The Mio Fuse arrives to take on wearable fitness tracking in an increasingly competitive market. Can this device win by bucking the trends?

The wearables market in 2016 is a place of constant flux. Rumours abound that Jawbone is about to call it quits, Fitbit is forging ahead with the likes of the Blaze, and Withings, having been acquired by Fossil, could make a new foray into the luxury market. Left on the field, then, is the Mio Fuse; a new all-in-one activity tracker that is now looking for room to grow and blossom.
If you hadn’t heard of Mio before, you aren’t alone. Despite being one of the longest running contenders in the wearables market, the company doesn’t enjoy the same top-of-the-line recall its competitors do.
Read: Jawbone Up2 Review: Staying on track
With a design that’s evocative of what we might have envisioned a smart wearable to look like in 1995, the Mio Fuse brings with it dedicated heart-rate tracking in addition to a proprietary app.
With its rivals scattering to find new niches in the market, is the time ripe for Mio to strike while the iron is hot?
Let’s get to it!
Mio Fuse

Design and Comfort

One of the first remarks I made while unboxing the Mio Fuse with Bandwidth Blog’s Editor at large Theunis van Rensburg was that this is a device that bears precious little pretension. While Withings grows closer to styling their products as luxury watches, Fitbit apes modern smartwatches, and Jawbone’s products become smaller and less noticeable, the Mio Fuse happily runs in the other direction.
This is a device which happily trades a low-profile in for a form factor that’ll draw notice wherever you go, and looks decidedly space-age. Breaking the rules of conformity, the Mio Fuse does away with the likes of straps, lugs or hinges and evokes a flowing design which merges together its strap and actual unit.
The Fuse is available in a multitude of colours, and ours arrived sporting an aquamarine coat of paint which looks as decidedly outstanding the range’s remaining choices; orange, blue, and green.
Interestingly, the Fuse makes a design decision which the Jawbone has shied away from; offering different dedicated strap lengths. One can choose between small to medium, medium, and large sizes.
One piece of advice I’d like to offer up-front to anyone interested in purchasing a Fuse is to accurately measure your wrist size before hand, and choose accordingly. Our unit, which sported a small to medium strap length, felt uncomfortable on my wrist simply because I could have benefitted from a larger size.
The unit as a whole is designed to wrap tightly around one’s wrist to facilitate accurate heart rate tracking, though considering that my wrists are ever so slightly larger than the advised size, I frequently found that the unit left marks on my skin despite its accuracy and the reassurance that it hadn’t fallen off.
Mio Fuse
While the size of my wrists are my own dilemma, I never felt the Fuse was patently uncomfortable. In fact, its soft strap and low profile give a subtle sense of reassurance, and the unit felt as pleasantly ubiquitous as wearing a regular analogue watch with a rubber strap.
I grew to love the Fuse’s large LED display, which merges together a suitably futuristic design with one that’s large and easy to read. The ability to swipe through menus on soft-touch buttons lends itself to a scrolling display that’s incredibly easy to both read and navigate while on-the-go.
Mio Fuse

Battery Life

The Mio Fuse arrives with a claimed 6-7 days of battery life, and I found the truth of that equation to be dependant on how often one makes use of the wearable.
On lighter days – in which I’m frequently sitting down in an office space or standing to stretch my legs – the Fuse accommodated well past its advised battery life.
However, when put through an arduous weekend, the Fuse quickly drained its battery within two days and prompted regular checkups to ensure I hadn’t exceeded its battery. Thankfully, a forceful vibration advises when the Fuse is about to reach the end of its tether, giving a user enough time to make a dash and connect its proprietary charger which slots into a computer’s USB port.
Mio Fuse

Activity and Sleep Tracking

I’ve been in the fortunate position to have had a wealth of different fitness trackers on my wrist from the likes of Jawbone and Withings, and I found – against all odds – that the Fuse could be my favourite fitness-tracking experience yet.
The Fuse bears two swipe controls on its left and right hand side which can be used to navigate between steps taken, the time, calories burnt, and more. While working out, this is an incredibly easy menu to proceed through and offers none of the simplicity nor complication of an oblique LED status light.
A concerted press on the Fuse’s top-centre button activates its heart-rate tracker, which is necessary to begin recording a workout.
To demonstrate this, I activated the Fuse’s heart rate tracker for a brisk walk around the block; the unit not only instantly records a user’s heart rate, steps taken and calories burnt with the same aplomb as its rival, but the addition of GPS tracking provides a dedicated map through which one can track their progress.
During use, I found the Fuse tracked my heart rate more accurately when turned around so that its sensor ran over the vein on my wrist. When placed otherwise, the unit indicated my heart was racing some ten beats faster than I counted it to be.
Step tracking, thankfully, is dead-accurate. The Fuse accurately determines a step versus a stride, and effectively eliminates erroneous reporting even when I placed extra emphasis on swinging my arms while walking or running.
While I needed to install a firmware update to activate sleep tracking, the Fuse functioned as well as Jawbone or Withing’s offerings, though I use Mio had included the functionality out-of-the-box, as some users might decline to update.
Unfortunately I’m not a strong swimmer, but the Mio Fuse offers the ability to be submerged up to depths of 30 meters; leaving it quite happy to track a full-on swim session in a pool or in light surf.
All in all, the Fuse provided one of the most rewarding tracking endeavours I’ve yet encountered; one-upping Jawbone’s concerted efforts and further integrating a heart-rate tracker, which many manufacturers opt to produce separately.
mio fuse

Mio Go app

While Jawbone – in particular – has had the benefit of time to improve its dedicated app into one of the best offerings out there, Mio hasn’t yet had the same market traction to benefit.
Pairing a Mio Fuse with the Go app proved to be a pernickety experience; I was forced to leave the app and pair the device with my iPhone over Bluetooth before the app proceeded to recognise the device. Further, when I eventually drained the Fuse’s battery capacity in use, I was forced to re-pair the device afterwards.
If you long for the likes of Jawbone’s Smart Coach, you’ll need to rely on an entirely different app to offer the same focus and results. Mio’s Personal Activity Intelligence (PAI) functions in the same breadth, and offers dedicated suggestions based on analysed data.
Out-of-the-box, the Mio Fuse requires a firmware update to offer dedicated sleep tracking, which once again can be collected in either app.
Unfortunately, Mio’s integration with many popular third party services is lacking; there’s no direct MyFitnessPal or Strava integration here. Instead, users can make use of Apple’s Health app (should they connect the Fuse to an iPhone) or other contenders such as MiCoach, Runkeeper, Runtastic, and MapMyFitness.
The app itself requires come practise to use effectively; many options lay dormant under the “Help” tab on the left hand swipe menu, while the Mio Go’s fitness tracking app requires a user to activate heart-rate tracking on board the band to facilitate full workout tracking. Unfortunately, this isn’t as ‘plug and play’ as the Jawbone UP 2 or UP 3 might be.
Mio Fuse

Conclusion

The Mio Fuse is an interesting product, which mixes many important successes with some minor flaws.
The Fuse wins on a number of accounts; the device can be purchased in different sizes for different wrists (make sure you get yours right!), bears an accurate heart-rate sensor and workout tracking capabilities, and can even be happily submerged while swimming.
On the other hand, a frustrating app experience, mixed battery life, and syncing issues leave the Fuse somewhat behind its rivals.
Overall, the Fuse is a fantastic device if you are a serious athlete who can look past the aforementioned niggles. Accurate fitness tracking and a sporty design come together to form one of the most unique offerings on the wearable market at present.
Where Jawbone, Misfit and Withings might be content to set trends, Mio’s Fuse is happy to buck them. For a rough retail price of around R2,500 ZAR, this is an offering which stands as tall as many popular names in the arena and in many regards bests them.
Read: Withings Activité Pop Review: Best of both worlds
What are your thoughts on the Mio Fuse? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!
Follow Bryan Smith on Twitter: @bryansmithSA