The $13 Xiaomi Mi Band Proves Activity-Tracking Wearables Have Hit Rock Bottom

CIO | Jul 24, 2014

Cheapo fitness trackers. Healbe's dubious GoBe wristband. The mythical iWatch now named... iTime? Jon Phillips takes them all on in Episode 10 of Wearables Right or Wrong?

Wearables right or wrong? Activity tracking wristbands have officially become commodity hardware?
That’s right.

Activity-tracking wristbands just hit rock bottom when a Chinese company called Xiaomi announced its new Mi Band, which costs just 13 dollars. That’s 13 dollars. I’ve spent more than 13 dollars just grabbing for random crap at the gas station.

Yet for 13 dollars, you can now own a wristband that provides potentially life-altering health and wellness insights. The Mi Band can even unlock your phone—so it’s a security device too!

Now, the Mi Band is just the natural extension of an ongoing trend, as the wearables market is already flooded with cheap activity-tracking wristbands. I’ve counted more than 40 different competitors, and names like Bowflex and Weight Watchers don’t exactly scream premium technology.

In a nutshell, activity trackers have jumped the shark into that dreadful disposable hardware space where $13 will buy you anything you want. So here’s your cheap-ass activity tracker. Perhaps you’d like to order it right from your TV like an edible bowl made of bacon.

Wearables right or wrong? Healbe’s lab data proves its GoBe wristband really can automatically track the calories we eat?
That’s wrong

So Healbe, if you’ll remember, stirred up a bunch of controversy when it said its GoBe wristband can automatically report how many calories are in the food you eat. It’s a claim that defies everything we know about science, but the company just released lab data to prove its case.

Healbe says its data show that its magical calorie tracking has a margin of error of 13.5 percent. Putting aside whether that’s even good performance, I still have a major problem with Healbe’s story, because they didn’t run a peer reviewed study. None of their tests were subject to outside scrutiny, and they reported everything in an extremely thin, 470-word blog post.

I’m sure Healbe is very, very proud of what it believes to be a major scientific breakthrough. But I’m not buying anything THAT guy says until I test the Gobe wristband myself.

Wearables right or wrong? Apple’s upcoming smartwatch will be called iTime?
That’s wrong

So Apple was just awarded a patent for something that’s basically a smartwatch. The actual technical details aren’t that interesting, but on one of the patent drawings, Apple’s artist smacked the name iTime right in the middle of the screen. And thus began the deluge of headlines.

Now we’re talking about a patent that was first submitted in 2011. That was three years ago, and you shouldn’t expect product names to be locked down so far in advance. Plus, tech patents in general are wild flights of fancy. Did you know Apple won a patent for a Magic Glove?

So, yes, exactly. Patents aren’t reliable indicators of specific features and product names. But make no mistake – some kind of Apple wearable is coming.