The Xiaomi Mi Watch combines Apple design with Wear OS and a CPU from 2011
Xiaomi has gone back to its roots as a purveyor of shameless Apple ripoffs, and hot off the photocopier is the Xiaomi Mi Watch, a new wearable that is decidedly Cupertino-inspired. The Mi Watch is an Apple Watch clone, but the design is pretty much the only thing that’s cloned here. You won’t get a good SoC, a good operating system, good battery life, good haptics, or a good app ecosystem. From a distance, though, some people might mistake the Mi Watch for an Apple Watch, and maybe that’s enough.
The Mi Watch is a Wear OS device powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 3100, a combination that makes any wearable device pretty much dead on arrival. Qualcomm has been neglecting the smartwatch market since basically its inception and has never produced a serious competitor to the chips Samsung and Apple regularly put out. The Snapdragon Wear 3100 features a quad-core, 1.2GHz Cortex A7 CPU, a CPU design that is just barely from this decade, having been originally introduced in 2011. This 28nm chip doesn’t stand a chance against its faster, smaller, more battery-efficient rivals, but Qualcomm’s monopoly ensures it is basically the only game in town for smartwatch chips.
Surrounding the museum piece of a CPU is a 1.78-inch, 448×368 OLED display, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of storage, and a 570mAh battery. All the usual acronyms are here: NFC, GPS, and LTE, along with a built-in eSIM chip. There is Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.2, and a rear-mounted heart rate sensor. The base model sku has an aluminum watch body for CNY 1,300 ($185), while a more premium model comes in stainless steel and packs a slightly bigger 590 mAh battery for CNY 2,000 ($285). If you haven’t guessed from the currency yet, the Mi Watch is only available in China, at least for now.
The operating system is Wear OS, but Xiaomi has actually skinned it, which is not allowed outside of China. While regular phone Android is a free-for-all that device manufacturers can skin as much as they want, Watch Android has been a take-it-or-leave-it affair, with only watch faces and apps offering a means of differentiation. Google has almost no presence in China, though, so Chinese OEMs can reskin Wear OS to their heart’s content. They’ll need to do some work no matter what, like adding a third-party app store to make up for the lack of Google Play.
With the release of the Mi Watch, Xiaomi has most of Apple’s lineup on lockdown. There are Xiaomi versions of the iPhone, iPad, Macbook, Apple TV, Airpods, and even the physical Apple Stores. The Xiaomi Apple Watch is up for preorder in China today.