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Wearable Tech

The $80 Amazfit Bip smartwatch after two weeks: Deal or no deal?

Eight important things I've learned about this Apple Watch lookalike. Plus: $37 for a waterproof speaker that's also an FM radio.

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amazfit-bip-backlit

The Bip's backlight makes the screen easily readable indoors, and the watch has a raise-to-backlight option.

Photo by Rick Broida/CNET

Some days, the deals come out of the woodwork. Others, like today... nuttin'. So I thought I'd take this opportunity to revisit a really popular deal from earlier this month: the $80 Amazfit Bip watch

A quick refresher: the Bip looks a lot like the Apple Watch, though it's both thinner and lighter. It has a decidedly Pebble-like screen, though, in that it's always on and has a lower resolution (176 x 176 pixels).

It also has a pretty impressive feature set, including GPS, a heart rate monitor and an IP68 water-resistance rating. The real standout, though, is the battery, which promises to last as long as 30 days under regular use.

After two straight weeks of wearing a Bip, I want to share some updates that can help inform your purchase decision:

  • Battery life: The watch has yet to return to the charger, and still shows 37 percent battery remaining. I used GPS just once, but do have heart rate monitoring turned on (at 30-minute intervals), and I've enabled notifications for all apps. I should have no trouble getting three weeks on a single charge -- which is awesome. (I also took it on a 3-day vacation and was overjoyed at not having to bring a charger.)
  • Bugs: The Mi Fit app doesn't do a good job of keeping connected to the Bip, at least on my iPhone. I suspect that's why the watch frequently fails to absorb weather updates, instead just displaying a "?" where the temperature is supposed to be. Very often I have to force-sync to push weather data to the watch.
  • Operation: The raise-to-wake feature (to illuminate the backlight) works perfectly, though I had to get used to pressing the crown every time I wanted to unlock the screen. I actually like that, though, because it prevents accidental brush-swipes from putting you in an unwanted mode or something.
  • Shipping update: Although the Bip remains strictly preorder on Amazfit's site, my contact there says the latest batch is on track to ship by next week. Can you get it elsewhere? Yes, but you may not want to. (See "Where to buy," below.)
  • Watch faces: Turns out there's already a huge community of Amazfit users (and fan sites), with lots of third-party watch faces already available -- including some 12-hour digital ones. (One of my big complaints with the Bip was that the included digital faces are all 24-hour. Amazfit is working to correct that, but in the meantime I'm just sticking with analog faces.) Check out Amazfit Central and Amazfit Watch Faces.
  • Watch faces part 2: Now for the bad news: Installing third-party faces is something of a hassle, and iOS users don't appear to have the option at all (not that I've found). Android users can leverage apps like Amazfit Bip WatchFaces and Amazfit Bip WatchFace, but there's still some hoop-jumping involved.
  • Where to buy: Many readers pointed out that the Bip is selling for as low as $60 from various Chinese sellers. I'm aware, but recommend ordering from Amazfit proper. That's because there are several different versions floating around out there, including "Lite," "International" and straight-up Chinese. Given the importance of firmware updates, to say nothing of making sure you get English-language support, I think it's worth the extra $20 to deal with Amazfit directly. (The promo code "cheapskate" that discounts the watch to $80 is, as of this morning, still active.)
  • Versus Apple Watch: I was curious to see if I'd miss my Apple Watch, which I've always considered overpriced and, for my needs, overbloated with features. Not once during these two weeks have I really missed it all. Occasionally I've wished I could reply to a text message, and I don't like having to manually enable do-not-disturb mode in the evening -- and disable it again in the morning. That said, for the most part I don't miss my Apple Watch one bit. YMMV.
sbode-m400

Nice little portable speaker for the price, and you can pair a second one for stereo sound!

Sbode

And there you go! Like I said at the start, the Bip isn't perfect... but it's pretty damn good for the price. I like the look of it, the lightweight design, the incredible battery life and the huge assortment of available faces (though obviously I need a way to actually get at them).

Now, if you can find, say, a Samsung Gear Fit 2 for around the same price (not impossible if you look to refurbs), I'd probably recommend that instead. It's a better overall product. But if battery life means more to you than anything else, there's no better option than the Bip -- and at $80 it's a steal.

Bonus deal: Looking for a speaker you can... A) take to the beach; B) tune to your local FM radio stations; and C) pair with a second speaker for true stereo sound?

Here you go! For a limited time, and while supplies last, CTLpower (via Amazon) has the Sbode M400 multi-function wireless speaker for $37.29 shipped. That's after applying promo code PY549TAU at checkout.

As noted above, this monolithic Bluetooth speaker also features an FM tuner, so you can listen to radio when you're in the mood. (Alas, it doesn't store any presets, nor even have a display, so you'll have to seek-guess your way around the dial.) You can even pop in an microSD card if you happen to have some music stored there.

The M400 is water-resistant as well, so it's perfectly fine for the pool, beach, shower area, etc. And if you really want to fill a room with sound, you can pair a second M400 to the first. According to Sbode, the battery should last you a good eight hours. Not bad for $37!

Prefer something a little more name-brandy? Cambridge Soundworks (via Amazon) has the Oontz Angle 3 Ultra for $33.99 when you apply the 15-percent-off coupon option listed on the page.

No FM tuner and no microSD slot, but it also has the option of pairing with a second speaker, and the battery life is rated at an amazing 20 hours. Check out CNET's Oontz Angle 3 Ultra review to learn more.