Amazfit Bip review: Why can’t more smartwatches be like the Amazfit Bip?

All of that in a little plastic budget watch is pretty nice.

Xiaomi Huami AMAZFIT Bip

Fitness tracking is surprisingly decent.

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It's kinda ugly, but totally comfy

I no longer feel like I'm wearing a "cool" watch, but that's exactly how I felt when I wore that original Pebble around. It's nicely utilitarian, and its Casio feel might make it a nice counter-fashion look to a super sleek smartwatch. I've gotten compliments on the orange-rimmed model I've been wearing.

It feels really comfortable, too. The rubber band feels soft, the watch is small and lightweight, and it starts to just have that invisible wrist-feel that small watches have and large smartwatches lack.

A Gorilla Glass (2.5)-covered display has lasted decently so far, with no scratches or scuffs I can see.

Xiaomi Huami AMAZFIT Bip

The Mi Fit app keep records of steps, sleep, heart rate, and has a fair number of insights, but no real fitness community.

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It gets notifications on iOS and Android

Two clear vibrating pings, and I know I've gotten a Twitter notification. Messages come through clearly, with small text, but totally readable. Another nice touch is that notifications can be toggled by app, so you can get Twitter but not Instagram, text messages but not LinkedIn. I can't respond to messages, but that's fine. Swiping up shows old notifications I might have missed.

So, where does it fall short?

It's not fancy, and it doesn't have a lot of other features. The Bip has swappable watch faces via a Mi Fit app, and a handful on the watch itself. A few mini-features built into the watch show weather (which sometimes doesn't sync on my iPhone), a summary of fitness stats, a timer and stopwatch, a compass (which hasn't ever worked for me) and a QR code-based mini-app for AliPay payments, which I am not going to use here in the US.

But there are downsides to these features: the stopwatch and timer can't be run in the background, making them useless for long-term use. The watch is also sometimes slow to sync, entering a funky type of disconnect state that perhaps is why it's so good at conserving battery. The watch disables the swipeable touchscreen in everyday use, which is good for workouts, but annoying for quick daily use. You have to press the side button to unlock the screen before swiping again each time you use it.

Xiaomi Huami AMAZFIT Bip
Sarah Tew/CNET

The Mi Fit app, which the watch syncs with on iPhone and Android, is a better-than-expected fitness hub for tracking and showing graphs for steps, sleep, and heart rate, and it even draws a fair number of insights against other users. I'm not wild about using a relatively unknown app for all my fitness data, though. The Mi Fit app lets you add friends and share activity data, but the app feels more isolated than the buzzier Fitbit universe. Fitbit's app and social community is far more geared towards developing fitness plans. But Mi Fit syncs with Apple Health, at least, which Fitbit still doesn't.

I also find other things weird: sometimes the watch's A-GPS settings will update and take over the watch display, syncing when I don't want it to (and taking a while). The phone app settings aren't always easy to navigate.

Now playing: Watch this: Amazfit Bip vs. Fitbit Versa: Which is more like Pebble?

For its crazy price, the Amazfit Bip is hard to beat

So, yes: I'm less wild about the app and software than the watch hardware. But at this price -- who cares? You're getting a functional smartwatch for less than the cost of taking a family of four to the movies. The Amazfit Bip just might be the perfect "I don't care about smartwatches" smartwatch. It's the Basic Casio. It works, it's fine, and it's surprisingly hassle-free. And in a landscape of ever-more-premium smartwatches that seem laser-focused on high-end features at the expense of battery life, this low-cost, high-battery watch is what more companies should copy.

Now I just need to find that watch charger.