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China’s Xiaomi Redefines Affordable Wearables

If these make it to the West, Fitbit is in trouble…

Michael Cruickshank
China’s Xiaomi Redefines Affordable Wearables© 2018 Xiaomi

Xiaomi is the biggest mobile company you have probably never heard of. Operating out of China, they have, in the space of only a few years, managed to redefine how smartphones are sold in emerging markets, utilising local supply chains and online sales to create a low-cost, but yet still highly regarded brand.

Just yesterday, they began debuting their latest range of flagship devices, including the high-end, but yet moderately priced Xiaomi Mi 4 boasting specs which could easily beat the iPhone 5S. However, it wasn't this device that had everyone talking, rather it was something much smaller, and much, much cheaper.

Alongside the Mi 4 the company also announced the Mi Band: a wearable fitness tracking band that is aesthetically similar to the Nike Fuel Band. As with most fitness trackers, this device will be able to monitor health metrics, such as heart rate, footsteps taken and running routes. As well as this, it also can monitor sleeping patterns and then decide the best time to wake up the user with a simple vibration alarm.

Image: © 2014 Xiaomi

In addition, it can work with your phone, through a wireless bluetooth connection. In a similar way to Android Wear devices, the Mi Band can remove locks on your phone, so long as it is in close proximity to the device. In addition, the Mi Band will vibrate when you are receiving incoming calls and messages, something which is especially useful for noisy environments, and for people who would rather store their phone in a bag than in their pockets.

While the features are reasonably standard, what makes this wearable remarkable is its price. The device will hit the market in China for just 79RMB (around $13). At this price, the device would appeal to people who are only casually interested in the wearables market, and could massively broaden the number of potential consumers.

Suffice to say, should this product reach the US and European markets - which it inevitably will - Fitbit, and other companies which make fitness tracking wearables, are in serious trouble. Unless they are able to create much better products, they will not be able to compete with the incredibly low price of the Mi Band and will see sharp falls in sales. Furthermore, the question has to be asked: If the main reason to buy a smartwatch is fitness tracking, why would we buy something like the G Watch or the iWatch, when we can get more or less the same functionality, for a fraction of the price?

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