April 16, 2016, India
Having an early adopter mindset can sometimes be a curse.
Though I’m a long term Apple user, I have long been interested in Xiaomi, a Chinese brand with well crafted but inexpensive phones. They are modelled on the iPhone, down to the look of its modified Android OS. So when my iPhone 5 crashed, I took a leap of faith out of the walled garden and bought a Mi Phone. Along with the phone, I bought a Mi Band.
Life as usual, had other plans, and I was soon back in Appleland with an iPhone 6S+. The Mi4i was demoted to being my secondary phone. Anyway I decided to pair the Mi Band to the iPhone, as the iOS app store had a decent app called the Mi Fit (all the functions available on Android are there on iOS except the phone unlock function through band proximity).
Worth every penny
For a $12 band, that Mi Band could do quite a bit.
- Count my steps and translate it to calories burnt
- Track my sleep
- Wake me up noiselessly (vibration mode alarm)
- Notify me about incoming calls by vibrating
- Identify and separate walking steps and running steps
- Split deep sleep and light sleep
- Keep a history of my steps and my sleep
- Set a goal for steps
- Notify me when I reached my goal by vibrating/LED lights
- LED lights that indicate the charge status
- Stay charged for a month or more of constant usage
- Waterproof enough to take an accidental shower
- Share data with Apple’s health app and social platforms
That’s incredible value for money. I did have one minor setback when it refused to charge. But that turned out to be because the points were dirty after a month of sweaty running in the 37C humid, Indian summer. A hard rub with a soft cloth solved the problem. About the only other issue I had was my inability to unlearn my old habit of checking my wrist for the time.
On March 14, 2016, version 2.0 of the Mi Fit app was released. In my enthusiasm, I went into idiot mode and installed the app.
It broke the band, and with iOS there’s no official way to go back to the previous app. Here’s what stopped working.
- Still counted steps but no longer separated walking and running
- Accused me of not wearing the band at night
- Refused to sync sleep
- Stopped vibrating when my phone rang
- Deleted my history and refused to keep it anymore
- As a finishing touch, my name in the app was now in Chinese
I went back to check the reviews and found many complaints. I added my own review, and also sent feedback via the Mi Fit app but got no response.
A day or two later, I went back to the app store to check. All the bad reviews had disappeared. I was mystified till I noticed the developer had released version 2.01. Hopefully, I installed it but the app was still broke.
This circus went on for a month with 4 further updates and it’s at 2.10 today. The sole purpose of the updates seemed to be to make the bad reviews disappear (the App Store hides reviews whenever an app updates). That’s when my tubelight came on.
This Charlie didn’t know how to fix the app. The only solution was to reload the app’s earlier version but that’s officially impossible on Apple devices.
An own goal by the App Store
The Apple App Store doesn’t allow me to go back to an older working version of a broken app. But there was a time when I could transfer the old app from my device to iTunes on my Mac, then delete it from the phone, and install the updated app on the device. This way, if the update was faulty, I could just delete the new app from the phone, and reinstall the old version from iTunes on my Mac. But Apple seems to have removed the ability to transfer apps from the phone to my Mac when they started offering ‘thin’ versions of apps. A full backup of the phone before installing an app is possible, but that seems like a bit of an overkill.
I think this whole system is a bit silly. Apple should look into it during its ongoing review of improving the App store.
Restoring my faith in humanity
The thing that boggles my mind about the internet is there’s always some goodhearted guy out there who’s not just has a solution to my problem but also has taken the trouble to share it in painstaking detail. In this case, the site was complete with a video giving step by step instructions, and working links to all resources I needed. He probably gets some returns from ads on his site. But not from me, since ad-block is on by default in my browser. It’s Good Samaritans like these that give me hope for mankind.
Hacking the App Store
Anyway, by following the directions on the website, I was able to trick the App Store into allowing downloads of previous versions of apps, and eventually got the last fully working version (1.60).
It took nearly half an hour as the process was a bit convoluted. However it was not really complicated, and there was no risk to my Mac or phone as it’s not illegal. (Tip: the number that worked for me to get Version 1.60 was 815809184)
All in all, it was worth it as the app and band were in harmony once again. What’s more, my inner geek was content, knowing my sleep was once again being monitored.
A lesson in what not to do
The developer should have been honest enough to admit there was a problem with the app update, instead of trying to hide the negative reviews by releasing new versions of the broken update. As I suggested in a review in the App Store, they should have re-released the older version under another name like Mi Fit Lite. Customers would have been upset but they would have forgiven the developer as anyone can make mistakes.
Secondly, though Xiaomi models its phone on the iPhone, there is one big difference from Apple. The latter makes its own software and hardware whereas Xiaomi seems to be slapping its brand on products made by third companies, and then marketing them. The Mi Fit app is made by a Xiaomi partner company called Anhui Huami Information Technology Co, which is the company that originally made the Mi Band. Xiaomi may need to rethink such arrangements as the developer goof-ups reflect badly on Xiaomi.
As for me, all’s well that ends well.