Xiaomi Watch S1 and S1 Active review: Basic, not bad

Over the past few years, Android smartwatches have fallen into disuse. There’s some hope now that Samsung is on Wear OS again, but the only innovation so far is One UI on our wrists. We don’t know what the future holds for Wear OS 3.0, but Xiaomi’s new smartwatches are here now, offering similar hardware and fitness and health features without WearOS. Sure, watches like the Xiaomi Watch S1 and S1 Active lack Google Assistant, third-party apps, and a defined ecosystem, but they deliver the basics with incredible battery life for a very reasonable price. Starting at $199 for the S1 Active and $269 for the S1, these could very well be a great smartwatch for someone who values ​​battery life and health tracking above all else.

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The Xiaomi Watch S1 and S1 Active are two of Xiaomi’s new non-WearOS smartwatches. They both have relatively classic designs with very lean software. With great performance and fantastic battery life, both are great value for a smartwatch.

Characteristics
  • Mark: Xiaomi
  • Heart rate monitor: Yes
  • Notification support: Yes
  • Operating system: Custom
  • Display size: 1.4 inches
  • Housing: S1: stainless steel; S1 Active: Plastic
  • Connected GPS: Yes, dual band with GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, BDS, QZSS
  • Battery: 470mAh
  • Price: S1: $269; S1 active: $199
Benefits
  • Fantastic battery life
  • Xiaomi Watch S1 comes with a leather and silicone strap in the box
  • Grand Prize
The inconvenients
  • Xiaomi Watch S1 Active has a plastic body
  • No third-party software support
  • Does not work in the United States

Design, Material, Box Contents

The Xiaomi Watch S1 is a very nice traditional style watch. It comes with a 1.43-inch OLED display under sapphire crystal and the body is made of stainless steel. The back is plastic which helps keep the weight down, although it still weighs 52g, the same as the 46mm Galaxy Watch4 Classic. The plastic back doesn’t feel as premium as the rest of the watch when you hold it, but you don’t feel it when it’s on your wrist. There are two buttons on the right side, but neither of them rotate to help you scroll through long lists.

The Xiaomi Watch S1 Active is not the prettiest fitness watch. It has the same 1.43-inch OLED screen as the Watch S1, but it just uses normal tempered glass. The whole body is plastic with a metal bezel around the screen. That brings the watch down to an absurdly light 36.3g, although I’m not convinced the weight is worth the hardware compromise, especially at this large size. Just like the Watch S1, it has two buttons on the side with a small speaker cutout in the plastic back panel.


Aside from the design, the hardware of both is the same. Both are equipped with an optical heart rate sensor capable of SpO2, 3-axis accelerometer and gyroscope, air pressure sensor, geomagnetic sensor and GPS dual band. Both have a 470mAh battery, but they don’t have the same charging mechanism. The Xiaomi Watch S1 Active uses a magnetic docking station with 2-pin connectors. The Xiaomi Watch S1, however, uses proper Qi charging. All of the Qi wireless chargers I tested, from Pixel Stand to Apple’s MagSafe to Nomad’s BaseStation Pro AirPower-style charger, were able to charge the Xiaomi Watch S1. This is the first time I’ve seen this in a smartwatch and I love it.


S1 Active Wrist Watch

In the box, both watches come with the charger and some documents. The Xiaomi Watch S1, not the S1 Active, comes with a comfortable leather strap and an athletic silicone strap. This means you won’t have to go out and buy another band if you want to use the watch for fitness. This is, again, the first time I’ve seen this on a smartwatch.

Software, performance, battery

The software of the Xiaomi Watch S1s is quite simple and it is identical between the two models. It has useful fitness features and mirrors Xiaomi phones quite well. You have access to notifications, phone calls, weather and music control. It has all the basic features of most smartwatches except there is no app support.


Software UI Monitoring

The Watch S1 only has the basics, like weather, alarms, timers, a phone locator, and camera shutter control. There’s support for Alexa as a voice assistant, but that’s not very useful if you’re deep into the Google ecosystem. Features like Alexa and mobile payments, which only support Mastercard, are also regional. In the US, I was unable to use any of these features.

The watches support iOS and Android using the Mi Fitness app. The feature set is identical between Xiaomi and non-Xiaomi Android devices, which is not common on proprietary OS watches, like Samsung’s older Tizen watches. A notable element of the device connection is the ease with which it is possible to switch devices. You don’t need to reset the watch, just download the app and press connect. No resets, no settings, nothing. It’s the holy grail of smartwatch pairing, and no other smartwatch I’ve used does.



Watch S1 Apps

Even with all the apps and features provided, the software in these watches makes them look more like great fitness trackers than smartwatches. From notifications to phone calls to the weather, that’s all Xiaomi’s basic Mi Band 6 or any modern fitness band like a Fitbit Charge can do. Nothing really makes this watch feel like a smartwatch other than the design. The lack of third-party app support and actual user choice make the watches feel like they’re missing something.

Because it’s such a lightweight operating system, the performance is excellent. There is no stuttering or lag. Everything loads almost instantly, notifications come quickly, and there’s no touch latency that some smartwatches have.


Watch S1 Widgets

The battery life of the Xiaomi Watch S1s is also much longer than your average smartwatch. I got 5-7 days of battery life with constant stress, SpO2 and heart rate tracking. It’s better than most smartwatches, but it gets less interesting when you’re trying to do something advanced.

Should I buy it?

Yes, if you want a fancy fitness tracker with some smartwatch functionality added. I could see it being a great replacement for a Fitbit or Huawei Watch, but it still doesn’t compete with the Galaxy Watch4 or Apple Watch. If you’re looking for a Fitbit for fitness tracking and want something more like a watch, this is perfect. It has a limited feature set, good fitness and health tracking, and a fantastic battery.

At $199 for the Xiaomi Watch S1 Active and $269 for the Xiaomi Watch S1, these are good values, but the Galaxy Watch4 could be around the same price on sale. It is a more powerful device, but it also needs to be powered every night.

Buy it if…

  • You want a basic smartwatch that doesn’t need to hit the charger every night.

Don’t buy it if…

  • You want a more powerful smartwatch with app support.

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About the Author

Lance B. Holton