizes and was also able to fit my admittedly bony wrist.
There is the option of swapping out the straps as well. If you happen not to like them, simply push down on the button underneath the strap and pull away to remove it.
One final gripe about the Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite is that you can’t lay it down flat. Because the straps have a curl to them, you can only have it on its side. This isn’t just aesthetically unpleasing; it also means that sometimes you’ll have to twist your head to see the information on the watch face as the smartwatch doesn’t re-orientate itself to accommodate it; it only does so when charging.
Display and Personalisation
The watch face for the Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite uses an LCD display, and it does the job well enough. The screen is bright enough to see what’s on-screen in regular conditions on its default brightness, though you might need to squint under harsh sunlight, which is a common occurrence for Singapore’s weather.
Though it does allow you to adjust the brightness. There are six levels of brightness available, and the default brightness is right in the middle; and there is also an auto-brightness mode that you can enable. Do note that upping the brightness or enabling auto-brightness can hurt your battery life.
Setting up the smartwatch is done by connecting to the Xiaomi Wear app and is relatively fuss-free, with the app syncing up with it quickly.
The app is basically your all-in-one hub for seeing all your fitness data, from heart-rate to sleep data. In general, the UI is good. It shows the necessary information with a glance and also isn’t too convoluted to navigate through.
It isn’t very customisable though — you can change your nickname and the watch faces (of which there are over a hundred types), but that’s about it. There’s a generic avatar right at the home screen that you can’t dress up or remove; it’s a perplexing addition that takes up space on the screen when it could have been used for other purposes.
Now onto the Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite’s hardware and software functionality.
Hardware and Software Functionality
The smartwatch only has a single button at its side which helps wake the display. You can navigate through the functions by swiping along the screen either horizontally or vertically, with the former bringing up quick access to the tracking features while the latter brings up other settings like turning on the flashlight or locking your screen when you swipe up and notifications when you swipe downwards.
Don’t expect any fancy scrolling animations when you swipe around though; it merely flickers over to the next screen. The speed the screen changes isn’t terribly fast, but you’d probably get used to it after some time.
The notification system functions quite handily overall. It can display information other than emails and messages, having support for weather and social media. Unfortunately, you can’t expand them for longer notifications, which is a shame.
Finally, the Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite uses a raise to wake implementation for the smartwatch, but it isn’t very consistent. You have to be very deliberate with your wrist movement; otherwise it won’t register and wake the screen for you.
Next, we move onto the Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite’s performance and features, starting with heart-rate tracking.
Performance and Fitness
Heart-rate tracking from the Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite can run for 24 hours and does it in a multitude of blocks, from half an hour to a minute. You can also choose to manually check your heart-rate by swiping to the function horizontally. Measurements seem to be generally accurate during testing, which is the most important thing.
Also included in the smartwatch is fitness tracking, of which there are 11 different workout types to choose from. That includes swimming, with the watch capable of being submerged in water up until 50m in depth.
For outdoor workouts, the Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite has an in-built GPS to track distance, speed and the pathway you took. The smartwatch buzzes whenever you complete a kilometre as well so that you don’t have to continually look at the watch, which is a nice touch.
Stats given provide most of the information you need from a workout — calories burnt, heart-rate, distance and time taken, among others. And all of which is given in a simple to read interface.
The tracking though, can be a little slow in terms of syncing. While cycling, the watch didn’t actually register the distance I was travelling until a minute or two in. This extended to the tracking for running, as well as the distance tracked seemed not to tally up correctly. It’s only off by a little, but if you’re incredibly particular about accuracy, then this is an issue.
Sleep-tracking is another big feature it has. The Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite can detect when you fall asleep and measure the amount of light and deep sleep you had, before giving you an overall rating for that sleep period.
My experience with the Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite’s sleep tracking is mixed on the whole. While it accurately detected when I fell asleep, it wasn’t the case for when I came awake. I woke up twice in the middle of a sleep session, but the smartwatch still counted that as light sleep. When I did actually wake up completely, it also did not detect it. It likewise counted my time looking through my phone in bed as light sleep.
It also is limited to tracking nighttime sleeping; there isn’t a way to track daytime sleeping or naps. If you’re a person that sleeps at odd hours, this isn’t the sleep tracker for you.
Xiaomi claims up to 9 days worth of use can be elicited from a single charge, but that might be an optimistic projection from the company.
Using the Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite daily got it to 20% in three and a half days and depleted it in less than five days. You could extend that possibly by lowering the brightness and turning off the notifications, but that maybe grants an additional day and a half’s worth of use. If it is simply for fitness tracking purposes, then the Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite gets much closer to the 9 days stated.
Charging can be done within 2 hours, but it is only done with the included proprietary charging dock. I’m not a big fan of it personally. It is quite inelegant and also takes a little bit of effort to clasp in and remove. At least you can stand it on its side and have it as a clock while it charges.
The Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite isn’t going to blow anyone away. Frankly, its build is a little suspect, and there were some perplexing implementations as well. Though as s a tracker, it is a good entry point for people wanting to start with tracking their overall health and fitness, even if the readings can be off a little. For that price, it is a suitable start to adopting a smartwatch.