June 15, 2018
I got my device yesterday. I was pumped--a GPS watch that monitors heart rate for under $100? Score. I've been biking more recently, and I wanted something that allowed me to leave my phone home, but Garmin and TomTom watches are way too much for my beginner self. Plus, I don't care about phone notifications, or onboard apps, or whatever, I just wanted a tracker that tells time. I trust "off-brand" products typically, and this watch had what I wanted at a price point I can swallow.
For the record, inside the box was the watch, a (useless) manual, and a usb charging cradle. It did not come with a wall outlet adapter, but it's the same 5 volt charger that any cell phone uses, so if you have this watch, you probably also have a cell phone, which means you will have a sufficient charging option.
I attempted to set it up before I had to leave yesterday afternoon, but it didn't work immediately so I put it aside until I got back home last night. Then frustration ensued. I wasn't annoyed the first ten minutes. Sometimes devices take a bit longer to connect, whatever. The Bluetooth connection went off without a hitch. Then I started noticing a theme: I tried syncing so that I could "un-brick" the watch, the sync failed, the app attempted to auto-update the firmware, the update failed, the app crashed, I re-opened the app, the Bluetooth connected instantly, it tried syncing, the sync failed...you get it.
I tried that for a solid twenty minutes (not because I'm insane; the firmware update said "hold the device closer to the phone" as if the failure were on my end, so I trusted that it was right and assumed I could just angle it slightly better--I was wrong). I power-cycled the phone. I would've done the same for the watch, but there's actually no power option while it's in "screw you" mode.
Finally I gave up and looked online. There were some suggestions to download third-party apps that would aid in watch-phone communication. I watched videos in Chinese (I live in Wisconsin, about the farthest place from China in the country--I can count to ten and say thank you, but that's about it). Amazfit FAQ instructed me to go through 4 or 5 troubleshooting steps. I tried it all, to no avail.
At that point, I was an hour into messing with this thing, and all I had to show for it was an error message (shown in the attached image). I was pissed, tired, and completely bewildered. I emailed tech support. To this point, about 10 hours later, they haven't responded. Until I hear back, this watch is unusable. I don't care what the cost was, or what the product feels like--if I can't use it, it gets a whopping 1-star rating.
If they get back to me and fix it, I will update with the steps to fix and a new rating. If I don't update, it's because my issue was never resolved and I returned it.
**UPDATE** They emailed back after a week and many apologies for the delay. After that, there was daily communication, I never felt neglected or forgotten. After I tried a couple more suggestions they gave, I asked about replacing the unit if this one is faulty. They had one final Hail Mary--could I try updating it on someone else's phone? I have an LG G4 from early 2016. My fiance has a Samsung Galaxy S8, so I tried updating it on hers and was successful. If you find a similar problem, give that a shot.
I've been using it for a few days now that it works, so now I'll get into performance review:
When I got the watch two weeks ago, the battery level was 86%. I've been using it for 4 days, and it sat idle previously. The battery is at 57% presently. That's constant heart rate monitoring, sleep tracking, two GPS-tracked sessions of soccer kick-around (as "Outdoor Running"), and a rather intense bar-league volleyball game (tracked as "Treadmill" because it was indoors). I haven't yet tried it for cycling, which I initially purchased it for, but I'm certain it won't burn any more battery than outdoor running.
Full disclosure, I have every notification turned off and I only sync to my phone daily, so I'm not killing the device with constant Bluetooth. That also means that I can't speak to the ability to send receive phone calls, texts, Facebooks, etc. I don't care, sorry.
It works. It does take about 90 seconds for the watch to find GPS signal, but it never seemed to lose it. I pulled up the map of one of my soccer runs and it was a jumble of lefts and rights. I'm going to take it on a bike ride later along with my phone (tracking with Strava) to see if it tracks well enough to keep long-term.
THINGS I DIDN'T THINK I'D CARE ABOUT, BUT ARE NOTICEABLE
-Multitasking -- I don't mean Pandora and Google at the same time. I mean a timer and literally anything else. Or tracking and anything else. If you're in one mode, you aren't able to leave the first mode without canceling it. E.g., I set the timer for 20 minutes, ran a bit, and wanted to see what my heart rate was. I had to cancel the timer to get out of it. Even a $10 Timex Ironman can switch screens like that. It isn't a deal breaker, but it is a bit annoying.
-Alarms -- You have to set up an alarm on your phone and sync it to the watch, you can't just go into the alarm section on the watch and make a new alarm. Paired with the inability to multitask a timer, that could get frustrating down the road.
- Compatibility -- Other Amazfit products are able to sync to Strava, but that's not yet in the cards for the Bip. I expect it will happen eventually, but currently there are two workaround options. They both involve 3rd party apps and a decent time commitment. One is a $2 "Pro" feature in a free app that syncs directly to Strava or Google Fit, etc (didn't try it); the other is absolutely free and8times more convoluted, requiring a second 3rd party app, exporting, and a manual upload on the Strava website (not a function on the app).
-Mi Fit app -- In short, the app is below average. It's about as basic and stripped down as you can imagine. It's serviceable for sleep info and setting alarms and even looking at your run/ride, but some settings are in different areas than other settings, and it doesn't even offer as many settings as one of the 3rd party apps. It's not awful, just not intuitive.
-Watch settings -- There really aren't many options for settings on the watch. It has some onboard watch faces and a brightness setting, and the long button press can strictly be used to as a shortcut to begin an activity. No double press, no other long press option.
I'll post after a couple bike rides if I notice anything knocking about it.
I still enjoy the watch, though I would still give it 4/5 stars. With the HR and monitor turned on, the battery lasts about 3 weeks with a bike ride or two per week. When I biked to work for a full week (5 miles each way), the battery was around 50% drained by Saturday. Not bad. Turning off the sleep monitor and HR sensor, I get approximately 6 weeks of battery life with a ride. That's amazing, and still such a win for me.
The app has grown on me. It's still not totally intuitive, but when you get the hang of which settings are in which menu, it's not awful. The ride screen is actually nice, offering more details than Strava. It also seems to have a more consistent speed read (fewer peaks and valleys)--unsure if that makes it more or less accurate overall, but it's certainly smoother.
Because I'm comfortable with the app, and there still is no link to Strava at last check, I have all but nixed Strava and strictly use the watch app. It's fine for me because I don't have any "friends" on Strava socially anyway, I only used it as a ride-tracking platform. For those of you who need to stay connected, the workaround mentioned previously still works, it just isn't worth it to me.
Other than wishing for Strava compatibility and the aforementioned multitasking, this watch is an absolute steal. It does everything in its power well. Would definitely buy again.
Unrelated: I don't remember if I mentioned it previously or not, but the watch band width is 20mm, the standard size of Samsung Gear and other smart watches, so customizing watch bands is super easy. I hate the rubber type that came with it, so I got a $5 nylon band for biking and a couple nicer metal bands to wear to work. It's not a bulky "sports" watch by nature, so you can totally pull it off for semi-formal occasions.