Xiaomi just launched the Mi Watch – the first smartwatch that’s being sold under the Mi branding. Even before you start looking at the features and specifications list, the Mi Watch looks exciting. And those who are fashion conscious will agree that the Mi Watch appears to be a desirable addition to one’s attire and compliment the appearance. And that’s what most premium wristwatches are meant to do. However, whether you follow tech or not, it’s easy to find references of the Apple Watch Series 5 design in the Mi Watch.
So does that mean the Mi Watch is just another Apple Watch clone you find in the grey market for half the price? Certainly not, if we consider the launch presentation that Xiaomi performed in China. The Mi Watch is more than just a pretty face and Xiaomi has worked hard on the watch to offer a different user experience. In fact, the company is so confident of the Mi Watch that it will bring it to other global markets soon. But is that enough to justify that the Mi Watch isn’t just another cheaper clone of the Apple Watch?
No. And there are a couple of good reasons to suggest that. Of course, until we get to review the Mi Watch, we can’t deliver a conclusion but we can surely look deeper into what this new smartwatch has to offer.
Mi Watch looks ‘like’ an Apple Watch
So far, the Mi Watch has been accused of being an Apple Watch lookalike. But look closely and you will find major differences in the design of the Apple Watch and the Mi Watch. The biggest visual giveaway to the keen eyes has to be the flat frame, which is different from the completely curved frame of the Apple Watch. The chassis of the Mi Watch looks identical to the iPhone SE chassis and to me, that looks interesting. The frame even has a prominent microphone and speaker housing unlike the Apple Watch.
That’s not all. The Mi Watch has a crown but it also features a separate button for operating the watch. Xiaomi hasn’t clarified what this button does but it could most likely act as the home button or a shortcut to the settings of the device.
Even the shape of the dial seems slightly different. The 3D Sapphire Glass protection on the Mi Watch has rounded edges on all sides with very narrow bezels. The screen measures 1.67-inches and uses an AMOLED panel. Customers can choose between regular silicon straps or go for stainless steel straps.
Mi Watch has different fitness functions
The current generation Apple Watch is known to offer a wide array of fitness features, including ECG readings, heart rate monitor and more. The Mi Watch doesn’t have as many fitness functions as the Apple Watch but it has got the basics covered. It tracks heart rate, steps and calories as expected but the extras come in the form of a blood oxygen sensor, sleep and exercise tracking, and body energy tracking. An Apple Watch still doesn’t track sleep natively and neither does it measure blood oxygen levels. So the Mi Watch has got you covered there in terms of basic fitness requirements.
MIUI for Watch is completely different
Even before the rumours came in, it was obvious that Xiaomi would come up with a customised experience for its smartwatch. And with the Mi Watch, it has done that. The Mi Watch runs on MIUI for Watch, which is loosely based on Google’s Wear OS. MIUI for Watch wears a WatchOS inspired interface but it comes with a different set of features. The OS comes with Xiaomi’s voice assistant built-in for controlling smart appliances. And as expected, MIUI for Watch comes with its own app store offering downloadable apps as well as a separate store for getting new watch faces. Users can even create custom watch faces.
And since MIUI is optimised for better battery life, the Mi Watch with its 570mAh battery is claimed to last up to 36 hours on a single charge. That sounds reasonable given that the watch can make calls via LTE and Wi-Fi. The Snapdragon 3100 chip is managing tasks at heart and it is being assisted by 1GB RAM as well as 8GB onboard storage, which should take care of most apps.
However, the global variant of the Mi Watch will run on the stock Wear OS and it might replace Xiaomi’s voice assistant with the more versatile Google Assistant.
Most importantly, it’s not a cheap fitness tracker
Apple Watch clones are usually cheap fitness trackers as they basically run a rudimentary OS with no smart functions. The Mi Watch is clearly not that – it’s a proper smartwatch with a specially developed OS meant to support an app ecosystem and a great build quality. And hence, Xiaomi seems to be asking a reasonable price for that.
Starting at 1299 Yuan (approximately Rs 13,000), the Mi Watch is still less than half the price of the entry-level Apple Watch Series 5 but it does 80 per cent of all the latter offers. The top-end version of the Mi Watch, with all the fancy metal strap and ceramic back cover, costs 1999 Yuan (approximately Rs 20,000).
Hence, it’s comparatively affordable to the Apple Watch but it still comes at a price higher than most fitness trackers that look like the Apple Watch. And it seems reasonable, although we can only affirm once we get to review it.
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