Previously, fitness bands and smartwatches were a bit of a niche interest for fitness freaks and yuppies. Then Apple Watch and Fitbit became household names, and suddenly everyone needed to know at all times of the day what their heart rate and blood pressure and amount of steps were. The 21st Century is weird, but that’s life now: caring about fitness.
The success of the Apple Watch means there is an appetite for such devices for lower budgets, and until now the low-budget items have been, with respect, terrible. This is changing, though, and new smartwatches are coming out all the time which break the barrier of price and quality. The next generation of affordable smartwatches are emerging, and with them a culture of using devices for personal fitness and measuring our body’s performance on a daily basis.
The Mibro Color Smartwatch is a budget-conscious personal wearable device which uses sensors on the watch back (in contact with your wrist) to sense data about your body, heart rate, steps, blood oxygen, sleep quality, etc. It also functions as an extension of your iOS or Android smartphone, showing incoming text messages, weather, etc. It buzzes every time a message comes into your phone, and you can read it on your watch. There’s a calculator, stopwatch, an MP3 player and various timers and alarms – and it also tells time.
There are numerous interchangeable watch faces, depending on your application and taste, and these can be sent from the app on your smartphone to the watch in a few seconds.
The communication with the watch works both ways, so statistics about your bio readings are available on your phone for later reference and comparison. The watch comes with a magnetic charging station which clips to the back of the watch for charging via USB. Linking the watch to your phone is simple and requires no difficult changes to your Wi-Fi, as some other devices require.
Style Over Substance
I have to say, expectations for the quality of this smartwatch were very low, as I’ve had some terrible experiences with low-end smartwatches in the recent past. However, unboxing it was a pleasant surprise, as the build quality is amazing – it doesn’t feel cheap or tacky in any way. The screen is sharp and bright, great indoors and still just about visible in direct sunlight. Linking the watch to my iPhone took moments and at first seemed reliable. The first impression was really very good.
Before you can use the watch, you have to download an app to your phone and set up an account. I banged my head on this part for a while until I realized the “register using Google/Apple” worked perfectly, and I’d advise you to do that. If you try to register using an email, you never get the confirmation code, so don’t bother.
Once you are up and running with the app, you can link your watch and phone. Once again, there is an option to scan a QR code on the screen of the watch, and for me this didn’t work. Fortunately, the device comes up on the app quite easily if you ask it to search for it.
Once linked, you can access the data coming in from the watch on your phone and send one of the many alternative watch faces to your watch. These faces are numerous but don’t seem to change much over time. Fortunately, the selection is quite large – by my count about 70 different faces – so it’ll be a while before you get bored with that pool of choices. The battery life is really good – with a week or so between charges. Most cheap smartwatches only last a day or so, so the battery in this one must be very decent.
This is a tricky device to review in many ways. As a standalone device, it works perfectly and is well-made, stylish, etc. But it’s communication with the app on your phone is terrible. I got it working once, and it gathered the data from the watch for a while.
But for the purposes of the review, I had to wipe it and start again. This time around it didn’t collect any data from the watch, or at least it did but only partially. The steps you take are recorded and reported to the phone but not much else. The faces are easily transmitted to the watch, as is the correct time, so that makes it worthwhile. Although the data collection works on the watch, none of that data is accepted by your phone, at least not as far as I was able to make it do so.
The problem seems to be with a lot of these smartwatches that the apps are poorly converted third-party apps which have been repurposed as apps for the watch rather than being purposely built. I can’t say for sure that this is the case here, but it certainly acts like it. Some app alerts are still in Chinese, for example.
The communication is not as perfect as you would get with a Fitbit or an Apple Watch, but then those devices are expensive and well supported. This is a pity, as the watch itself is very good and works fine on its own once you’ve used the app to get it started and synced with the correct time, etc. It’s just not much of an integrated system. For a budget watch that you don’t need to be that good at sending data to your phone, it’s brilliant.
Watch Your Expectations
The Mibro Color Smartwatch is a really decent quality smartwatch which costs around $40. A few years ago you’d pay double that for such a product. The quality of the watch itself is higher than you’d expect for the price, so it’s easily worth the money. But don’t expect a perfect experience, especially with regards to connectivity.