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Friday, November 27, 2020

Amazfit Bip U review: Goodbye puny fitness bands

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A few years ago, Amazfit made a dashing entry in India with the Bip – a low-cost fitness tracker with the looks of a smartwatch. It sold truckloads and to this day, Amazfit keeps refining it to keep its cash registers flowing. The Bip S in its current avatar is a great option for fitness enthusiasts with its umpteen number of tracking functions. That said, it has only appealed to the fitness-obsessed. Geeks who seek a smartwatch have to spend upwards of Rs 10,000 to get something they can just about call a “smartwatch”, something they can wear everyday without missing out on necessities. Also Read – Amazfit Bip U smartwatch launched in India for Rs 3,499: Check specifications, features

Amazfit saw this need for a decent-enough smartwatch that does not cost a fortune. Hence, it took the Bip S Lite and stripped it of its famed battery life. It replaced the transflective display with a good color display, refined the software, and named it the Amazfit Bip U. It costs Rs 3,499 and is probably the only thing in the sub-Rs 5,000 wearable market that tries hard to be a smartwatch. Also Read – Amazfit Neo review: Retro cuteness overload

But is it a good “smartwatch”? Or you are paying for something that looks like a watch but is actually a fitness tracker, like all existing fitness watches? To find out, I strapped on a black variant of the Bip U for two weeks and came up with interesting observations Also Read – Amazfit Neo smartwatch launched with 28 days battery life: Price in India, features

Design

By now, it is not alien that Amazfit takes loads of inspiration from the Apple Watch. The Bip series itself has resembled the Watch Series 4 for a long time and with the Bip U, it’s no different. Only this time, the design is more akin to the Apple Watch Series 6, with its round watch unit. The body is made of plastic while there’s glass covering the top. Amazfit does not mention the type of protection it uses but in my two weeks, I did not see it accumulating scratches.

The display is the hero feature on the Bip U. For a wearable costing less than Rs 5,000, the Bip U has the largest display in my knowledge. It measures 1.4-inches and uses an LCD display with slim bezels on most sides. The display looks nice with bright colors for the limited selection of watch faces. I was able to read the notifications under direct sunlight, although I was expecting better legibility. The chin is thick and Amazfit uses its logo to mask the bulk. For someone who just used the Mi Watch Revolve, this design does not offend the symmetry-loving part of me for some unknown reason. I like this watch for its looks.

That alone is 50 percent job done for the Amazfit Bip U. It looks and feels like a smartwatch, not a bloated fitness tracker. Amazfit uses straps made of silicone rubber and they are skin-friendly. During my time wearing the watch, the straps did not cause irritation even in sweaty conditions. The 5ATM water resistance also made it easy to just wash off the dirt and sweat without worries. I particularly dig the green variant of the Bip U over the black variant but it’s the latter that’s good at hiding the dirt.

Amazfit Bip U

The watch has a slight protrusion underneath, holding the BioTracker PPG 2 sensor. This combines the heart rate sensor and blood oxygen monitoring sensor. There’s a small crown that acts as a back/shortcut button. Despite packing all that, the Amazfit Bip U weighs just 31 grams. That translates to a highly comfortable wearing experience all-day.

The Health Stuff

Even though the Amazfit Bip U is aimed more at the geeks instead of fitness enthusiasts, Amazfit hasn’t compromised on the number of activity tracking modes. There are more than 60 sports activities you can track with the Bip U – 60 modes! That basically covers all kinds of activities if you love to stay in shape. Above all, there’s SpO2 tracking present on the Bip U – the same feature that Apple proudly debuted on the Watch Series 6 this year.

Now, I am not the kind of person who would buy the Bip U for its fitness tracking modes. Since I had to test the watch, I wore it and went out daily for long walks around my colony. The only activity I used the most was outdoor walking – I was able to keep an eye on the distance, calories burnt, active heart rate, and some more. Most of the days, I forgot about the modes but the watch tracked all the essential details. All the data was available a swipe away on the watch itself.

Amazfit Bip U

Of course, you have the Zepp app for getting a detailed and magnified outlook on your health statistics. I have used the Zepp app with the Amazfit Neo a few weeks ago and the experience is great. The Bip U lets you choose a couple of watch faces from the online catalog along with the options to change the heart rate tracking mode.

One of the most interesting additions to the Bip U is the blood oxygen measurement, or popularly known as SpO2. I did not have a medical-grade device to calculate the accuracy of the data but for the most part, it returned positive results. It did require me to patiently keep my hand on the table horizontally to get a reading.

The heart rate tracking data was on par with the one on the Mi Watch Revolve, Amazfit Neo, and Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro. However, I noticed irregularities with the step tracking. The Bip U always registered fewer steps than the Amazfit Neo. With the lack of a medical-grade tracking device, I cannot point fingers at either. Maybe the Bip U is doing it correctly over the Neo. That said, the difference is mostly reserved to 100 steps (more or less) and for most joggers/walkers, this shouldn’t be an issue. In fact, it actually pushed me to walk more in order to hit my goal.

Amazfit Bip U

The Bip U also has sleep tracking and for most days, it registered my sleeping hours fairly right. I was able to see a detailed classification of light and deep sleep on the Zepp app. The Bip U also has stress monitoring that relies highly on the optical heart rate sensor to give out the result. On the days I got higher figures (because I was stressed, obviously), I used the Respiratory exercises app on the watch to calm down a bit. It worked for the majority of the time. For female users, there’s menstrual health tracking available too – a feature that I could not test (for obvious reasons).

Amazfit never leaves behind the PAI scoring system. As always, it measures your activities based on a lot of parameters, including the distance walked, heart rate, and some more to award you a score. The higher the score you get, the more fit you are on a given day. For a lazy person slumped on the computer all day with extra workloads, I could only amass a score of three on the most active days. Not good on my part at all. My sibling wore it for a day and given his active lifestyle, he was got a total of 25.

The Smart Stuff

So far, the Amazfit Bip U has got my lazy self to ponder on the fitness part and do minimal activities to burn the calories. Thankfully, the Bip U makes you happy with the smart part. In fact, I am more than happy to wear it than any other watch in the sub-Rs 5000 segment – thanks to the polished watch interface, or OS, as some may like to call it.

In the past, the OS in Amazfit watches has always been laggy with jittery animations and slow responses. With the Bip U, these issues are gone. The watch responds naturally to my touch inputs, just like it does on a smartphone. The scrolling in menus is fast and app loading times are quick.

Amazfit Bip U

The layout is improved as well and I personally like the colorful icons with a more legible font. The watch shows notifications for most social media apps and Gmail as well. However, I was only able to see messages in English – messages in Hindi and other languages appeared as a question mark. Maybe Amazfit should look into it, given the multilingual country we live in. Additionally, I could not respond to messages or notifications from the watch. For calls, the watch allowed me to cancel them or silence the ringer.

The Bip U also let me control music playback with the watch. There’s a remote camera shutter button that works with both iPhone and Android devices. All these features worked as expected and Amazfit has ensured the animations look good even while pressing a virtual camera button. There’s a dropdown menu for controlling the brightness levels, setting alarms, enabling DND, and a shortcut to watch settings.

These are features that you also get with the Bip S, or as a matter of fact, with any fitness tracker these days. The Bip U, however, does all of this in an appreciable way. Everything works the way Amazfit intended them too.

Amazfit Bip U

Sadly, in the wake of all the improvements in the “smart” bit, Amazfit couldn’t retain the month-long battery life that the new Bip S watches had to offer. Amazfit premises up to 9 days of battery life on a single charge. In my usage, I had to stick the charger after a week of usage. Note that my usage involved all-day connectivity to the phone, sleep tracking at night, and my hour-long sessions of walks around my residential complex.

Charging takes place via a proprietary adapter that attaches to the watch magnetically. It took on an average two hours to fully charge the battery. Amazfit supplies the charging dock with the Bip U but you have to get your own adapter.

Amazfit Bip U: Should you buy it?

Amazfit Bip U

For the first time since affordable fitness watches became a thing, I am extremely happy with the Amazfit Bip U. The Bip series got the hardware right since the first generation but always lagged with the software. The Bip U fixes it with a polished watch software – one that’s matured in the right ways. For fitness enthusiasts, the plethora of sports tracking modes is more than one could even utilize in their lifetime. Not to forget, it looks great with its rounded-rectangle design. As a wrist companion, the Bip U is way better than the Bip S and Bip S Lite.

Surely, I would prefer a better build with stronger plastics or even metal. The battery life of 9-days is decent but I expected stamina of at least two weeks, given the higher standard preset by the Bip S this year. I am nitpicking now but maybe Amazfit could do more tasteful watch faces to better suit the large display.

Amazfit Neo launches as a retro-style digital smartwatch, promises up to 37 days of power

On the whole, I think the Amazfit Bip U is a superb fitness watch at Rs 3,499. Let me stand corrected – the Amazfit Bip U is a superb wrist companion. This is what smartwatch enthusiasts on a restricted budget have been waiting for years. You don’t have to settle for a tiny fitness tracker anymore, you can now have a proper smartwatch for just a little more.





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