The world of smart watches has finally caught up with traditional watches (and Apple) and found that the way forward is to make something that goes on our wrists out of quality materials.
The Xiaomi Watch S1 Pro – announced at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2023 – has a stainless steel case, sapphire crystal above the screen, and a soft leather strap. What makes it much more desirable are ones made from “lesser” materials. I have spent it to find out more.
The elevated design of the Xiaomi Watch S1 Pro
The brushed stainless steel case comes in either silver with a brown leather strap or black with a black leather strap. The sapphire crystal is neatly cambered around the bezel, covering the large 1.47-inch AMOLED screen. The screen bezel is surprisingly slim, especially compared to the Google Pixel Watch, and the 46mm case means it fits my 6.5-inch wrist better too. However, I understand that others prefer the smaller size of the Pixel Watch.
The case back seems to be made of glass and is cool and comfortable on my wrist, but the leather strap gets wrinkled almost immediately after putting it on for the first time. The leather is thin, and the brown color is (in my opinion) unattractive. However, it is a standard size and is attached using a quick release pin, so replacing it is a simple and relatively inexpensive endeavor.
On the side of the case there is a rotating crown and one button, which makes the design reminiscent of the Huawei Watch GT 3 Pro. The crown is placed at the 2 o’clock position and has a delicate knurled finish for a strong grip. However, the placement makes it difficult to turn with your finger, and the menus don’t always react as quickly as I’d like because of it. The lower button calls up the exercise mode.
Although somewhat generic in shape and overall design, the use of stainless steel and sapphire gives the Xiaomi Watch S1 Pro a touch of class and elevates it beyond the plain, minimalist look of the Google Pixel Watch.
A brand new (and familiar) operating system.
The Watch S1 Pro is the first to use Xiaomi’s new Watch OS software, and not a version of Google’s Wear OS 3. There is still plenty of inspiration from Wear OS and Apple’s watchOS software. You swipe down the screen to see notifications, up to find Quick Settings, and across to see widget-based tiles. Press the crown, and a bubble-based collection of app icons appears.
It’s fast and easy to use, though, with little lag other than when you check ads. I also love the design of the tiles, which have little widgets inside icons that are easily pressed to show more details on heart rate, your sleep, and calendar, or to quickly access features like the switch time. It looks great and is unlike the designs from the other two major smartwatch operating systems.
Xiaomi has added Alexa as a virtual assistant. There are plenty of watch faces to choose from, and a list of 100 activities to track. On the back of the watch is a heart rate sensor that also monitors blood oxygen levels, and the S1 Pro has built-in GPS. I had the smartwatch connected to the Xiaomi 13 Pro, and it was reliable when delivering notifications, with enough text displayed on the screen to help you make a quick decision about checking your phone further. Unfortunately, I haven’t found any apps that can be interacted with on your wrist.
I haven’t used the smartwatch long enough to fully evaluate battery life, but Xiaomi estimates 14 days of use from the 500mAh cell. It is recharged using a plastic pouch that magnetically attaches to the back of the smartwatch. The 14 days of use seems promising – with the screen always on, the battery dropped by 10% in one day, suggesting that it might not last more than 10 days if you use the main features.
Xiaomi Watch S1 Pro: price and availability
Xiaomi hasn’t shared the price or availability of the Watch S1 Pro at the time of writing, and we’ll update here when it does. The smartwatch is unlikely to be officially available in the US, but we’re expecting a wider international launch.
Xiaomi has had to step up its game when it comes to smartwatches, as the competition is tougher than ever. The premium materials and decent software of the Watch S1 Pro are certainly worth further investigation, but both the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 and the Apple Watch Series 8 are solid smartwatches. The price has to be very competitive if it’s going to be an alternative to your phone.