Xiaomi misses an opportunity to make it rain.
The best travel umbrellas can fit in a small bag, yet are large enough to shelter you from the rain. They don’t weigh much but can withstand a strong southerly.
And, because it’s so easy to leave them on the bus or at a cafe, they don’t cost an arm and a leg. So how does the Xiaomi Mi Automatic Umbrella stack up?
The Mi has a fun trick up its sleeve: with a firm press of a button, the brolly automatically unfolds; with another, it partially collapses.
The construction feels robust, with strong, water-repellent fabric supported by an aluminium and corrosion-resistant fibreglass skeleton that held up well in blustery conditions. The 107cm span shields two people and for safety, there are hidden tips plus an anti-rebound mechanism to stop the spring from recoiling unexpectedly.
The Mi wasn’t as convenient to use as I’d expected. The idea is that, even when your hands are full, deploying it should be a breeze. However, I couldn’t get it out of its case with one hand and had to put my parcels down, which made the automatic open-and-close feature redundant.
Leaving the Mi unsheathed is an option – it’s not too difficult to hold it and press the button with one hand – but without the protective cover, it’s less compact.
Despite its softly rounded edges and wrist strap, the handle wasn’t comfortable – I found it slightly too short and angular, plus it dug in to the heel of my hand.
Also, at 426g it’s heavier than some of its competitors (but still considerably lighter than most regular brollies).
My gripes are minor, but the lack of bells and whistles was a major disappointment. Xiaomi Corporation is an electronics company. Its focus is on phones, apps, laptops and smart products, so it’s surprising its umbrella doesn’t have a Bluetooth chip (or even a pocket for your own tracking device) to alert you when you’ve left it behind.
Automatic umbrellas aren’t new, but some manufacturers have taken brollies to another level by integrating torches, LED lights, and fans for hot days. In comparison, the Mi is a decidedly damp squib.
Price: $40 + $5 p&p at mi-store.co.nz
Length (collapsed): 34cm
Height (extended): 65cm
Diameter (in sleeve): 7cm