April 7, 2019
This is my first smartwatch. I am used to regular digital watches, and wear them twenty three and a half hours a day, so I was not keen on switching to a smartwatch, most of which have very poor battery life and need to be charged overnight every night. It is laughable that most manufacturers tout their watch's sleep tracking when the product is so poorly designed that most people can't sleep with them on!
I bought my wife an Amazfit Bip last year, and that watch has actually been true to the claimed battery life of 3 to 5 weeks, so I started trusting the Amazfit brand overall. I like round watchfaces rather than rectangular or square ones, so I was eying the Amazfit Stratos for a while. The verge is a newer model, and I eventually decided to try this rather than the stratos. So far, I feel I made the correct decision.
The watch comes very well packaged in a box you can hang onto. Inside the box are the watch, its charger, and what I thought was the user manual. Actually the user manual is just some regulatory and precautionary information (don't disassemble the watch, don't immerse it in water or clean it with corrosives, etc., etc.) in several dozen languages. But it also has some quick start information. Based on that, I downloaded the Amazfit watch app onto my phone, started up the watch, and paired it with the phone. All this was very smooth and went without a hitch. The actual user manual is on the amazfit website, and the language is a little hard to follow since it seems to have been translated from the original Chinese using Google Translate or something like that. Details like that cost the watch 1 star.
The watch itself is not hard to figure out without the user manual. You swipe down from the watchface to get to the screen where you can choose to play with the settings (along with other things like putting the watch in airplane mode, making it silent, etc.). Once in the settings, you can adjust things like whether it should show an always-on screen, what watchface to use, etc. Some of the menu wordings are a little awkward, but you can get the general idea most of the time.
If you swipe the watchface to the left, you get to the activities screen where you can see how well you slept last time, your history of activities, or start a new activity. If you swipe up on the watchface, you get to the notifications screen. You can read notifications, but there is no way to respond to things like texts or emails because the watch does not have a provision for an onscreen keyboard. I am not going to bore you with the details since things like this are likely to change every time the watch software is updated. Since getting the watch, I have updated the watch twice.
In terms of looks, the watch is not bad. It is fully plastic, not metal, so it is not as classy-looking as the Stratos. It is somewhat thick, and for some weird reason, the bottom one third of the watch body is a different color (a light grey) than the rest of the body (black). It is as if somebody decided that they had to make the watch as juvenile-looking as possible, and decided on the simplest way to accomplish that. The watch is quite light, and even though I have small wrists, it is comfortable to wear. The strap has lots of closely-spaced holes, so it should fit practically any wrist out there.
The screen is bright and vibrant. It does not have any transflective elements, it is all Amoled. Even though the Stratos screen is larger, it is also lower resolution, and the always-on screen is transflective, meaning it is hard to read in low-light conditions. The Verge's screen is very easy to read in low-light, and is surprisingly legible and easy to read in direct, bright sunlight also.
The battery consumption estimates are pretty accurate. If you turn off the always-on screen and disable continuous heart rate monitoring, you can easily get 5 days of battery life out of it. I keep those features on, and the battery goes down about 25% in a day. The charging is pretty quick, so in the approximately half an hour it takes me to shave and shower every morning, I leave the watch in the charger, and it is back to 100%.
The charger takes a little getting used to. The watch plops into it with a resounding thunk, and it can be hard to get it out if you are not a little rough. I have found it best to just yank straight up on one of the straps to get the watch out. Initially, this was disconcerting since I thought I would damage the watch or pull a strap off, but so far, everything has held up pretty well. Once the watch is in the charger, there is no fiddling that needs to be done to get it to charge. It is very secure in its contacts with the charging pins.
The charger is also how you connect the phone to your computer. You don't have to connect your phone to your computer if you don't want to, but it helps to transfer watchfaces and music to the watch. The watch and its accompanying app come with about 20 watchfaces to choose from directly from the phone, but if you want more, there are literally hundreds of faces you can choose from on the internet. You can download them onto your computer and then transfer them to the watch through the charging cable. The actual process of creating new watchfaces for this watch is quite simple, and if you are the creative type, you can design your own watchface for it using some simple elements.
The watch is water-resistant, but not fully water-proof. It is not recommended that you swim with it or even take a shower with it, though its specs suggest it will survive a quick accidental dunk or a rain shower without any long-term or permanent damage. The stratos is fully water-proof to 50 meters depth, so if you want to track swimming workouts, the Stratos is a better fit for you than the verge.
The operating system is Huami-proprietary, not google's Wear OS. It has been rock solid and stable since I got the watch, and so far, it has never crashed or rebooted. The watch's pairing with the phone has also been very stable and has never dropped for any reason. The watch's touch screen is very responsive and it has been easy to navigate around the watch once I figured out the swiping patterns required to get to any screen. The watch screen can be woken up fully by double-tapping the screen (you have to enable this behavior) or pressing the single button on the side of the watch. In standby mode, you can set the watch up to show you the time dimly, otherwise the watchface is entirely blank. You can set up the watch to show you the time when you raise your wrist, so you can tell the time without waking up the watch fully. The touch-screen works only when the watch screen is fully woken up. The screen dims after about 15 seconds, and goes into standby mode after that. I haven't found a way to prolong this time.
The fitness app on the phone (with which the watch syncs) is called huami fit, and the watch does not directly work with google fit and other fitness apps. If that is important to you, you probably need to get a Wear OS watch. I am not a fitness fanatic, so it doesn't matter to me. The steps tracking on the watch seems quite accurate. I have also used the watch to track a few walks, and I was happy with the stats collected. It takes the watch a minute or two to get a GPS fix (definitely much longer than my phone takes), but once it gets a fix, it did not drop at any time. The watch syncs up your activities and fitness tracking information with the phone app periodically, and you can also force a manual sync from the watch. Looking at some of this information on a bigger phone screen makes more sense sometimes than squinting at the watchface.
I have not tried most of the activities on the watch (there are 11 or 12, and I am sure updates to the watch will change that as time goes on. I have looked at the sleep-tracking information a few times, and tend to agree with the watch's assessment of the length of my light sleep and deep sleep periods.
Once you are in an activity, you can't get to the main watchface until you finish or pause the activity. This takes a little getting used to it. Perhaps that is how all fitness smartwatches work, I am not familiar with any others. The watch does track your steps and calories without being in any particular activity. Being in some activities for a long time can reduce your battery life since acquiring and holding a GPS signal is expensive.
You can set the watch to vibrate when you get a notification on your phone. You can set up which apps can push their notifications to the phone in the amazfit watch app on your phone. Very occasionally, I do get duplicated notifications on my watch for some reason, and I hope this will be fixed in a watch update soon.
Even though you can't respond to notifications directly from the watch, you can answer phone calls on your watch. The watch has a built-in speaker and microphone. You can also sync your phone contacts with the watch (you have to give the amazfit watch app permissions to do this), and then you can tell who is calling when you get a call. You can also call directly from your watch using the contact list, or you can dial any number using a small onscreen numeric keypad on the watch. I have not answered or made a phone call on my watch, and have no idea how good the sound quality is.
Overall, I give this watch a solid 4 stars, especially because of its price-point. In particular, Amazfit has done a good job with the battery life of the watch, and packed a lot of features into this watch at a pretty low price. Areas for improvement: battery life, water activities, a good quality user manual, more official watchfaces, etc., etc. I am sure everybody can create a long wish-list, but I would definitely recommend this watch as it is today if you are in the market for a capable, long-life smartwatch that seems to be solid in both the hardware and software departments.
If you have any questions please post in the comments, and I will try to address them. I will also update this review if something I have said above changes, or I realize I have forgotten to write about something important.