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Wearable Tech

Huami's new Amazfit smartwatches give you two weeks of battery life

The company hasn't detailed US pricing yet, but in China, one of the watches retails for about $125.

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Huami's Amazfit GTS smartwatch can go two weeks on a single charge. 

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

As Apple gears up to show off its latest smartwatch, rival Huami has developed a couple new models of its own: a square Amazfit GTS and a round sports watch, the Amazfit Stratos 3. The company showed off the new watches at the IFA electronics show in Berlin on Friday, and CNET got a sneak peak. It hasn't yet detailed pricing, but both models are sure to be a fraction of the next Apple Watch's price tag when they launch in the middle of September. 

The Amazfit GTS has been designed as a fashion watch, with a metal body only 9.44mm thick and a 1.65-inch AMOLED display. By comparison, the smaller Apple Watch Series 4 is 10.7mm thick and has a screen that's about 1.57-inches. You can get up to two weeks of life on a single charge or 25 hours if you're constantly using the watch's GPS. It also has sleep tracking, a feature not yet found in Apple Watches, and it also has six watch band color options. 

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The Amazfit Stratos 3 is the latest offering in Huami's sports watch line. The wearable has a 1.34-inch round, always-on display. The "transflective" screen makes it readable under bright sunlight, Huami said. The Stratos 3 runs two kinds of software, a lightweight version that gives you 14 days of battery life and Android to access apps and services available from Google

Both watches have optical heart-rate sensors and are water resistant. And both have battery life rarely found in wearables. 

"We have a different thought for smartwatches than Apple," Huami CEO Huang Wang said in an interview in Berlin. "We think you should have long battery life and [not] need to charge every one or two days."

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The Amazfit Stratos 3 can get 14 days of battery life on one charge or one week if you switch to the Android mode to access more apps. 

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

But that battery life comes at a cost. Huami's watches run its Amazfit OS lightweight software -- based on freeRTOS -- that doesn't support full app stores. When you're in "Ultra-Endurance Mode" on the Stratos 3, you can't run as many apps as you can on devices using Watch OS or even Android Wear OS. That Stratos 3 mode can only access software made by Huami for things like sports tracking and notifications. The GTS only runs the lightweight software, not Android. 

When you turn on Android Wear OS on the Stratos 3, your battery life drops from two weeks to one, Wang said. 

Huami plans to later offer a watch app store, but it hasn't yet launched it, he said. That means you can't access something like Twitter on your Huami watch quite yet. 

Battling Apple

Huami's news comes days before Apple will unveil its next-gen Apple Watches. Apple is expected to introduce the Series 5 Apple Watch during its event Tuesday in Cupertino, California. There haven't been many rumors about the new device, which could indicate it's similar to the previous year's model, the Series 4. But even without major changes, the new Apple Watch is likely to be popular with buyers. 

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Huami's Amazfit X concept watch features a display that curves around the wrist. 

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

In the second quarter, 46% of all smartwatches shipped in the world came from Apple, according to Strategy Analytics. In just those three months, the firm estimated that Apple shipped 5.7 million smartwatches, a 50% jump from the same quarter a year ago. From 2014 through the end of July 2019, Huami has shipped more than 100 million wearables in more than 60 countries, but its footprint is nowhere close to Apple.

"Apple Watch has fended off strong competition from hungry rivals like Fitbit," Strategy Analytics analyst Neil Mawston said. "Apple remains the clear smartwatch market leader."

But Huami provides an interesting proposition for consumers: sleek designs, weeks-long battery life and low prices. Its watches have tended to cost less than $200 in the US, and they're sometimes on sale for under $100. The company has been positioned as a low-cost alternative to the Apple Watch, which starts at $399. 

Huami hasn't yet detailed US pricing for its new smartwatches, but the Amazfit GTS costs CNY 899 in China, or about $125. 

"In overseas markets, they'll have different prices," Wang said. But they'll definitely be cheaper than Apple Watches. 

Curved watches

Huami at IFA also showed off a concept device with a curved screen. The so-called Amazfit X looks similar to Samsung's Gear Fit fitness band from 2014. That device too had a narrow screen that curved around the wrist. But the Amazfit has no physical buttons on the exterior of the device. Instead, the sides of the watch contain pressure sensitive buttons hidden inside. 

As it is today, that watch gets about one week of battery life on a single charge. 

"Curved glass is very difficult, even more difficult than a smartphone that has a curved, flexible screen," Wang said. The device has a specially designed, curved battery, as well as other custom items. 

Huami plans to start selling a watch with a curved display in the first half of 2020, he said. 

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Apple Watch Series 4 GPS (40mm silver aluminum case, white sport band)
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