Wearables

Fitbit Versa Lite and Fitbit Inspire HR hands-on

Plus a quick chat on what Fitbit is up to

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Last month, Fitbit announced the Fitbit Versa Lite which is a colorful version of the beloved Fitbit Versa at a cheaper price point. They also announced the Fitbit Inspire and Inspire HR, which are their most affordable fitness trackers yet. I finally got my hands on the new wearables and here they are in all their glory.

Fitbit Versa Lite

Fitbit Regional Director Louis Lye explained to me that Fitbit’s move towards smartwatches came from the need to provide more information on a surface area. Fitbit knew they could deliver more on a smartwatch platform than just a wearable platform. Last year, 44 percent of Fitbit’s revenue came from smartwatches. Considering they only had two at the time, that’s pretty impressive. It comes as no surprise then that the brand decided on a follow-up to the Fitbit Versa.

The Fitbit Versa Lite offers brighter, livelier hues that cater to millennial tastes.

It does most of what the Versa can do but, for a lower price tag, Fitbit had to make a few compromises: no automatic stair counting, lap tracking, or in-device storage.

Fitbit Versa left, Fitbit Versa Lite right

Despite all this, the Versa Lite looks and feels promising — mostly because it looks and feels almost exactly like the original Versa and I liked that smartwatch. Save for more color options and the difference in buttons, the two are identical.

Yes, that’s my Bitmoji in a unicorn suit because why not 😂

Of course, I opted for the Mulberry unit because it’s just so cute! With the new responsive Bitmoji watch face announced just last week, this watch is definitely fun to wear. There are also a number of straps and accessories available for the watch so there are different look options!

The Fitbit Versa Lite retails for PhP 10,390 in the Philippines and SG$ 248 in Singapore.

Fitbit Inspire and Inspire HR

Even with the Fitbit push towards smartwatches, Lye tells me that there’s still a demand for fitness trackers which are different from smartwatches.

In the wearables department, Fitbit also offers a new contender: The Fitbit Inspire and Fitbit Inspire HR.

These no-nonsense trackers are pretty straightforward: exercise, sleep, and activity tracking, water resistance of up to 50 meters, smartphone alerts, and a five-day battery life. The HR version is equipped with a heart rate monitor.

What I love about these trackers, though, is the number of strap options you get! There’s even a clip mount so you can always have your Inspire on you without having to wear it on your wrist.

I especially love the mesh bracelets that make these things look so classy! All of a sudden, these trackers become less of that clunky sports wearable and more of an accessory.

These wearables will cost you PhP 4,590 and PhP 6,290 for the Inspire and Inspire HR in the Philippines and SG$ 118 and SG$ 158 in Singapore, respectively.

“How do we come up with products and solutions to make the world healthier?” Lye asked me. He tells me this is the same question Fitbit tries to answer. He further explains that Fitbit develops solutions based on data and that 56 percent of Fitbit employees are in research and development because of this.

As of now, Fitbit is focusing on solutions based on data. As we speak, they are awaiting approval in the US for a software algorithm based on Fitbit user data that will detect sleep apnea in its users. “This is all I can talk about now,” Lye explains, “but there’s definitely more.”

But as of now, these pretty straps will do.

Accessories

Fossil’s new hybrid smartwatch has an always-on e-ink display

It’s called the Fossil Hybrid HR

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Smartphone manufacturers originally saw smartwatches as an extension of the phone instead of a beautiful time-telling accessory that you wear on your wrist. If you’re a watch-wearing person, there was absolutely no reason to buy into the tech at the time. The first few models looked hideous and had terrible battery life.

Years later, fashion brands and watchmakers like Fossil saved the day and made buying a smartwatch seem like a good idea. Along with the usual Wear OS smartwatches, the brand also introduced hybrid smartwatches a few years back. These are the typical circular mechanical watches with removable batteries that you don’t have to charge, with a few useful Bluetooth functions.

In 2019, Fossil’s new generation of hybrid smartwatches feature an always-on e-ink display. This allows the watch to display more information like your heart rate, number of steps, weather information, and notifications.

While getting more information can be a good thing, having a display also means having a built-in rechargeable battery — 55 mAh to be exact. Fossil says it takes around two weeks before it needs charging, and about an hour for a full charge. Previous generations of Fossil Q Hybrid last 6-12 months before the batteries needed replacing.

Like previous generations, you can still do functions like control your music through the buttons of the watch, and change the straps as they come in standard 18mm or 22mm sizes.

At launch there are five Fossil Hybrid HR models — those with leather straps retail for US$195 and US$215 for stainless steel.

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Reviews

Xiaomi Mi Band 4 review: Continues to be the best

It’s definitely a must-have

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Xiaomi’s branding is widely recognized and is synonymous with affordable products. Thanks to aggressive pricing, the brand is dominating the smartphone segment in major mobile markets like India. However, it has been slowly expanding to other segments as well and a few years back, it directly entered the fitness space with the Mi Band.

The three generations of Mi Band have been best-in-class and each new iteration brought in quite a lot of new features. This one product lineup has made Xiaomi one of the top wearable makers worldwide in terms of units shipped.

With a bigger display, added software features, and extended battery life, is the Mi Band 4 able to continue the same legacy? Can this fitness band be your nagging health-oriented GadgetMatch?

A tried and tested ergonomic design

The Mi Band’s design was always basic and at first glance does look like a generic fitness tracker. However, the simple band and tracker module design is ergonomic and convenient for both, the company as well as the user.

Xiaomi is able to keep costs low and the soft band material can be worn for extended periods without any irritation. Even though the display is 33 percent larger, the Mi Band 4 feels light and within a day or two, you’ll forget it’s even there on your wrist.

The Mi Band 3 had a small indent on the front, below the display that acted as a button. The Mi Band 4 eliminates that in favor of a 0.95-inch color AMOLED display that supports tap as well as swipes. The display is amazing thanks to punchy colors, wide viewing angles, and direct visibility under sunlight.

The display is easily visible throughout the day

Operations are extremely straightforward with a swipe up or down to select different modes or settings, swipe left or right to access music controls, or swipe right to go back from a different screen. Additionally, you can also tap the capacitive button underneath the display to go back.

The fitness tracker case easily detaches from the silicone band if you’d like to swap it out for another band. Though, the charger has been weird this time. You need to carefully place the tracker onto the charging “pod” and ensure it’s on a flat surface because the pod fails to hold onto the tracker. There’s no attachment between the two, meaning you can just let it hang from a wall-charger. And if you really want to, plug along with a few tight rubber bands.

The charger is cumbersome to use

Xiaomi claims it can run for 20 days on a single charge and I’d agree. I was able to cross the two-week mark easily. Keep in mind, I’ve always had the heart rate sensor working, notifications keep popping, and no manual intervention was involved to extend its life. Thankfully, it has a tiny battery that can be charged within 45 minutes so you don’t have to deal with the charger for a long time.

Filled to the brim with features…

Firstly, the connection between the band and your phone is always stable. Secondly, all basic fitness tracking features like pedometer, calorie burn, sleep tracking, and heart rate works well. The pedometer is slightly better because it has gotten better at detecting actual movement against vehicular ones. When compared to expensive options like a Fitbit, the Mi Band 4 is fairly accurate and reliable.

The Mi Fit app has slightly deeper insights on sleep tracking that include a score based on global data. It doesn’t have built-in GPS but can rely on your phone’s hardware to deliver a similar end experience.

A new addition to the band are Workout Modes. It can track the following exercises: treadmill, outdoor running, cycling, walking, pool swimming, and the generic “exercise” workout. That may not seem like much, but its predecessor isn’t able to track pool swimming or generic exercises at launch.

The workout mode needs to be manually switched on and off. And yes, it’s water-resistant up to 50 meters. cIt can also recognize five different swimming styles and record 12 different data sets, like swimming pace and stroke count.

The variant that’s sold in China comes with NFC for payments and a microphone to control Xiaomi’s voice assistant. However, both of these hardware features are absent from the band that’s sold outside of China.

The Mi Band 4 can relay call, text, email, and just about any other notification you receive on your smartphone. Notifications come through to the tracker right away. It also supports different watch faces. There is a fair amount of watch face options available in the Mi Fit app.

Depending on the watch face, the band home screen can display the time, day, date, steps taken, distance walked, calories burned, and band battery status. If you remove the band, just enable PIN lock and nobody will be able to snoop on your health data or notifications.

The band will vibrate if you’re inactive for an hour, and you can even choose a custom vibration pattern for the alert. Further, a custom vibration can be set up for individual app notifications, so you’ll know a WhatsApp message has arrived without actually seeing the display.

Mi Fit, a hassle-free companion

Xiaomi’s Mi Fit app is what you’ll use to pair the Mi Band 4 to your phone and view all your activity stats. The app is also how you change most of the settings on the fitness band, and select new watch faces. Mi Fit picked up a redesign earlier this year, and the interface is much more modern and easier to navigate. You can sync your Mi Fit data with Google Fit.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The Xiaomi Mi Band 4 is part of that product lineup from Xiaomi that keeps improving and keeps surprising, year after year. New features trickle-down, while the price remains unchanged.

For INR 2,299 (US$ 32), there’s nothing that comes close. The Honor Band 5 is more expensive, bulky, and the software is unpolished. Lenovo’s offerings are quite outdated as well. It’s available in the U.S. for just US$ 40, less than half the price of the Fitbit Inspire HR and Samsung Galaxy Fit, which are the Mi Band 4’s main competitors.

The Mi Band 4 brings fitness to an amateur, as well as satisfies the demands of a fitness enthusiast. If you’re just looking for something that gives you easy access to notifications, the Mi Band 4 will still be perfect for you. With extended battery life, going off the grid on a hike will never be a problem.

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News

Xiaomi’s Mi Watch is an Apple Watch look-alike

It’s significantly cheaper though

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At a special launch event in China, Xiaomi unveiled a host of products including the Mi CC9 Pro and Mi TV 5 series. The brand also unveiled a wearable device called the Mi Watch.

The main selling point of the watch is the inclusion of an eSIM. With this, it can independently make calls and connect to the internet, without relying on a companion phone. This functionality has been extremely popular on the Apple Watch and Xiaomi’s offering does take a lot of inspiration from it.

Design-wise the Mi Watch looks eerily similar to the Apple Watch with a slightly more squarish body and a rotating crown on the upper-left side. The speaker is located on the right and the back is made of ceramic.

On the front is a 1.78-inch screen with 326ppi pixel density and it’s protected by an aluminum frame. Color options include White, Black, and Blue.

Powering the watch is a Snapdragon Wear 3100 4G processor along with a 570mAh battery that can deliver up to 36 hours of back up on a single charge. Fitness features include blood pressure monitoring, sleep tracking, heart rate, and body energy monitoring.

It ships with Google’s WearOS pre-installed, but Xiaomi has extended its phone’s MIUI. The added UI layer will offer more than 100 different watch faces. voice assistant support, and better activity tracking.

The Mi Watch is priced at CNY 1,299 (US$ 185) while a special edition Mi Watch with sapphire glass and stainless steel band costs CNY 1,999 (US$ 285)

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