So maybe you’ve got duped on eBay and got sent a counterfeit Xiaomi Fitness Tracker that turns out to be a MovNow W79, or you’re thinking of buying one with the full knowledge that you’ve somehow ended up paying for a listing for a knock-off (which is illegal in some senses), one thing you’ll be wondering is whether it works.
That’s what this post will be all about – a user review of the MovNow W79 from a user that’s also used a Genuine Xiaomi.
On Android – CyanogenMod 11 on Nexus 7 (2012)
Owing to a lack of more modern devices, testing will be done on my old Nexus 7 (2012) running CM11. The reason for CM11? It gives the old “girl” Bluetooth-LE abilities that are needed to work with such products.
We begin by downloading the app by visiting the QR code. This eventually leads you to an .apk file which you’ll need to install by enabling “non-market” installs. This does pose a security question of whether the application is “safe”, but as far as I can tell, I haven’t noticed any adverse effects. It does, like other fitness trackers, request a lot of permissions, many which are not necessary especially since this isn’t a fully-fledged smartwatch.
The app itself is called Bracelet, and it has a package name of com.veclink.movnow.healthy_q2. From the terms and conditions documents, it seems the culprit is Shenzhen Movnow Science & Technology Development Co. Ltd but also involves Shenzhen Veclink Communications Co. Ltd. which publishes the application. This particular bracelet branded application isn’t available on the Google Play store, but its twin named movnow has just a 1.5 star rating on Google Play at this time, and their movnow plus isn’t much better at 2 stars. Visually, movnow plus is more similar to the Bracelet branded application that is linked to by the QR code, but we can see the deliberate choice of orange and white motif, very much emulating the Xiaomi Mi Fit application’s style. The copying seems to be deliberate.
Installing the app leads to a three slide cartoon that seems rather pointless and amateurish, followed by the common need to create an account with the service. They require an e-mail address and a password, which is less onerous than the Mi. The system then requires your particulars – and defaults to pounds and feet measurement, but upon clicking on the field, you can change the units. That’s good. Then you get to set your goal – this one has the least ambitious goal set as default, at 7000 steps, 1000 shy of Xiaomi’s 8000 step goal default, and Vidonn’s 10000 step goal. All of this can be changed, of course. Then you get a quick tutorial about the features of the software, and you’re dumped into the main screen.
The main UI isn’t quite complete, as no band has been paired yet. The UI implores you to click on it to begin the binding process, which starts with a scan for “bracelets”. It doesn’t take long for it to find the unit, which will buzz to confirm the pairing. You should tap on the device to acknowledge pairing.
Of course, it’s not quite ready to go and needs a mandatory firmware update to work. At the time of writing, the firmware version is 11. The update takes a few minutes, and its progress is decidedly non-linear.
Once it has been updated, then we are set to go. Lets start with exploring some of the other features first … starting from the alarms page.
The alarms page features a drink alarm (no, not to tell you to have a shot), a sitting alarm (i.e. a sedentary alarm), a BMI calculator (no, that’s not an alarm) and a wakeup call (an alarm!). When a feature is enagaged, the ring around the icon is lit.
The drinking alarm isn’t very much different from a regular alarm. They just named it as such so as to make the impression of having more features. There is some hint text provided. Once configured, you are bought to this screen.
This give you the impression you can hit the + button and add another alarm, right? Wrong. You can only have one alarm it seems – it won’t add any more but will let you reconfigure your existing alarm.
If you were thinking this was how the Wake-Up call feature works as well, you’d be absolutely right. The menus are basically the same just with different text. So much for another function.
The sedentary alarm is different – you can set a vigilance period, where 25 minutes of inactivity will trigger a warning to remind you to move.
I didn’t actually use this feature, but one of the key points is that this feature will increase power consumption. This feature is not actually available on the Mi Fitness Tracker, although it is available on the Vidonn X6 Smartband.
Which brings me onto the BMI calculator, which for reasons unknown, is put into the alarms page. It’s no alarm, although the result is quite alarming. The issue with it seems that it doesn’t seem to take the data from your profile, necessitating a manual entry of data *again*, and this time, in units which aren’t particularly friendly to the “rest of the world”. I don’t see this feature getting much use anyway.
Lets take a peek into the side menu to see what we can configure.
The last entry that is blacked out is my profile menu – which has my e-mail address that I signed up with. The My Device menu allows you to read the status about your device and configure some parameters for it.
The battery status read-out is provided, a scan feature is provided to pair new units. Anti-lost reminder is a proximity alarm feature which will set off an alert when the user gets out of range of their paired device (not available on the Xiaomi, but is on the Vidonn X6). Firmware upgrade and present firmware version is shown, along with an unpair option (although the MAC is not shown correctly). You can control whether you get alerted for incoming calls or SMS’es. Finally, you can change the LED colour …
… just like in the Xiaomi. Copy much? The My Goal menu further down lets you set the goal, which was part of the set-up process initially, so isn’t repeated here. Under that is the Activity Type menu which seems quite pointless to me.
While you are tempted with the possibility to choose “walk, sleep, running”, pressing on them does absolutely nothing. None of the options are selectable or configurable. It’s probably just there to show “hey, I can automatically detect what is going on” – well guess what? The Xiaomi can do that and it doesn’t need to brag about it.
Then, we come to the settings menu, which seems to admit this software is Version 2.5.1. There is also some help available if you need it using the function introduction selection. Guide page just brings you to the three page cartoon from the beginning, which is really not illustrative of anything at all.
The profile menu is basically just all of the information we set up while we did the introductory set-up, but it does give you a chance to correct anything that you might have mis-entered.
Lets now move onto the main UI. The main page is the walking summary page.
Note that the distance is given in miles, and can’t be changed. The screen shows step count raw, and as a percentage of goal, distance and energy consumption. A small preview graph is shown at the bottom. Sliding down on the step count causes it to synchronize from the band. Sliding up allows you to view more details for this day’s walking.
It seems to have its fair share of layout issues, but this is understandable as it is running on a tablet, and probably was coded for a phone. The graph itself is not resizeable, and cannot be “scrubbed” over with your finger for more data like the Xiaomi one can. The datum points are also relatively irregular in their spacing, and the resolution does not look very fine. The step counts, on average, are within 0-20% above that of the Xiaomi, frequently being about 10% above. The same day’s counts on the Xiaomi are provided to the left for comparison.
The main screen also has a share menu, which allows you to share the result with others over Facebook and Twitter. Other services may be provided if they’re installed on your device (although I don’t use any other really).
There is also a food diary feature which allows you to keep a track of the calorie intake, although it involves taking a photo of something and keying in the details. It’s not a feature in the Xiaomi product, but its usefulness is probably debatable, especially if it’s a bit time consuming to use.
If you select the calendar icon on the top right hand side of the main UI, you can access the historical database. The rendering on my tablet was really out of whack, and the data seems rather smoothed, but you can leaf around through prior weeks, although loading can take some time.
Leafing to the next page allows you to see your sleep analysis results.
Similarly, sliding down on the top half synchronizes the data, which is not automatically synchronized when the step data is synchronized, and sliding the bottom half up allows you to view the data in more detail.
The sleep on this tracker is programmed as fixed time intervals – 9pm to 9am is considered night time sleep, and 9am to 9pm is considered daytime sleep. Xiaomi does not track any daytime sleep, if it happens, but automatically engages for night-time sleep based on a detection algorithm. This particular bracelet seems to have a habit of reporting 30-minute blocks in its sleep data, which makes for very improbable results – in this case, I actually slept about 1am, and Xiaomi gets it right. In fact, I wore both bands side-by-side on the same arm for a few days to see how they compared.
Historical information is available by clicking on the calendar icon, although the rendering glitch doesn’t seem to rear its head in the same way.
I had charged the bracelet just before setting up, following the instruction manual’s requirements to charge until all LEDs are on solid, and then continue charging for 10 minutes more. After I had got everything set-up, the battery was claiming just 75% remaining. After 6 days, the bracelet buzzed and three red indications were shown, with a claimed 19% battery remaining. After 7 days of use, the bracelet had reached its terminal point of 3% and below, where features were disabled.
This points to one of the major failings of this particular unit – its very uncalibrated battery scale, and its short battery life necessitating frequent charging. The more frequent one has to charge their device, the more likely they will forget or end up not using it because of the perceived hassle. It seems possible that they did not engineer the unit as carefully to make best use of the volume, as it seems that this copy weighs 13g whereas the Xiaomi registered 15g on the same scales.
I did shower a few times with the unit, just as I do with the genuine Xiaomi on a regular basis, and no adverse effects were noted. So at least it seems to be relatively water resistant.
The LEDs on this unit were very dim, and seemed to have been misaligned with the transparent holes in the casing, making it difficult to read indoors. Trying the “progress check” gesture on this unit results in no indication whatsoever of progress. The only indication of progress was provided in the software. The vibration motor on this unit also had a squeakyness to it which made it a little questionable as to longevity.
The software also had a tendency not to automatically sync both steps and sleep data when opened, and requires a down-ward slide on each of the screens in sequence to force the data to be synchronized. I did not test to see how much data the unit can collect independently before losing data, however, I did note that the step count datum points were irregularly spaced, and detailed (say 10-minute brackets) of steps were not available like they are with the Xiaomi. The software also didn’t have any integration with Google Fit that I could see, and data exchange/sharing seemed to be relatively limited.
I suppose, if you’re using it with Android, the unit does work, but the software seems hardly as well supported, polished, and featureful as the real Xiaomi product. However, it does have a calorie diary feature and sedentary alarm feature, which the Mi Fit doesn’t, but in return, you lose a few alarms.
On iOS – iPad 3rd Generation running iOS 8.4
Trying to get this thing set-up on iOS begins with scanning the QR code and following the link. Quite interestingly, it isn’t a link to the app store, but is actually a request to install a piece of software directly.
Again, this is a warning that the software isn’t vetted, and isn’t provided by a trusted app developer. I wonder what this means – is this a sneaky way of skirting around the whole App Store, and misusing development features? By now, I’ve forgotten all about the security headaches, and just want it to work …
The installed program has the same icon, the same orange and white styling. At least they’re consistent. But wait, we still need more permissions!
After also satisfying its need for sending notifications, we are greeted by a similar cartoon opening, but this time, the text is slightly different and even less refined.
At the end of all that, you are dumped at the UI, but with no clear guidance where to go next. So we can poke around the features and just see how they compare.
The settings menu follows a very similar look and feel in terms of categorization. Clicking on My Device leads to an error message:
This isn’t very helpful, as there is no setting to help you actually pair the device.
There is a bit of a layout kludge here, but the default goal is the same “low” 7000 steps.
The activity type screen is equally as useless as it is in Android, with no features actually selectable. Everything is all “automatic switching”, whatever that means.
The settings menu does allow you to change the units, and gives the version number as a very infant 1.0.5. There is an option to view the tutorial slides, which are very similar as well.
Finally, the profile screen shows the profile data for your login, but it seems like they’ve made the same mistake as Vidonn had made where my Male profile made under Android defaults to Female under iOS. How strange.
From the main UI, the sharing features are virtually identical as well.
Well, I wouldn’t have guessed it, but in the end, it seems like the compatibility of the product follows exactly the same trajectory as the Mi Fit did, by not working with my iPad. In this case, it wasn’t actually seen as a partner to pair with, despite it easily seeing another BLE device (the Vidonn Smartband), and it easily being seen by BLE Scanner on my Nexus 7. The Mi Fit instead caused a force close to springboard.
Maybe the situation is different for iPhone users, because of Apple’s very unpredictable ways, but I’m not too sure about it. I haven’t been able to evaluate its performance on iOS despite the interface looking superficially similar, so I’d have to advise caution.
Whether you ended up with a MovNow because you got dudded and saddled with a counterfeit Mi Fitness Tracker, or you bought one without knowing any better, it’s good to know that it does at least work on Android. It does what it says on the tin, mostly.
Unfortunately, as a Xiaomi clone, it really doesn’t quite live up to the same polished result on the software side, and is unlikely to see the same level of updates and support in the future.
The biggest drawback is the need for more frequent battery charging (7 days versus 40 days tested), the lack of progress display and the unreadability of the LEDs. There are also fewer alarms available, and the sleep mode detection is nowhere near as precise (as it’s time based) as the Xiaomi’s. Aside from that, you are left with some uncertainties as to the safety of the software provided, which is mostly unvetted by the stores themselves, and the bitter taste of knowing that you likely paid a similar price to the real product for an inferior “clone” that isn’t even “compatible”.