Why I Stopped Using My Xiaomi Mi Band 4

I bought a Xiaomi Mi Band 4 from Amazon and returned it the day after it arrived. Why? Because of some usability issues tech reviews don’t tell about.

Xiaomi Mi Band 4 box
The box of the Xiaomi Mi Band 4 fitness tracker I returned.

Why I wanted the Mi Band 4

I actually didn’t want a fitness tracker.

My Moto 360 2015 smartwatch is apparently dying. So I wanted a replacement for the Moto 360’s most useful feature to me, the ability to show the notifications from the phone when it’s more convenient to twist the wrist than to reach and grab the phone. I thought the Mi Band 4, a popular and affordable device, could do an acceptable job at that.

Usability issues

The Mi Band 4 seems like a good and useful fitness tracker with a clean user interface.

But, when I tried it, I realized it has some usability issues that make it less suited for what I needed. The first is the font of text longer than a few words such as in notifications is so tiny, with prescription glasses I have to strain to read most of the text — barely — if I keep the device close to the eyes. A related issue is the timeout for turning off the screen is under a dozen seconds, which makes reading notifications even harder.

Although I signed up into the Xiaomi Mi Fit companion app with my Google account, a limitation of the device and its software is it’s not integrated with the Google ecosystem, aside from the ability to synchronize with Google Fit. For example, you can add reminders but they are separate from those in Google Calendar, Google Tasks, or other data in the Google account.

I also had some concerns over increased battery usage, which seemed a few times more than the Wear OS app with my smartwatch. Finally, the Mi Fit app displays ads, which is understandable for a cheap product but annoying for a paid product.

These are the reasons I returned the Mi Band 4.

No alternatives yet

My Moto 360 is dying because of a battery drain issue. The charge drops to zero when there’s still plenty left, which is a common issue.

It may be a hardware problem requiring servicing, but I don’t know if it’s worth the effort or whether the fix can increase the device’s life much.

I’d prefer to get a wearable with a strong integration with the Google ecosystem, such as a Wear OS device. Google’s wearable OS may not be dead, but its market share is a rounding error and the platform sure smells funny. The result is there’s no affordable alternative to a full smartwatch and fitness trackers are a poor substitute.

I’ll see how my Moto 360 goes and wait. Having a notification repeater is very handy, but not essential.

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