Amazfit Bip review: The £45 smartwatch that should cost FAR more
As truisms go, the old adage that “you get what you pay for” is very rarely an assumption that bears revisiting. This is one such occasion where it is truly unfit for purpose. What can you legitimately expect from a £45 smartwatch? Probably just a working clock face and some iffy step counting, if you’re lucky.
The Amazfit Bip offers a whole lot more than that. And yes, at times it does things that remind you how little you paid for it. It can be a little sluggish, the screen sometimes tears as you move between options and the GPS is consistently 100 metres off the pace, but…
Yes, and that’s only scratching the surface of the Bip’s talents. It has an always-on colour screen (more Pebble than Apple Watch), receives notifications from apps to your wrist, measures your heart rate and tracks sleep.[gallery:1]
It does all this, astonishingly with a promised battery life of 45 days, a period over which even the original Pebble would have needed charging six or so times. Oh, and it’s IP68 dust- and water-resistant, meaning it can withstand a dunking.
Does it fulfil all these promises? Yes, more or less. And usually more.
Amazfit Bip review: Design
The best way to describe the Amazfit Bip is that it looks like what would happen if someone asked Pebble to make an Apple Watch on the cheap. You’re looking at a rectangular face with rounded edges and what looks like a crown poking out the right-hand side. Only it isn’t a crown, it’s a button, used to wake the device so you can control it with the touchscreen. A long press can also be bound to other functions, by default starting a run, which suited me just fine.[gallery:2]
The 1.28in 176 x 176 display is covered by 2.5D Corning Gorilla Glass and the bezel is hugely thick although the default watch face hides this nicely. The casing is polycarbonate all the way around and there’s a 20mm silicone strap to secure it to your wrist, which can be swapped out for something more formal if you wish as it uses a standard spring bar connector.
In short, the Bip looks decent, if not jaw-dropping. It certainly doesn’t look like you’d get change from a £50 note for it but neither does it look like you broke the bank to save for it.
Amazfit Bip review: Performance
Let’s get one thing out of the way: to get the promised 45 days of battery life from the Bip, you have to use it as a glorified pedometer that happens to tell the time. In fact, that’s how Amazfit has it set up out of the box.
When you connect it to the app, pretty much everything is turned off, and with each flick you get a warning that you’re bringing your appointment with the plug socket that bit closer. You can do this in a granular way – with heart rate tracking, for example, you can opt to only have it take measurements at night so it can measure sleep, every half hour, every ten minutes or once a minute. It’s a clever way of letting users decide for themselves how frequently they want to play “find the charger”.[gallery:4]
Here’s the thing though. It actually doesn’t matter all that much, because the Bip’s 190mAh battery is a little miracle worker. As I wanted to review a smartwatch, rather than a watch, I proceeded to turn everything on. With all notifications, heart rate readings every half hour, readable screen brightness and about 80 minutes of GPS-tracked running, my watch has gone from 91% battery when I got it to 53% more than a week later. Almost all of that was lost during the runs, and it’s it’s not unusual for me to find it has dropped just a couple of percent in a run-free day.
So eight days and 38% battery gone, with moderate GPS use. The 45-day battery claim without extras is certainly credible. Wow.
And what about everything else? Well, there are issues, but nothing that can’t be mitigated without pointing to the £45-shaped hole in my PayPal account. When running with it on one wrist, and the Polar M430 on the other, it was reliably 100 metres or so off the pace and thought my heart rate was a touch low. But it’s £155 cheaper than the Polar M430.[gallery:6]
The font is a little small for reading long WhatsApp messages, but it cost less than the price of a Switch game. The touchscreen feels a little sluggish but it costs an eighth the price of an Apple Watch Series 3. The pixely icons sometimes distort, but… you get the idea.
In short, it does everything you could want a smartwatch to do in a very appealing package. Not always perfectly – my colleague Tom at Expert Reviews noticed 300 steps added to his count while he was asleep – but it’s not a deal killer. Could it be better? Yes. Could it be better for £45? Not a chance and, no, you can’t have the moon on a stick either.
Amazfit Bip review: App
Amazfit is the wearable subsidiary of Xiaomi, and that means that the accompanying app is the company’s own Mi Fit product for iOS or Android. The Android version, while a little tricky to navigate at first, is quite well featured when you dig down into things.
Data can be dug up on everything from how many steps you’ve walked to how much deep sleep you’ve had. Better still, Mi Fit provides additional stats, like how much petrol you’ve saved by the steps you’ve travelled. I don’t think it’s in the spirit of parkrun to do the course with a car but you get the idea.
Fitness data might not be as comprehensive as something you get from Garmin Connect but it’s definitely good enough for casual athletes, offering information on your time, pace, calorie burn, speed, step-frequency, heart rate, stride and uphill distance.
In fact, the only two areas it falters aren’t really mistakes as such. The first is that, because nobody really uses Mi Fit in the West, you’re going to miss out on the competitive fun a Fitbit would offer. The second is that, because Amazfit is a Chinese brand, there’s only one global fitness platform you can connect the app to: Google Fit. Other than that it’s just WeChat, QQ and Weibo, all big brands in Asia but next to useless in the UK. No Strava support is a disappointment, but understandable.
Amazfit Bip: Verdict
When I first heard about the Amazfit Bip, it was easy to be sceptical. Usually, the equation with smartwatches is that you can have something that’s either fully featured or cheap – you can’t have both. The Amazfit Bip has everything most people will want and comes in at under £50 to import. That’s nothing short of astonishing.[gallery:7]
What’s more, despite having GPS, continuous heart rate monitoring and notifications, it has more stamina that pretty much any wearable I’ve seen. Getting the advertised 45 days may be a stretch for people who want it to do anything more than telling the time but for my fairly normal use case, I’m heading for over two weeks easily and that’s more than enough for me.
You can buy better-looking smartwatches. You can buy more accurate fitness wearables. But you can’t do either without spending over £100, let alone both. The Amazfit Bip punches well above its weight and, like the best underdog movies, it cheerfully comes out on top.