The Xiaomi Mi Watch leaves mixed feelings in our review
Case and connectivity – Supports four satellite systems
The straps, each in black, dark blue, or beige to match the case color, have a quick-release mechanism and can be replaced with a 22 mm universal wristband. Xiaomi itself offers alternatives in olive green, yellow, and orange.
The plastic case weighs just 32 grams (~1.13 oz) and is water resistant to 5 ATM. Its swimming suitability and the integration of the GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, and BDS navigation satellite systems strengthen the watch's suitability as a sports watch. Thanks to its barometric pressure sensor, it also logs routes with altitude information.
The Mi Watch has a microphone for the use of a voice assistant, but it lacks a speaker. Furthermore, the smartwatch displays information from the Internet via the AMOLED screen. The latter has a diameter of 1.39 inches and a comparatively low pixel density of 326 ppi. This is noticeable, for instance, in detailed watch faces, which the Xiaomi wearable doesn't render as finely as Mobvoi's TicWatch Pro (459 ppi), for example.
In addition to the documents, the smartwatch comes with a magnetic charging dock for the two pin connectors on the back.
Setup and handling – The Mi Watch talks to Alexa
The Mi Watch connects to both the iPhone and smartphones with Google's Android system. The corresponding app is called "Xiaomi Wear" in the Play Store and "Xiaomi Wear Lite" in the Apple App Store, but its structure and features are almost the same.
Both apps load additional watch faces onto the Watch and manage some of the settings for the Watch as well as the user account. When setting up the account, Xiaomi also assigns a unique user ID to the user in the form of a nickname. The nickname can only be changed in the user settings on mi.com.
Vertical gestures open the smartphone notifications as well as a quick-access menu to activate Do Not Disturb mode or set the alarm clock.
Horizontal gestures switch between the time display and a total of eight widgets, including several informative widgets for health tracking and controls for the music player on the smartphone.
The smartwatch also triggered the camera of the iPhone or Android smartphone in the test, but it doesn't show a preview; you can find the remote control in the app overview that can be opened using the top button. The lower button either activates the workout app or directly an individually assigned workout mode.
Unlike the Mi Watch Lite, where the touchscreen often reacted sluggishly, the Mi Watch responds immediately to touch inputs.
Telephone and notifications
When introducing the Mi Watch at the end of September last year, Xiaomi mentioned the visualization of emojis as one of the highlights; Xiaomi uses the OpenMoji library, which left many gaps in our tests and didn't display quite a few emojis. On top of that, the iPhone partially cut names of senders as one reader also reported, and it doesn't show the corresponding app icon for all apps.
We couldn't determine these design flaws in Android. In order for the Android smartphone to send notifications, we first had to grant the Xiaomi app background permissions and prevent the phone's resource manager from terminating the app in favor of battery life. Users who need assistance with this can get it directly via the Xiaomi Wear app. In our review, the instructions were tailored to the connected smartphone, which was an Honor V20 in our case.
The Mi Watch notifies of incoming calls, including the caller ID. You can't accept the call, but you can reject it or silence it.
The voice assistant that was announced in September became reality at the beginning of the year: The update 1.2.52, which installs automatically after setup, brings Alexa to the device.
The different impressions continue when communicating with Alexa: The Mi Watch paired with an iPhone 12 Pro responded with the message that Alexa was not connected in most cases. The connection apparently reactivates in the background, so that a second call that immediately follows is usually successful, but this is completely unacceptable in practice, for example, when you want to regularly control light sources or sockets via Alexa. The iPhone could be to blame here. The behavior couldn't be modified by adjusting the background activities.
In contrast, Alexa worked without problems in combination with an Android smartphone.
Health and fitness – It only syncs with Apple Health
Let's move on to the last round of Android vs. iOS. Naturally, we're not talking about the operating systems themselves but about the Mi Watch's communication with the two platforms. Here, we were initially concerned with a reader's question about whether the Mi Watch connects with Google Fit.
As far as we can determine, it does not. After the Xiaomi Wear app on the Android smartphone did not connect to Google Fit, we additionally installed the Mi Fit app, which does this task for the Mi Band 5. However, the Mi Fit app doesn't seem to connect with the Mi Watch.
In the iOS app, sync with Apple Health can be activated via the user profile. Users who have previously connected a Xiaomi wearable to the Health app might have to deactivate the option briefly and activate it again. However, there are restrictions here as well: In the test, only certain workouts, such as running and cycling, counted as training; a HIIT workout, for example, affected the logged activity energy, but it didn't count toward the training minutes.
The Mi Watch counts steps daily and helps with reminders to move regularly, ideally every hour. The charts on the watch show how close you are to achieving your step and stand goals at all times and also compare your target calorie burn with your actual calorie burn. In addition, the app provides overviews of the past days and weeks.
The Mi Watch doesn't capture an ECG, but it measures heart rate in addition to blood oxygen saturation, but the latter is only measured manually: If the manual measurement is triggered several times a day, the log provides a history chart in the evening - otherwise not.
The heart rate measurement revealed a bigger shortcoming as was already the case with the Mi Watch Lite. We put the sensor to the test during sports activities, which we tracked in parallel with a chest strap from Polar. The Mi Watch alternated between counting more and less beats than the chest strap, but there was no discernible pattern. Across workouts, the discrepancy in average heart rate was between -5 and +6 beats, and between -5 and +16 beats for the maximum heart rate. In one case, the Watch registered 183 beats compared to 167 from the chest strap.
The vital signs are incorporated into the Firstbeat algorithms, a recognized technology for evaluating training impact or fitness level (VO2max) after exercise, as well as general analysis of energy expenditure, stress, and recovery. As one factor in these calculations, the low reliability of the heart rate measurements is likely to weaken these values' credibility.
At night, the Mi Watch tracks sleep duration; it also determines the proportion of the different sleep phases and evaluates the quality of sleep. The app also monitors the data over several days.
The Mi Watch's training app supports over 100 sports, including a HIIT workout type where the user can determine the interval and break lengths as well as the number of sets. Outdoors, athletes will benefit from a 12 nm high-end GPS chip that supports a total of four satellite systems: GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, and BDS.
Optionally, the Mi Watch automatically detects running and walking fast. Users who are interested in their pace after running and cycling workouts might not be satisfied with the log, because Xiaomi puts the speed (km/s) in the foreground. The average pace (min/km) is only displayed separately for each individual lap on the smartphone. The Watch does at least show the overall average, but confusingly, it does so on the data screen for the step rate.
Battery life – Greatly impacted by the always-on display
According to the manufacturer's laboratory tests, the standard settings with permanent heart rate monitoring and health analysis, including sleep tracking, will lead to a 16-day battery life. If you deactivate the monitoring of vital signs and other functions, such as stress and sleep analysis, you should be able to get up to 22 days, according to the manufacturer.
The battery's 420 mAh should still last for 50 hours under extreme load, such as when the GPS and heart rate monitor are continuously turned on during outdoor activities. According to Xiaomi, this is partly due to the low power consumption of the high-end GPS chip.
Our real-world tests resemble the first scenario, but they aren't in line with the 16 days stated. Using the default settings, where motion detection is also active, we managed about 10 days. Deactivating the automatic detection feature would then be a possible measure to extend battery life.
If you also activate the always-on display, the runtime shortens to 4-5 days, depending on whether you use the GPS several times or for a longer duration.
Xiaomi has invested a lot in hardware and software to distinguish the Mi Watch as a sports watch and to differentiate it from the cheaper Mi Watch Lite. This includes the high-quality GPS chip and over 100 sports types in the training app as well as the Firstbeat training analytics, which are also used by Honor, Huawei, Huami, and Samsung. However, Xiaomi goes so far as to reserve the bottom button for the training app or for a specific workout mode; the user could have quietly been given the freedom to choose a different function here.
Endurance athletes will benefit from the precision of the high-quality GPS chip and its comparatively low energy consumption.
We describe the differences between Xiaomi's two smart watches in more detail in the review of the Mi Watch Lite; among the Mi Watch's unique selling points are the voice assistant, the blood oxygen saturation measurement, and the AMOLED display. The TFT screen of the Mi Watch Lite lacks an always-on mode; in addition, the touchscreen reacted sluggishly to inputs.
We've been connecting fitness trackers and smartwatches both to Android and iOS phones in our reviews for quite some time now, and we keep noticing differences. The main difference here is the synchronization with Apple Health compared to the lack of communication with Google Fit. However, Xiaomi has the ability to retrofit this just like it did with the Mi Fit app in the past. If that were to happen, however, the heart rate sensor would still remain a negative aspect, since it experienced fluctuations in both wearables.