Amazfit

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Amazfit in general

Subreddits: r/Amazfit, r/Xiaomi

Features in short

  • Transflective touchscreen with backlight-on-gesture
  • Continuous or one-off heartrate sensing
  • GPS+GLONASS distance tracking
  • Activity tracking: walking, running, treadmill, cycling
  • Step counting
  • Sleep tracking (with smart alarms in some versions)
  • Music with Bluetooth headphones (only in the Pace)

Why?

  • They have always-on transflective screens, with a backlight only when necessary due to the lighting conditions, making for a better battery life than most watches.
  • They have a comprehensive set of sensors: GPS, heartrate sensor, accelerometers, magnetometer, barometer (but they lack audio input or output, although the Pace can play music to Bluetooth headphones)
  • They are somewhat more expensive than the many no-name Chinese watches, but substantially cheaper than non-Chinese brands.
  • They are the only watches I know combining a color touchscreen, GPS and decent battery life.
  • I wuv the Casio-like faces that both watches can provide (Casio is a registered trademark of Casio).

Why not?

  • They run proprietary systems (the Pace is a customized Android, the Bip is fully proprietary) without any official ability to install applications.
  • Although they are rated IP67 (Pace) and IP68 (Bip), neither is really recommended for swimming, or supports a swimming activity.
  • Activities in general are limited to walking, running and cycling.
  • Transflective screens are great for battery life but not for those wanting always-punchy colors.

Bip

Why?

  • It costs about half the price of the Pace.
  • It seems to have great battery life: 4 months as a "dumb" watch only; 45 days if used for 100 notifications per day and 30 minutes of GPS-on tracking per week; 22 hours GPS-on time.
  • It is supported by GadgetBridge instead of needing proprietary pairing apps.
  • It is rated IP68, though apparently not recommended for swimming.
  • The software is simple but, aside from a couple of notes below, quite fluid and fast. The English leaves something to be desired, but beyond that, it feels well designed.
  • It weighs only 32 grams, and compared to my (similarly light) Casio watch, I had no need to "adapt": it immediately felt fully comfortable, including the strap.
  • The combined GPS+GLONASS chip reportedly gets a fix very quickly (my first attempt took 40 seconds outdoors), and altitude precision is augmented by a built-in barometer.
  • It is now possible to translate the interface into many languages and modify watchfaces using open source tools, some of which can be previewed on this site.
  • Without turning on the backlight, the screen is only very bright in direct sunlight, but it looks sleek and comparable to an outstanding passive LCD from a classic digital watch, except in 8 colors.
  • The vibration can't be missed during daytime, but to wake you up with alarms, I'll have to see. It can be heard but it's not noisy in a way that would disturb others, I think.
  • Pairing with Gadgetbridge is painless: nothing needs to be done on the watch to start pairing, just start it on Gadgetbridge, then once found, confirm on both phone and watch. However, the range isn't great and Gadgetbridge doesn't seem very aggressive in reconnecting automatically.
  • Automatic backlight activation (disabled by default) works okay, with maybe 80% success rate, but it doesn't really work when you rotate the wrist, rather when your arm is dangling and you bring it up to look at the time. Anyway, it is different from pressing the hardware button, because it doesn't actually unlock the touchscreen.
  • During activities, you can be warned of excessively high pulse, slow pace, and complete distance; optionally, activities can be paused automatically when motion ceases, and this feature seems responsive.
  • The history of a few activities can be stored in the watch itself, without needing to sync it, and a summary of statistics (average heartrate, speed, stride length, steps per minute) is shown, together with a simple depiction of the recorded GPS track, if available.
  • Sleep tracking can be set to engage manually, during pre-defined hours, or by automatically detecting when you're sleeping. Sleep tracking can be instructed to monitor heartrate periodically even when that's not normally happening during the day (or more often), and the situations the watch recognizes are "awake activity", "light sleep", "deep sleep", and "watch not worn". I am unsure about the light/sleep distinction, but the rest seems spot-on enough.
  • The exact battery remaining percentage can be seen by swiping up, and you can also see it from your phone using Gadgetbridge.
  • Gadgetbridge can enable wrist rotation for going "back" when you are in menus, which can be nice if you find the many touch swipe gestures too confusing.
  • Timer and stopwatch are quite decent, with lap counting and short vibrations on countdown.
  • Gadgetbridge has a "find my watch" feature, and the latest firmware has "find my phone" (which is not understood by Gadgetbridget yet).

Why not?

  • It runs the OEM's own proprietary system, with likely no ability to install any additional apps, even in the future when people study it more.
  • It has no audio abilities at all, even via Bluetooth.
  • There is no multitasking on the watch: if you're using the "running" activity, for example, then you can't use the compass, without interrupting the activity. This can be obviated by starting the activity from Mi Fit (Gadgetbridge doesn't currently support this).
  • I don't consider it a bad thing that the screen has to be "unlocked" by pressing the hardware button before use... however, when you do that, there is a subtle but useless animation that takes up a split second before you can interact with the UI (maybe the touch sensor needs time to wake up).
  • The touchscreen appears to become a bit less responsive while a periodic heart rate reading is being taken. This may be due to the limited processor. It's no big deal, but makes the experience less smooth when it happens.
  • Media player control would seem like a basic, useful feature taking up few resources, but it's just not there. I am confused as to whether you can send button presses to the phone (which would allow emulating media control), as this is theoretically available, but seems not to work for me; I got some hints that maybe it works with some phones only.
  • My favorite watchface (the "Casio" one) doesn't show your heartrate, and only one built-in watchface does. Hopefully this will be improved now that custom watchfaces are possible

Pace

Reviews: Neowin, AndroidAuthority (note these are early and some missing things have been added software-wise)

Why?

  • It runs Android under the hood, and although this is not advertised, Android Wear apps that don't require Google services can be sideloaded through adb; this includes a GPS mapping app.
  • It has about 2GB of space to put music onto, which can be played through any pair of Bluetooth 4 headphones (no wired jack).
  • It looks a lot nicer than the Bip; I don't like the red portion but it's somewhat hidden on the underside of the wristband, which can be replaced anyway.

Why not?

  • Although the battery life is better than most watches that run Android, it's still just somewhere between 3 and 6 days with most people's usage patterns, a far cry from the Bip.
  • The software is said to be somewhat slow and quirky, although firmware updates do seem to be pushed by the OEM at a reasonable space, and customized ROMs exist.
  • The watch can only be interacted with after pressing a small physical button, which various reviewers apparently found cumbersome.
  • It has no "smart alarms", which I consider interesting, although maybe an Android app could be developed to implement them.
  • Although the watch can be used standalone, to interact with a phone it needs a proprietary app (Strava is supported as is Xiaomi's own); GadgetBridge support is in very early stages, if that.
  • While not too bulky-looking, it approaches bulkier watches in weight at 54 grams.
  • Few people claim the GPS+GLONASS module is fast, and while some are happy, others consider is dangerously slow to get a fix even in good conditions (this might have changed with newer firmware releases).
  • They have separate Chinese and English versions, with usually the English one being sold for higher prices. Custom ROMs can (mostly, not fully) turn a Chinese watch into English or translate it into other languages, although the company is opposing this.