It seems the wearables market is gaining momentum, with increasing interest and publicity of fitness tracker and smartwatch style devices. Along with this, comes an influx of less well-known devices from smaller manufacturers, which often promise big features for a small price.
One such product is the Vidonn X6 Smart Band. This item is a fitness and sleep tracker, featuring a touch sensitive button and OLED matrix display. This review is made possible by Gearbest, who generously supplied the item for review under the review challenge terms. Is this a worthy buy? Read on to find out.
The smartband comes packaged in a pull-apart nested box. The box features grey text on the top, which seems to be overlaid with QC/CE stickers and stocking labels from the distributor. The stock is very fresh, being dated 15th May 2015. The rear of the box features a bilingual run-down of the basic functions and specifications of the device, which claims functions such as caller ID, activity tracking, SMS display, sleep monitoring, message notification, wireless sync, OTA upgrading, ultra-long standby and splashproof capabilities. It claims compatibility with Android 4.3 and above, and iOS 7.0 and above, where Bluetooth 4.0 (or above) is supported. The inclusions are also listed.
Removing the lid of the box shows the smartband itself, and charging cable nestled neatly inside a “milk tray” style plastic separator.
Removing all the items from the box, we also find a user’s manual, which is printed in both English and Chinese on opposite sites, which should make life easier for English speakers, like myself. There is a protective film on the surface of the watch as well, which should be removed.
Looking at the watch up-close, we can see it features a matte finished translucent-black sealed plastic body, permanently attached to a silicone rubber watch band. It seems that none of these items are separable or replaceable. The screen itself features a capacitive touch button, denoted by the diamond shaped dimples on the outer case. The band itself has an interesting diagonal striped pattern.
The length of the band is almost identical to that of the Xiaomi fitness tracker reviewed earlier on this site, but differs slightly in design. The band doesn’t fit through any loops, making it easier to assemble, although it uses a double metal clasp mechanism which requires some care in properly fitting as the metal button easily detaches from the band itself.
The inside of the band features ribbing, to improve the grip of the band and prevent the face of the smartband from rotating around your arm as you run.
Charging is accomplished through exposed, nested, gold contacts on the rear of the unit. There are additional holes at the side, which allows for the magnetic anchoring of the charging cable to “hold” onto the metal within the band.
The cable itself is a custom cable, so be careful not to lose it. It features magnets within the connector to hold itself onto the watch, and features two pins for power. No data connection is achieved via USB as everything is configured “over the air” wirelessly. The cable itself feels a little thin and fragile, and is best handled with care.The unit weighed 22 grams on my cheap set of scales, just above the 20 grams stated by the manufacturer, but also quite a lot shy of a regular watch which weighs upwards of 55 grams in general.
It’s important to note that the smartband, while compatible with the OSes listed earlier, is currently recommended for use with the following phones:
- iPhone 4S to 6plus
- Samsung S4, Note 2, Note 3
- Huawei Honor 4x, P6
- Coolpad Dazen F1, Dazen F2, s6
- Xiaomi 1S, Note, 3
- Meizu 3, MX4, note
- LG Nexus 4
- Sony L36
- Oppo 7005
- HTC One E8, M8
- Nubia Z7 Max
Stand-Alone User Experience
In order to start working with the watch, it should first be charged up. This can be achieved by connecting the watch to any USB source of power, say a computer, wall charger or power bank.
The charging cable itself features a slight frustration, as it will only mate with the watch in one direction which can be tricky to get right. There are no markings to help you, and it means that charging will involve removing the whole watch from your wrist. Once it does connect, charging status will be shown on the screen itself.
Once charged, you can fit it onto your wrist. It seems there is a bit of a tendency to have the wrist band overly-tight at first, which can be uncomfortable, but really, it should be somewhat loose. Properly ensuring that both buckles seat into their respective holes takes a bit of pushing at first, but once it does seat, the watch holds firmly on the wrist.
The unit itself is quite simple to navigate, especially as it only has one button with a very limited set of functions.
The first push of the button invokes the left-display by default, which can be configured to just show the time, or show the date and day as well. A further push of the button shows the number of steps taken, followed by calories consumed and distance.
Long holding the button toggles “temporary mode”, which is a feature I don’t understand due to the poor documentation.
In the case of low battery, the screen order will be altered to bring up the low battery warning first, before then toggling through the rest of the displays. In my basic testing, 91% of the battery lasted 18 days of usage, which is above the claimed 15 days of standby time although I did not make regular use of the notifications, anti-loss, sedentary alarm, auto-on or timed alarm features.
After wearing it for a while, I felt that it was generally comfortable to wear without irritation, however, was not quite as comfortable as the Xiaomi band due to the ribbing internally. The ribbing does effectively prevent the smart-band face from rolling about on the wrist, which is good. The increased weight of this unit was hardly noticeable in everyday life, although it seems the ribbing and data contact recess had a tendency to pick up detritus, which necessitates some cleaning for hygiene reasons.
One of the big advantages of the OLED display becomes apparent if you’ve worn a watch for a long time – you will go to check your wrist for the time and voila – it’s there! This is a big positive for me. Aside from that, you get to see precise numbers of how far you are towards your goal, which can serve as further motivation to reach them. Other benefits of the display are realized when used in concert with the Vidonn app.
The step counting feature of the band itself seems to operate fairly well, and it seems to have a “free wheeling” feature, where if you check the band while walking (thus not swinging your arm), it will continue counting steps according to the regular rhythm for a few steps so as not to miss out those steps. This feature does seem to over-estimate steps where many short start-stop walks are taken, and compared with the Xiaomi, this band reports anywhere from 18% more steps to 2% less steps. The accuracy seems poorer towards lower numbers of steps, but the end of day totals are normally within about 9%. Again, it needs to be remembered that step counting is not a precise science.
Aside from these features, there doesn’t seem to be any utilities such as stopwatch for timing other activities, etc. This makes this smartband less desirable for avid fitness fans.
Unfortunately, while the OLED screen is efficient on energy, it is not quite bright enough to read outside in bright sunlight, and is really only good for indoor usage. The screen does consume power, so avoiding unnecessary activation (i.e. by disabling auto-on) seems to be a good idea. At night, it is easy to brush up against the sensor and inadvertently toggle temporary mode or turn on the screen, which can be irritatingly bright.
The plastic enclosure which houses the device seems to be strong and sturdy enough to handle everyday abuse, however, over time, the matte finish has worn away to smoothness in the corners in a few weeks of rubbing against clothing. Furthermore, a few accidental scrapes have left light scratching on the surface, which is aesthetically unpleasing but doesn’t hinder functionality.
The claim of being splashproof is also sufficient, although, as it is only IP65 rated, it is not suitable for wearing into showers, which means taking it off before showering which can be inconvenient. Special care needs to be taken not to lose the double-button clasp itself as it does like to come out of the silicone band, as it’s not designed captive.
On the whole, the screen does make this unit quite a bit more informative to the end user, and allows it to replace a traditional watch to some extent. I definitely liked having the higher precision feedback of how many steps available to me at all times. I suppose the build quality itself and the charging could be improved, although for the price it currently retails at, I think they are expected trade-offs.
Setting Up & Use with Nexus 7 (2012) & CM11 (Android 4.4.4)
Owing to not having any of the recommended devices, and having avoided purchasing any new devices in a long time, I had to use my only “testbed” Android device with BLE (Bluetooth 4.0) support which is a Nexus 7 (2012) tablet running CyanogenMod 11 which enables the Bluetooth 4.0 functionality on the chipset.
The app itself was not found by searching “Vidonn” on the Google Play store, and when a direct link to the app was followed from the QR code, it claimed not to be compatible with any of my devices. Luckily Vidonn also offers a direct apk link on their download page, which can be used to install the program once you allow installing software from non-market sources.
The first step in the set-up process is to create an account with Vidonn. This requires a username, your e-mail address and a password, which is much less intrusive than the mobile/SMS verification that Xiaomi requires.
The next step has you input four basic health parameters – your sex, your height, your weight and your age.
Unfortunately, this is where things get a bit tricky, as for a user with Australian localization, it’s defaulted to weight in pounds and height in inches, which necessitates some conversion.
Finally, it’s time to search and pair your smartband, which requires a push on the search button, and a press of the diamond button on the band itself. This should initiate an automatic pairing and put you on the main user interface screen, ready for its first (lengthy) initial synchronization and configuration.
The main user interface is broken into several segments. There is a green toolbar at the top, featuring a share button, a date toolbar which is used in detailed views, a bracelet “status” bar which shows the state of the connection, a step-log, distance and calorie consumption data summary, a sleep summary, and a page toggle to the friends and “more” configuration pages. Unfortunately, the rendering on the tablet seems to be somewhat messy and out of place.
Tapping on your steps allows you to bring up a “timeline” view of what you did in certain time periods. It’s rather tedious to “read through” but it does seem to demonstrate one of the issues with the application which is the poor choice of English words in the translation.
A graph summary should have also been available, but it seems to have rendered only as a grey rectangle in landscape mode, which did not pan or zoom, even after a few days of data was collected.
Similarly, tapping on the sleep should let you get your data on your sleep plotted, but I instead received inconsistent results, ranging from no plotting at all, to solid-colour plots which did not have any data. This was rather frustrating for me.
If we move along the bottom tab, to the friends tab, we can see the ability to share data with other Vidonn users in order to “compete” with them or check their status. This is a good feature for families and or groups of users so they can give each other a bit of a nudge to get moving, but only works within Vidonn users as far as I can tell.
The “more” tab is the most interesting one, as it allows you to perform all the configuration for the smartband itself. The first option in the list, My bracelet, allows you to call up the side menu which allows you to configure many bracelet features.
The first is alarm clock, where the band supports up to eight alarms, with labels. The alarms themselves don’t have any special configurability (say, early bird feature on Xiaomi), although the number of alarms is commendable. Unfortunately, I did have difficulty getting them to work reliably, as several times, I did configure alarms that didn’t go off for some reason or another.
The next option is sleep settings. This allows you to configure the default start and ending times of the sleep tracking mode. Unfortunately, this band only features manual sleep tracking, meaning that if the times are not correctly set and you sleep earlier or later, then you may need to manually correct that in the sleep data screen or risk losing or incorrectly recording your sleep data. This is less elegant than the automatic detection used by the Xiaomi product.
It allows you to see the present version of the firmware on your device, download and upgrade the firmware over the air (see next section for more details).
It also allows for configuring notifications, and proximity (anti-lost) features.
The language of the bracelet can be changed between a few options:
The screen of the time can be rotated, automatic “power on” of the screen on detected movement can be changed, a vibration reminder when the band disconnects from the device can be toggled, along with the time format, date display and sedentary alarm functions.
Temporary mode can be toggled, although its purpose is unclear to me, as well as log collection, Vidonn status bar (continuous notification), QQhealth integration. An option to reboot the bracelet and change the display font is also provided.
At the present time, notification support seems to be relatively limited and requires access to the notifications via the Android settings to function. The anti-lost feature is disabled by default, but does continuously check for signal strength and connectivity to alert you when you have gone too far from your device.
The profile screen allows you to change your goals and check your profile settings. Interestingly, the unit was set as metric, but the set-up was all done with imperial units.
Finally, feedback brings you to a web-form for submitting feedback, but it is all in Chinese. I think there needs to be some improvement here.
If I was to summarize my experience with the Android software, I would say it was “frustrating”. Of technology you would expect to “just work”, this one had many bugs and cryptic translations. Some of these rendering issues may be down to the fact that the software is running on a tablet, rather than the intended target of a phone, but it is clear that the software does have many areas where some added polish and improvements in translations would be welcome. It would be also nice to see increased data sharing capability, say with Google Fit and or raw data access for those who want to analyze their data deeper.
While the smartband seems relatively feature rich, it’s important to note that some of the functionality isn’t bug free. For example, I did have trouble in receiving notifications on the band itself, with delays and sometimes outright failure. The band also sometimes refused to automatically re-connect with the paired tablet when moved out of range and returned back into range. Alarms did not work reliably enough for me to rely on it as a source of reminders, and changes to the auto-on, screen rotation and screen format took several goes to actually commit. Other options resulted in bracelet vibrations to notify you of something (e.g. out of range), but without a clear indication as to why the bracelet vibrated, resulting in confusion. The basic fitness tracking functionality, however, seemed to work just fine stand-alone, with the graphing suffering rendering issues which limited its usefulness.
Firmware Upgrade Problems with Android
To try and improve my chances with the software, I tried to perform a Firmware Upgrade using the application itself. After tapping on the version number, and letting it download, it is ready to attempt the update.
After a short wait, the system automatically launches the Bluetooth devices settings page. A device named DfuTarg is seen, which is the bracelet.
Tapping on it to pair, and then returning to the firmware update page does not result in updating, and instead the bracelet times out and returns to original firmware.
Apparently, this is not a very uncommon thing, as other people online have noted problems with getting their Vidonn X6 firmware upgraded, noting that it works on some devices and not others. I suppose I might have better luck under iOS, so I moved onto that.
Setting Up & Use with iPad 3rd Generation & iOS 8.3
The set-up process under iOS is pretty similar to that of Android, thus I did not detail it as heavily. The application was found successfully in the app store, provided you select iPhone Only apps (if you’re running on a tablet like I am). Again, it’s important to remember that the application was developed with phones as the target, and running on a tablet will mean running in a “compatibility” window.
Instead of setting up a new account, I opted to sign in with my existing account I had made under Android. Unfortunately, I seem to have either miskeyed or forgotten the password – and this gave me a chance to test the password recovery feature. Needless to say, it did work just fine!
The next step is to choose the smartband model – in our case, the X6. Then it proceeds to scan for the smartband and pair with it, which requires you to press on the diamond button to ensure it does that successfully. Once everything is settled, you will see the main interface, which looks almost identical to the Android application, sans the layout issues.
For example, the step graphing feature is working correctly, although the awkward English of “Goals” for goal reached and “Ungoal” for goal not reached is very interesting. The sleep graphing is also working, although it seems to have arbitrary movement units, and isn’t really interpreted with the 90-minute REM cycle in account, resulting in very strange figures.
A correction button is provided at the top corner for the sleep data so you can change the timings – in this graph, I didn’t go to sleep until about 12:30am, so the band had picked up a lot of movement when it thought I was sleeping at 11pm (based on preference settings).
Time-line viewing of your day is also available, just as it is in Android.
The More menu in the iOS version is laid out differently, and is mostly a very long menu with many options.
The terminology seems to be inconsistent, as Msg Notice is “notifications”, and Rollover On is “auto-screen-on” from what I can tell. Moveless reminder is the sedentary alarm, thus, the English can get a little cryptic and the layout is a little clunky.
Message notifications are supported from more sources under iOS and it seemed to work just fine provided the bracelet was connected at the time, although sometimes old “missed call” notifications suddenly pop up as new notifications.
Bracelet parameters allows you to read-out the parameters stored on the band itself – as it does a lot of processing on-board, it seems that a setting of Male under Android is interpreted as Female under iOS. How peculiar.
Best of all, under iOS, the firmware update went smoothly and allowed for the smartband to be updated to the latest software.
While it is generally performs more consistently under iOS compared to Android in my experience, the updated firmware still didn’t fix several issues, such as the alarm not going off.
More importantly, under iOS, I’ve had many instances where the band would take a very long time to synchronize (above a minute), although it would eventually complete. Other times, the band status would be stuck on search which needs a close and restart of the app or “Unconnected Bracelet” which necessitates a re-scan before notifications work again and synchronization take place. This is probably not such a big issue if you keep the band and the paired device close together at all times.
The Vidonn X6 is another low-cost fitness and sleep tracking band looking to capitalize on the growing wearables market. The band itself is small and light, and generally comfortable to wear with non-irritating silicone-rubber style band. The clasp itself is secure, although not captive and can be lost. The plastic body design with capacitive touch and OLED display offers good feedback to the user and functions well as a watch, however, is prone to wear, scratches and is difficult to read under full sunlight. The battery life is sufficient to last 15 days as claimed, but the charging mechanism is slightly finnicky, using a thin custom cable that only connects in one direction which is not clearly marked. On the whole, with the band stand-alone, it is easy to use and works as advertised as a basic step counter. Avid fitness fans should really look elsewhere.
Unfortunately, the apps themselves seem to be less well designed, with layout issues when running on the Android tablet which compromise functionality and problems with firmware upgrading. Under iOS, the problems are less severe, although intermittent connectivity bugs seem to exist. Both versions of the apps show poor English translation which can be quite confusing to end users to navigate. The issue with apps may indeed subside with future updates, and with running the apps on their “recommended” devices.
That being said, the Vidonn X6 currently retails at Gearbest for AU$36.33 on 53% off special which makes it relatively inexpensive considering it has a display. However, prospective users should really consider whether they are willing to put up with, or are able to work around issues (by changing devices, or reverting to just basic standalone usage), before purchasing this product.
UPDATE: For those who are interested, Gearbest have come back to me with some promo codes you can use for a discount, although it seems the pricing is in US$. No harm trying them though :).
Coupon Code: GBVX6
Coupon Price: $26.73