Vanessa Hand Orellana/CNET
The Amazfit Bip S isn’t the best smartwatch I’ve ever tested — not even close. But it’s definitely the longest-running one. I wore it for almost 10 days straight without having to charge it once, and that’s a lot more than I can say for its pricier competitors. But if battery life alone isn’t enough to get your attention, the $69 price tag should seal the deal. (UK prices weren’t available, but it’s AU$119 in Australia, which is about £65.)
The Bip S is the third variant of the Amazfit Bip (along with the Amazfit Bip Lite). Created by Chinese company Huami in 2018, the original Bip was a fan favorite from the get-go. It did the basic smartwatch tasks for much less than competitors, and it lasted up to 45 days on a single charge. CNET’s Scott Stein gave it high praise, calling it one of the best low-key smartwatches around.
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The Bip S has better fitness features and a slightly better screen than its predecessor, but it hasn’t changed much in the last two years. And while it’s still one of the best deals out there, it lags a bit behind others, like the Apple Watch or Galaxy Watch, when it comes to features and connectivity.
The Amazfit Bip S comes in four colors, with a new two-toned pink option.
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A design that matches the price
Save for a few new color options (pink and green) and a brighter display, the Bip S looks like a carbon copy of the original Bip. And by that, I mean it looks like a plastic Apple Watch, with a much thicker bezel and lighter frame.
It’s definitely not the most attractive smartwatch I’ve laid my eyes on, but it’s practical and more comfortable to wear than some of the more premium, heavier watches that are bulkier. It’s so light that I even forgot I had it on when I slept.
But the biggest price compromise comes at the expense of the screen. It’s always on, which is a nice perk, but it’s not quite as sharp, bright or responsive as a phone screen. The backlight also didn’t always turn on when I needed it to. Sometimes it works on demand, but I had to exaggerate raising my wrist more often than I’d like to get it to turn on. And as mentioned before, it’s not as sensitive to touch. I had to swipe or tap the screen a few times to get it to respond. When it does light up or brighten though, it’s clear to see in broad daylight.
The Bip S includes a few more watch faces than its predecessors, as well as the ability to customize some of the existing ones.
The Bip S’ improved fitness tracking
The original Amazfit Bip covered the basics when it came to fitness tracking, but the Bip S takes it a step further by adding more workouts and better metrics.
It can now log up to 10 different activities including yoga, weights and swimming. Its 5ATM water resistance makes it safe for both pool and open-water swims, and its built-in GPS means you can leave your phone on dry land while you’re in the water or out on a run.
Since testing the Amazfit Bip S, I’ve been able to track my stats accurately. But I have to remember to do it properly. For example, the dial button can be programmed as a shortcut to start workouts, which is convenient. But for running (or other outdoor workouts) I still have to press the screen to confirm GPS connection before actually registering the run. This defeats the purpose of having the shortcut in the first place. The first few times I took it out, I forgot to confirm and it didn’t log my run. Because it doesn’t have automatic workout detection, you have to start it manually to actually log your workouts — yet it will pause automatically when it senses that you’ve stopped moving for a while.
Like its predecessor, the Bip S has continuous heart-rate monitoring. During exercises, it broke down my information into zones on the mobile app to show whether I was in a light, intensive, aerobic, anaerobic or Vo2 max (maximum oxygen consumption) heart-rate zone. This is similar to what other sports watches like Fitbit and Garmin do, but because the Bip S’ results didn’t always reflect the intensity at which I perceived my workout, I’m skeptical of its accuracy.
The biggest upgrades on the Amazfit Bip S are health and fitness related.
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The Bip S translates heart rate into health metrics
In addition to the usual steps and distance, the Bip S adds a new metric called PAI (Personal Activity Intelligence)., which grades you on how much activity you’ve done during the day This means that rather than relying on step count or calories burned, the Bip S uses heart rate data (along with basic demographic information) to determine whether or not the user was able to raise their heart rate long enough throughout the day to maintain a healthy lifestyle. When this is achieved, the risk of developing chronic illnesses like heart disease, hypertension and diabetes lowers, according to Huami.
The idea itself is not novel and it’s similar to the move ring on the Apple Watch and zone minutes on Fitbit devices — all of which are activity metrics that go beyond step counting. But it’s new to the Bip family, and it was a good way to keep myself honest about how much activity I was doing (or not doing) during the day. Having it actually motivated me to keep going throughout the week.
Bip S lacks certain smart features and has unreliable connectivity
The biggest deal-breaker for me about the Amazfit is that it didn’t really work well as a “smart” watch. Technically it’s compatible with iOS and Android, but when I tried to use it with my iPhone, the connection was unreliable. I’d stop receiving phone notifications on the watch, and I’d have to re-pair the app with the phone a few times. A firmware update did help with the connectivity issues, but it didn’t completely solve the problem. Seeing my data on the phone app also took a while to sync, too.
Even when the Amazfit displayed my notifications properly, I couldn’t do much with them. Because it doesn’t have a microphone, dictation is also out of the question, so don’t think about programming quick replies.
All in all, besides a few basic apps for the weather and music control (which is a step up from the original Bip), the watch basically mirrors your phone and doesn’t have many standalone functions. Even the alarm app has to be programmed on the phone, and there are no mobile payments of any sort.
Bip S’ long battery life makes sleep tracking a breeze
Even with its spotty connectivity and mediocre smart features, this watch keeps going long after its competitors give up. The fact that I didn’t have to sideline it to a charger at the end of the day meant it never left my wrist.
Huami says it can go up to 40 days on a charge if you’re doing the bare-bone functions, although realistically I’d expect about 15 days worth of battery life. Or 10 days if you’re firing on all cylinders, like myself (max screen brightness and GPS workouts on a regular basis, for example).
Beyond the convenience of not having to charge it at the end of each day, having it on 24-7 meant I tracked my sleep a lot more regularly than I did with other smartwatches.
The Bip S gave me a sleep score in the morning based on a number of different factors, like sleep duration, bedtime and quality of sleep compared to other users. As a mother of two small children, I know my sleep habits have room for improvement, so I was shocked to find that I’ve been averaging about a 90 (out of 100) every night. So either Amazfit users have deplorable sleep habits, or it’s not very good at determining whether I’m in bed nursing the baby or actually asleep. I suspect it might be a combination of both.
But even with my skepticism, having this data over a longer period of time helped me identify the times when I was getting the most restful sleep and it changed my bedtime habits (to an earlier hour) so I could maximize that deep sleep cycle. Whether it actually helps me feel more rested during the day is TBD.
The Bip S is a cheap option, but it won’t replace your phone
If you’re looking for a smartwatch to free you from your phone once in a while, this is not it. In that case you’re better off getting an Apple Watch Series 3 or Galaxy Watch Active 2. The Amazfit Bip S is more in line with the Fitbit Charge, a dumb sidekick that tracks your sleep and activity levels and occasionally lets you know when someone is trying to reach you. But for some, that’s all they really need. And for $69 it’s as good of a deal on an entry-level smartwatch as you can get, especially if you’re on the fence about getting one in the first place.
After this review, I’m probably going to retire the Bip S for a smarter alternative. But I’m definitely going to miss that enduring battery life. And I agree with CNET’s Rick Broida, who said he might even consider going back to it when he travels to save losing yet another cable to the hotel room power outlet. But we’ll see about that once “traveling” becomes a thing again.