Wyze Band hands-on: This $25 fitness tracker is light on your wallet, but also on features
A fitness band for only $25? Yep, but Wyze's first wearable is more impressive on paper than it is on your wrist.
Rick BroidaSenior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
The Wyze brand is making a name for itself, having produced some surprisingly affordable smart-home gear that's also surprisingly good, like the $20 Wyze Cam. I've been equally impressed with products like the $20 Wyze Sense security kit, $20 Wyze Scale and $8
. (Order each via Amazon or Wyze.com, and you'll pay about $4 to $10 extra for shipping.)
The Wyze Band is the company's first wearable, offering both smartwatch and
features for a similarly incredible price: just $25 plus shipping ($30 total). How does it compare with the budget likes of the
Fitbit Inspire HR
($80) and Xiaomi Mi Band 4 ($35)? Although it offers a few bright spots (
on your wrist!), it's hard to recommend right now. Over the course of several weeks of testing, I encountered a variety of bugs and shortcomings. Some can be addressed with software updates; others are simply the limitations of a $25 wearable.
The Band makes a good first impression. It's a thin, lightweight device, barely noticeable on your wrist. The color AMOLED screen is small but sharp, packing 286 pixels per inch. Indoors, it looks great; outdoors, it can be hard to read in bright sun, even at the brightest setting.
The proprietary charging cradle has a very short cord (just eight inches) and can be difficult to clip on properly. First time out, I thought I'd connected it, but hours later I discovered it was slightly off, meaning the Band hadn't charged. Fortunately, you won't need the charger very often: Wyze rates battery life at 10-14 days, depending on whether you use full-time heart-rate monitoring.
The Wyze app made initial setup a breeze, and the Band itself couldn't be easier to use. You can either raise your wrist to wake it up or give the screen a tap. (Alas, there's no always-on option.) You swipe up or down to switch between modes and left or right to access different screens within that mode. Tap just below the screen to go back, or tap and hold to call on Alexa.
Talk to the Band
Yep, this $25 smart band supports Amazon's smart assistant Alexa, and it works even if you don't own any Amazon smart devices. While the Band has dual microphones to better hear your requests, it has no speaker for responses. That means you can issue just about any standard voice command, but not everything will produce a result. Ask Alexa to, say, play a podcast, and she'll report (via onscreen message) that the device isn't supported. You can, however, control smart devices, set alarms, ask for information and much more. It's a nice perk you won't find on current-gen
The Wyze Band can also deliver notifications from your phone and show you who's calling. You can't respond to those notifications, however, or take a call from your wrist.
On the health front, the Band offers step- and sleep-tracking and 24/7 heart-rate monitoring, although I have concerns about the accuracy of all three features. As with a lot of inexpensive trackers, steps often get counted even if you're just sitting at your desk, occasionally gesturing with your hand. My measured
times were roughly in line with what I see from my Withings Sleep Pad, but the ratios of light/deep sleep within those hours were vastly different. (Wyze provides no actionable info based on your sleep patterns, either.)
As for heart rate, my readings seemed to vary widely, especially in comparison with what I know to be my average heart rate. It may be that I wasn't wearing it in the right spot on my wrist, or it may be that a $25 watch isn't the most reliable source of HR numbers.
Band on the run
Save for walking, the Wyze Band can track only one form of exercise: running. It displays your distance, pace and total time, though it does all this without the benefit of built-in GPS. On my handful of test runs, the Band collected what seemed to be accurate distance, time and pace data, at least relative to data I've recorded in the past with RunKeeper.
Other useful features include "find phone" -- which makes your phone play a sound even if it's muted -- and Shortcuts, which you can use to quickly mute or unmute notifications or control other Wyze devices you might own. For example, if you have a Wyze Cam, you can create a shortcut to turn on motion notification -- great if you're leaving the house in a hurry and forgot to enable it.
Unfortunately, the Wyze Band can be frustrating at times. After invoking Alexa to turn on an LED light-strip, the function worked, but the Band displayed a confounding message: "An empty caption." Meanwhile, raise-to-wake didn't work consistently for me; sometimes I had to do an exaggerated "raise" to get the screen to light up and even then it was slow to happen. I also had issues with taps and swipes not registering, though a firmware update during testing reduced the frequency of that. Ironically, in the shower (the Band is 5-ATM water-resistant), droplets would often trigger the screen, even going so far as to activate unwanted functions.
Another minor frustration: The Wyze app lets you choose your own photo background for the screen, but I could never get this to work. Although I could select a photo from my phone's library, the app wouldn't let me add it. This despite recent app and firmware updates and a check to make sure app permissions were set correctly in iOS settings.
Problems like those can be fixed, but ultimately I'm not sure who the Wyze Band is for. It's a fitness lightweight with a tiny screen that's slow to respond and hard to read outdoors. Its heart-rate sensor, sleep monitor and step tracker all produce inconsistent results. I think if you're looking for an inexpensive Fitbit alternative, this isn't the one to choose.
But the Band is also a slim wristwatch that can deliver notifications from your phone, and its battery can last for up to two weeks, which is fantastic. You can use it to control your smart-home devices -- not just with taps, but with voice commands as well. That's also pretty fantastic, especially given the price tag.
It might be wrong to expect more from a $25 wearable. However, the Xiaomi Mi Band 5 -- successor to the popular, $40 Mi Band 4 -- just launched in China and will likely be headed stateside soon. It offers a larger display than the Wyze Band and far more activity-tracking options, plus it'll likely sell at the same $40 price. Meanwhile, the new Amazfit Bip S smartwatch is only $70, offering upgraded heart-rate monitoring, built-in GPS, an always-on display and more.
Bottom line: The Wyze Band is pretty good for $25, but if you're willing to spend a little more, you can get a wearable that works better and does more.