On Tuesday, popular Chinese gadget maker Xiaomi revealed the Mi Band, a dirt cheap $13 Fitbit that promises the full range of things that most fitness trackers do. That includes counting your steps and tracking your sleep patterns, functioning as an alarm clock, and lasting 30 days on a full charge.
From a design perspective, the Mi Band looks every bit as cute and cheery as a FitBit Flex or Jawbone Up. But when it comes to products like those two, abandonment is a big problem for the wearables market. Around 40% of all people who buy a fitness tracker stop wearing them within six months.
To combat this, we’ve seen Withings take the fitness tracker to the high-end, releasing a device that is essentially a Swiss Watch with a pedometer inside. But if you’re 40% likely to abandon your fitness tracker anyway, why spend $350, or even $50 for one?
The Mi Band, however, comes with a killer feature: It’s an identification band for smart devices. Just wearing your Mi Band is enough to unlock your device without keying in a code (the caveat is that you need to also own a Xiaomi smartphone). It’s something we’ll also see when Google’s Android L update arrives, allowing any smartphone and any Bluetooth LE device to do this. But you’ll struggle to find a worthwhile–and compatible–Bluetooth wearable that also only costs $13.
And according to Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun, this functionality will be extended in time, so that the Mi Band could be used, say, to unlock your door when you come home, or switch on smart appliances and other gadgets.
It’s a smart feature that taps into the currently undeveloped potential in devices like Android Wear. And you can bet that if Apple is, indeed, hard at work on an iWatch, they are doing so, like Xiaomi, in the hopes of making it the One Band to Rule Them All. But whether or not the Mi Band will have a software experience to match its aspirations is still very much to be seen, as any sort of companion app went unmentioned by the phone maker.
But sadly, while Xiaomi’s products are hugely popular in China, they are not widely known for their American distribution. Whether or not the $13 Mi Band ever comes to domestic shores, though, affordable fitness trackers like it will. It’s inevitable: as wearables like smartwatches become more advanced, devices that only track activity will have to enter the low-end to compete.
[h/t The Next Web]