Pebble is dead, long live the Amazfit Bip.
I've seen a few headlines comparing the Amazfit Bip to the Apple Watch, but that's ridiculous just because they are square watches. The Amazfit Bip is a closer competitor to a Pebble watch, without the apps and with improved fitness tracking.
At $99.99, I did not expect much from the Amazfit Bip, but accepted the offer to take one for a spin. After two full weeks of 24/7 wear, including one 50 minute run with GPS tracking enabled, I still have 65 percent battery remaining and am rather shocked by the comprehensive data collected by this unique wearable.
This new smartwatch is perfect for those who want to charge up once a month and have a watch that tracks your activity and detailed sleep patterns, functions as a GPS sports watch to capture the details of your exercise, and serves up notifications that you specify. It's also perfect for those who want to test out whether a more advanced wearable is useful for their needs.
The Amazfit Bip has a rather small limited color display with big bezels all around. The 2.5D Gorilla Glass 3 is curved around the edges and taper nicely into the matte black plastic body. The display is nothing special, but text is clear and the data is easily readable.
Two basic black silicone bands, 20 mm in width, secure to the lugs with quick release pins. You can purchase bands on Amazon and customize the look of the watch. It is available in Onyx Black, Cinnabar Red, White Cloud, and Kokoda Green.
The optical heart rate monitor is centered on the back and is much smaller than seen on other wearables today.
There is a single physical button on the right side and this serves to activate the watch since the display is in an always-on standby mode except when you are actively using it following a press of the side button.
The Amazfit Bip is extremely light at just 1.1 ounces and most of the time I didn't even realize it was mounted to my wrist.
The watch is powered by a custom software package that includes a customizable watch face, status page, activity tracker, weather utility, alarm, timer, and compass. There are also a few basic settings available on the watch itself.
Press the hardware button to enable the watch. You can swipe up to reveal notifications and right to left to delete an item. Swipe down from the watch face to view connectivity, DND status, and battery status.
A swipe off the watch face from right to left shows your status that includes steps, heart rate, distance, calories, and number of times you moved around.
Another swipe takes you to activity where you then select an outdoor run, treadmill, cycling, and walking. Some of these activities use GPS to track the details of your event. While working out various status screens can be viewed by swiping up or down. There is no customization of the display data being shown to you during your workout.
Weather, alarm, timer, and compass perform what you would expect.
Settings let you change the watch face, long press the side button to quick launch an activity, adjust the brightness, find your phone, factory reset the watch, and turn off your watch. A press of the side button takes you back.
While the watch software is very basic and has minimal customization options, the smartphone software is full featured and gives you nearly complete control over your Amazfit Bip. The Mi Fit app is available on iOS and Android. Over the past two weeks I have used it with an iPhone X, Galaxy Note 8, Essential Phone, and Huawei Mate 10 Pro.
After setting up the connection and your watch, the first display you see when you launch the smartphone app is a dashboard showing the status page. This page shows your steps, sync status, sleep status, last activity, heart rate, weight, and goals reached. A tap on the center button at the bottom lets you hide and sort these various pieces of data on the status page so you can see what you want here.
Tapping on any of these areas will take you to that specific data set and provide much more data with access to day, week, and month history. For example, steps shows you the steps over the day, distance, calories burned, and then below that are activities such as light activity, fast walking, slow walking, running, etc. Scrolling all the way up will show you trends over the last 30 days, which can be very insightful.
The sleep module shows deep and light sleep, along with wake time. I know I often don't get enough sleep and this module shames me with statements that I fall asleep too late and my sleep time is too short. There are also interesting stats at the bottom of this page.
The heart rate data matches what I have seen on other devices and in the doctor's office. You can view your heart rate throughout the day, see averages over time, and swipe right and left to view data from other days.
Adjacent to the status tab is the activity tab that lets you use your phone to initiate activity tracking with the Amazfit Bip being used to capture your heart rate.
The final tab to the right is the profile tab. Here is where you can see your battery status, fully customize the watch (watch face, call notifications, event reminders, watch alarms, app alerts, idle alerts, band location, time interval for the heart rate detection, and much more), establish activity and weight goals, connect to other services like Google Fit, and switch units.
If you care primarily about battery life, then you can disable all notifications and minimize the heart rate sensor. I wanted the Amazfit Bip to be useful so I set the heart rate detection frequency to 10 minutes, enabled app alerts for Mi Fit and Facebook Messenger, and enabled phone call notifications.
Owned by Huami, and the exclusive provider of wearable technology for Xiaomi, Amazfit is one of the largest wearable device companies globally and recently filed for an IPO on the NYSE. However, the email from the PR rep was the first I have personally heard of Huami.
The Amazfit Bip has an extremely capable smartphone application and serves up all the basics of a smartwatch with a stunning battery life. It accurately tracks my runs with its GPS receiver and appears to accurately monitor my heart rate.
You cannot respond to notifications, there doesn't appear to be any way to export your GPS data and view it outside of the smartphone app, there is no speaker or music storage support, and there are no third party apps to enhance its functionality. However, for $100, it is unlikely that you will find a more capable smartwatch.
Update: My good friend Paul O'Brien pointed me to his full review of the Amazfit Bip (he includes photos all of the various displays too) where he explains there is a 3rd party app, Notify and Fitness for Amazfit, that can indeed sync the GPS data to other services. I plan to try this app this weekend and am very pleased to hear there are ways to make this an even more compelling watch.
Many of my wearables end up in a drawer over time because I grow tired of the daily and every other day charging requirement. Devices with long battery life tend to stay with me longer and it looks like I can go a month with the Amazfit Bip, unless I use it for running. With GPS enabled, I measured a consumption of about 1 percent every 16 minutes or about 4 percent per hour.