Not the best smartwatch to have ever graced a wrist but the Amazfit Bip's price and battery life more than make up for it
- Incredibly cheap
- Odyssean battery life
- Heart rate and sleep monitoring
- App needs work
- No music
- No microphone
Could the Amazfit Bip, one of the world’s cheapest smartwatches, bring down the empire built by the Apple watch? Only time will tell. But can it tell the time? Yes, it can. In fact, it does a heck of a lot more than you’d expect from £45 worth of tech.
Beyond its most basic function as a timekeeping device, the Amazfit (pronounced AmazzFit, not Amaze-Fit) tracks your daily steps, heart rate, sleeping schedule and – incredibly for such a cheap device – even trace your location with GPS. Admittedly, it does none of those things as well as its £300-plus rivals but it’s not really trying to compete with them anyway.
Amazfit Bip review: What you need to know
The Amazfit Bip is the latest in a line of super-budget wearables produced by the Chinese company Xiaomi. It syncs with Xiaomi’s own smartphone app, Mi Fit (available on both Android and iOS) but third-party app support is limited.
Otherwise, the Amazfit Bip is a more-than-serviceable smartwatch for the price and, while it has many flaws (recording 300 steps in my sleep, as one example) you can’t treat them as harshly as you might in a high-end product. Likewise, its positive features seem more impressive, partly because it’s surprising that it has any at all.
Amazfit Bip review: Price and competition
As you know already, the Amazfit Bip costs just £45. But it’s worth repeating. So I will. The Amazfit Bip costs just £45. That’s £45, for an imported smartwatch with GPS, heart rate monitoring, sleep analysis, and workout tracking technology. All that for less than the average person’s weekly commuting bill.
How does it stack up against its competitors, though? Well, let’s take the recently reviewed Mobvoi Ticwatch E and Ticwatch S models for comparison. At £120 and £150 respectively, Mobvoi’s latest models are still considered lower-end. They’re budget choices aimed at casual fitness fans who aren’t keen dropping more than £300 on a brand-name Android Wear or Apple Watch.
The E and S provide more accurate GPS and heart rate tracking than the Amazfit Bip, plus wider compatibility with fitness apps and Android Wear app support. Neither, however, have the native sleep tracking of the Bip and both require recharging after 48 hours.
That’s about a tenth of the Bip’s battery life. In saving £70 to £100 on an Amazfit versus a Mobvoi Ticwatch you sacrifice a microphone for voice-controlled message response and you’ll also miss out on the ability to play music from your wrist. But again, let me say it again. It’s only £45.
Those are the headlines so far but they’re not the only noteworthy features of the Amazfit Bip – not by a long chalk. Here are a few more positives (and negatives): it cannot play music. It will allow you to read messages and notifications from your phone but has no microphone with which to send replies. It has GPS built in. It connects with Google Fit, but not Strava. At a distance of about 100 metres, it almost looks like an Apple Watch; up close, it doesn’t look anywhere near as cheap as it actually is. And it supports both Android and iOS.
It’s pretty well made, too: the 1.28in 176 x 176 screen is protected by 2.5D Corning Gorilla glass, although the watch face itself only covers about two-thirds of the device’s front. The BIP is rated as IP68 dust- and water-resistant so while you might get away with wearing it in a shower I wouldn’t recommend taking it for a swim.
Obviously, there are better-looking smartwatches out there. The Bip isn’t as slim as a Fitbit Flex and its screen isn’t as colourful as a Fitbit Ionic. The camo green polycarbonate casing, while not exactly ugly, isn’t the most elegant either.
On the plus side, the screen blends in well with the bezel – unless you crank the brightness right up – and there are ten watch face styles to choose from. One resembles a bizarre cubist-inspired arcade game, another a blurry version of the Casio G-Shock.
I’ve settled for the face with the most information. It has analogue time, date, pedometer, heart rate, calorie burn, and weather all on display at once. It’s a little crowded, but I got used to it quickly and it’s handy not having to scroll to another page to find the temperature outside.
Such a small screen can make tapping the touch screen a bit of a fiddly business, especially in the settings section, where the text is maddeningly small. Sliding between activities is easy, though, and the Gorilla Glass is resistant to scratching and smearing so those with greasy fingers need not fret. Strangely, when you try to lower the brightness of the screen it doesn’t so much seem to get dimmer as it does change colour.
Comfort is an aspect of watch design which, when done well, escapes notice. The Amazfit Bip gets top marks in this department. The rubber strap, though initially uncomfortable, moulds perfectly to the wrist once correctly fastened and after it’s been on for five minutes you won’t even realise it’s there.
Amazfit Bip review: Features and performance
Amazfit’s claim that the Bip has a 45-day battery life is the big performance headline here. It’s no lie, either, but neither is it the whole truth. Granted, if you use it to tell the time and track your steps and nothing else then, yes, it can go a month and a half between charges.
If you want to use its other features, however, which if you’re buying a smartwatch you presumably will, then 45 days is more than a little hopeful. I enabled every function I could find: smart sleep monitoring, half-hourly heart rate readings, phone notifications and maximum screen brightness. I also used the Bip to track my GPS location during a walk and a bike ride. Over two days of light use it lost just 3% battery. Which is, quite frankly, ridiculous.
A professional triathlete who uses the Bip to monitor their every workout will have to recharge sooner but your average user should be able to squeeze out between two and three weeks at minimum before plugging in. That’s a technological marvel and, in my view, the Bip should be renamed the Odysseus. It has stamina.
How reliable is it for tracking distances? Well, it’s fairly accurate, but not perfect. Compared to the Polar M430, worn on the opposite wrist during a 5K run it was about 100 metres off the pace. Considering it costs £155 less than the M430, that isn’t such a big deal, although it’s interesting to note that when I woke up this morning the Bip’s pedometer had already racked up 300 steps. These are steps I believe I did not take.
I don’t sleepwalk or roll around or kick (there is another human who can verify this) and the watch itself even told me I was fast asleep by 11:45pm. So where those few hundred steps came from is a mystery.
Smartwatches also cannot always be trusted when it comes to heart rate. Often you need to have them fitted so tightly that you might as well slap a blood pressure strap on your bicep and hire a nurse to take the reading for you. The Bip flattered me with a resting heart rate of 59. I was resistant to checking this at first, because I didn’t want to uncover evidence that it was inaccurately low but, as the job demands, I laid my pride aside and put it to the test by counting my pulse the old-fashioned way.
The news was devastating: 66 not 59! This was disheartening. What’s more, it doesn’t reflect badly on the Amazfit Bip’s measurement capabilities. And how dare it claim I’ve only burned 85 calories today? How dare it?
Still, there are definitely some features the Bip lacks. There’s no NFC for contactless payments nor a microphone for responding to messages (which are barely readable anyway due to the tiny font) and the ability to control music.
Let’s move on to the Amazfit’s app. Dubbed Mi Fit, this is designed exclusively for use with Xiaomi’s range of wearable devices. Its design and layout are simplistic and can’t be customised, while the English translations are sometimes questionable.
It does include a few nice features, though, and can pull up handy stats on a range of different activities. And, although nowhere near as comprehensive as Garmin Connect or the Fitbit app, it can still provide data on average heart rate, stride, step frequency and uphill distance during workouts.
Amazfit’s data about user sleep patterns is also useful and the app offers some no-nonsense advice whenever you happen to undersleep: “Lack of sleep may cause physical and mental damages”. Yikes.
There are some problems, though. BMI is the app’s only system of indication for weight, which isn’t terribly helpful. The primary flaw in BMI is that it does not account for muscle mass and assumes all weight above ‘average’ must be solid fat. Setting weight goals on the app is also confusing.
Finally, through no fault of its own, the Mi Fit app cannot offer Western users the same level of community interaction and competition as something like Fitbit, simply because the vast majority of its users live in China.
Amazfit Bip review: Verdict
At £45, the quality and range of features built into the Amazfit Bip defies belief. It has GPS tracking, workout monitoring, sleep tracking, heart rate and more, all managed by a cheerful, if simplistic, Android or iOS app. It’s one of the most comfortable watches I’ve worn and with such heroic battery life, you’d hardly ever need to take it off.
Indeed, there’s not really any competition to speak of at this price. The Bip lives in its own special category because no other smartwatch of its price can deliver anywhere near the same level of features for this sort of money. For under £50 there’s nothing quite like it. Not for £100, even, and it more than makes up for its lack of NFC, microphone and music control with its absurdly low cost.
No, it isn’t the full package but, rest assured, its cheapness is not a reflection of its quality. If you want a straightforward wearable that keeps a general track of your fitness progress without breaking the bank then this is, by far, the best smartwatch to buy.