If our work productivity in recent times hit an all-time low, blame it on the Mi 3.
The Mi 3 is a no-brainer buy, one of those must-have-it-now gadgets. The specs on their own are amazing: a quad-core Snapdragon 801 chipset, 2GB of RAM, with one of the fastest GPU’s in the market, 5-inch full HD display, a 13-MP dual-LED flash rear camera with a Sony sensor (f/2.2, 28mm) and HD video recording, plus a 3050 mAh battery housed in a lightweight aluminum-magnesium alloy frame.
Sure, a lot of flagship Android phones from other brands carry the same specs, but the Mi 3 has an ace up its sleeve that’ll make its competitors fold: a selling price of P10,599—flagship specs at entry-level prices—what’s not to like?
The Philippines is also the first country to get the Mi 3 with the latest Kit Kat build.
The Mi 3 is not just beauty and muscle, though. The brains behind it, its redefined Android OS called MIUI (“Me You I”), is truly impressive. It’s an operating system that gives you full control and customization without the confusion Android newbies sometimes feel.
MIUI is very intuitive in that there is no learning curve required. And on the off chance that you still feel a bit lost, MIUI’s enthusiastic user community on the Internet makes sure you end up loving Mi as much as they do.
In fact, user feedback is highly prized at Xiaomi, and Xiaomi’s Global VP Hugo Barra proudly says that some of the best features of MIUI are thanks to the community’s input (funny how the most democratic mobile OS in the market today should hail from China).
During our descent into Mi 3 madness, we discovered features that made the Mi 3 a keeper. The wide array of available themes is enough to satisfy even the most finicky of users. We customized our phone to look like a pink kitty cat that has a clock that would meow every hour.
Function-wise, it is a great phone for work and play. The built-in phone app, for example, lists down how many times the phone rang before a caller hang up, giving you an indication of how urgent the call is.
Another simple yet brilliant feature is how the phone will vibrate once the person you are calling has picked up, so you can go about your business without having to stare at the phone waiting till the call counter comes up, or the person you’re calling picks up.
The in-call features are very useful, too. You can pull up a notepad to take down important details, or you can record the entire call. You can even put certain contacts on a recording list, so that the phone will automatically record each call that comes from that person—very handy for client calls.
The messaging app, meanwhile, has a slew of indispensable features, like the private inbox, where you can encrypt and store private messages (texts from a contact included in the list won’t register under a number, just “unknown”). You can also set messages to be sent at a certain date and time, so you can set a “Happy Birthday” text in advance to ensure you never forget.
For those who fear traveling with a smartphone due to unchecked data roaming costs, MIUI’s Security app gives you detailed statistics on which app is consuming data and how much, both using mobile or Wi-Fi. You can also restrict an app from using mobile data, so you can be sure that Google+, e.g., won’t be able to back up your photos in the background. “This is peace of mind when you’re roaming,” says Barra. Not only can you restrict which app can access mobile data, you can also set a general data cap to ensure that you don’t go over your monthly limit.
The Security app also comes with a Cleaner feature, which scans your phone every so often to help rid it of cached files, and other unnecessary files that can take up precious space. It also gives you options on how to optimize your battery life, as well as show you which active apps are eating up your battery. As for battery life, you can comfortably last a full day with heavy use.
Though the Mi 3 is not equipped with LTE, we have yet to miss it as the consistent HSDPA speed we got while using a Smart prepaid SIM was more than sufficient. That’s another thing, you can set your status bar to show what Internet speed you are getting.
No wonder Barra says of this flagship smartphone: “It is a device that someone picks up and says, ‘Wow.’”
Despite having been launched in the Philippines just two months ago, the Mi 3 has already sold a lot of units from two flash sales, a selling model favored by the brand where several thousand units are sold on a particular day.
“Once we’re confident that a product is well-tuned and optimized to that market, and production is ramped up, then we put it on the open sale model,” says Barra.
The demand Mi 3 has drummed up among Philippine users is so great that after two flash sales, Mi Philippines switched to an open sale model, allowing interested buyers to purchase it any time through online retail partner Lazada.
The only thing we wished were on the Mi 3 was the expandable memory slot. Currently, only the 16GB model is available for sale in the Philippines. Sources say there are no immediate plans of making the 64GB version available.
That, and the feature we so dearly miss is the native scroll to top feature on iOS (tap the status bar and the page immediately scrolls to top). We think it’s a very necessary feature to have, especially in smartphones that have bigger screens—it can be time-consuming to keep flicking until you reach the top of the page you are currently viewing. Some browsers, Twitter clients, and various apps have these in their settings or as a button, but this is a feature missing in Android in general. We would love to see MIUI integrate this natively and employ it across all installed apps.
We can’t wait for other Mi products to come to the Philippines. We’d love to see the Redmi Note, their under P8,000 “phablet,” the Mi router that lets you connect to Wi-Fi by just placing an NFC-enabled smartphone against it to connect, the Mi Click—a tiny programmable button you insert into your phone’s audio jack that lets you access certain features when you press it—and their cute and affordable power banks. Everything they have is pretty stellar, actually, and we hope they’re made available locally soon.
The Mi 3 is available at Lazada (www.lazada.com.ph). Check out their Facebook page for updates: www.facebook.com/xiaomiphilippines.
‘Life logging’ with the Sony SmartBand
Wearables that interact with your phone to monitor motion and activity are all the rage now. Sony jumped into the fray with a Smartband that goes beyond the usual fitness tracking, into something more detailed and well-rounded.
Sony’s SmartBand SWR10 is composed of a tiny “core,” which does all the heavy computing, plus a simple but elegant rubber wristband that comes in different colors, but currently only available here in black. You can take the core out and put it in your pocket if you don’t feel like wearing it on your wrist. You can also take a shower or swim with it as it is fully waterproof despite having an exposed micro-USB slot for charging (one full charge lasts you five whole days).
The band interacts with any Android smartphone running Kit Kat. All you need to do is to install two apps: Sony’s SmartConnect and Lifelog. SmartConnect will handle the connection to your phone via Bluetooth/NFC, while Lifelog is the hub where you can see all the data gathered by the SmartBand regarding your daily activity.
Most wearables now focus on tracking steps taken, movement intensity (distinguishing walking from running), as well as quality of sleep. The way they work seems almost magical but there is a lot of math involved in how they manage to track your activities.
The fun thing about Sony’s SmartBand is that it doesn’t stop at tracking your steps and sleep—it also tracks your daily interactions with your smartphone. For example, playing Snoopy Sugar Drop (a Snoopy-fied version of Candy Crush) takes an hour and a half of our day, while Facebook takes another hour. It’s easy to see why we sometimes end up scrambling to get work done (damn you, Snoopy Sugar Drop!).
You can also set goals for your activities. So far, we’ve yet to make it halfway to our 10,000 steps a day goal and eight hours of sleep a day (we average four to five hours, with only two and a half spent in deep sleep, while it takes us 20 minutes to fall asleep).
If you are out and about, you can double press the button on your SmartBand to create “life bookmarks,” memorable moments that will be catalogued in Lifelog. You can also set it to detect when you are a certain distance away from your phone; it will vibrate against your wrist successively to inform you that you are far from your phone, a handy feature for those who constantly forget their phones at home or wherever.
The SmartBand paints a pretty accurate picture of your entire day, which you can play back in its entirety to see what activities you did at a certain hour, complete with shifts in the weather.
For some, having a clear presentation of their daily habits can help break bad ones, e.g., undoing a sedentary lifestyle or getting more sleep. Ultimately though, it is up to the user to do something about the data the SmartBand presents. Maybe one day, the wearables of the future will also have a feature that will help motivate you as well. But for now, what it can do is pretty cool; we’ll take it. •
The Sony SmartBand SWR10 is available at Xperia shops/dealers for P4,490. Check them out on Facebook: www.facebook.com/sonymobilePH