Amazfit Bip – Two Weeks Later

About two weeks ago I posted about a Chinese Wearable, I’m thoroughly anti buying products that are not directly sold through US retailers, however I figured for the price, and the overall high customer satisfaction score that it had off of Amazon (which I guess technically classifies as a US retailer), I’d give it a shot. This is the second time I’ve done this with products there over the last year or so – the first being a pair of Bluetooth Headphones branded “Popchose,” I’d never heard of them, and honestly still have no clue who they are, however they are to date the best Bluetooth Headphones that I’ve owned to date, miles ahead of the LG Tone set, and about on par to the Plantronics, however the battery is much better… but I digress. This was the catalyst for me deciding that maybe these were okay, and that I should give them a shot. Besides, it has a decent return/exchange policy, and again, the reviews for both customer service and the product itself were very positive, so why not? I was in the market for a new smartwatch, my previous “Pebble” smartwatch (RIP Pebble) was some odd company I had never heard of, and they blew up, so I wound up ordering it.

This product arrived on a Tuesday, and it was Saturday morning before I ever put it on the charger because I wanted to test the battery life a little bit. It was at 81% when I removed it from the box, and after it performed all of the “day one” updates. I installed a custom watch face that has seconds ticking, so that tends to drain the always on display a bit more than the traditional minutes only display. In addition, it continually updates my steps/calories burned every minute, and measures my heart rate every 10 minutes, and I also configured it to maintain a GPS connection as well. Basically, I wanted to set this up to have as much wear and tear on the battery as possible to deem exactly how long I could get it to last without a charge. I took it off when I went to bed that night, leaving it off of the charger, and it remained at 81% when I checked the next morning. I work in an environment where I am constantly moving, and always on my feet (sure, there are some exceptions to this, but for the most part I’m always moving), which means that it will constantly be documenting my motion, and steps. For the first day, it was a really busy day, therefore I was moving an above average amount, it kept right up – to kind of calibrate for my own piece of mind, and understanding before I left for the day – I picked a fixed point, and walked to that place. It was 96 steps by my count, I started at the top of a minute, it took me under a minute to get to my stopping point, so when I stopped, I lifted up the watch, waited for the minute to be up and for it to update my steps, and when it did, there were 96 steps added to my count for the day. I was impressed, I mean I shouldn’t have been, it’s just the device doing it’s job, but the odd company I had never heard of was more accurately counting my movement than my Samsung Gear Fit, or Apple Watch Series 1 ever did.

There are quite a few basic functions built into it as well such as workout tracking, which I found to be simply okay. If you’re running on a treadmill, it does a pretty good job at tracking your heart rate, and calories burned, however you have to use it for a little bit for it to calibrate to you. There is a bit of learning required by the device. For example, when you finish your workout recording, say you’re getting off the treadmill and hitting end, it will give you a summary of what it’s recorded. When you hit next, it will allow you to calibrate the distance ran. My workout only recorded .85 miles on the treadmill, when in fact I went 1.01 miles. It was more accurate the second time that I used it, but still not quite synced with the treadmill from that perspective. Moving on to weight equipment, usually on other devices I can simply select an “other workout” option, where it’ll time me, record heart rate, gauge physical stress from that, and really I use it more just to track time doing specific workouts – this however does not have that option, which I see as a missed opportunity for more people in the fitness community. With that being said, I primarily will run, and bike, and this device has both of those in there, so I’m pretty well set for that.

The sleep tracking is an interesting feature, both my prior Apple Watch, and Samsung Gear Fit had these features, however the battery life was not nearly long enough to actually use there, and this is something that this does a great job at tracking. I’m thoroughly impressed at its ability to pinpoint exactly when I fall asleep, and when I get up, for the latter end it’s usually within about 3-5 minutes of when I actually get up, and as far as I can guess it’s quite accurate as to the time I fall asleep to, I’m not staring at a clock when I’m crashing at night. It shows you how you compare to other users, as it anonymizes your data, and compares to other users. According to the app, I usually go to sleep about 2 hours earlier than the average user, however I’m up earlier than most… and I also sleep better than more than 75% of users! There is something mildly creepy about sharing all of this data, but at the same time, it is nice to be able to see these metrics on my own screens, to change my habits if I’m not sleeping well, and see some data driven results as to how my changes are actually effecting my sleep from a more clinical perspective, and less of a “sure, that helped a little” perspective.

All in all, I think that this device is great for someone that wants a basic activity tracker with a few more advanced features, and does not want to pay an arm and a leg for one of the more main stream devices – Xiaomi is a large company overseas, and this is not meant to detract from that, however in the US they’re a no name, and I likely wouldn’t be prone to buying one of their devices normally… besides, we know about all of the conspiracy theories with Huawei and data collection, is Xiaomi another one that may be collecting data too, and we just don’t know it yet? Probably not, but a lot of people will err on the side of caution. With all of that being said, I do recommend this for someone as their first smartwatch, if you’re not sure you’re going to use the features, or remember to charge it, or what have you. If you have one presently, and are looking for an upgrade, I would say that depends on what you have now, and what you’re looking for. There is an actual watch UI, which is more than the Fitbit Charge or Alta has, but the workout tracking features just aren’t as advanced, so if you want more of a watch, and less of a tracker, this is for you. I would say that this is just a stepping stone to something like a Samsung Gear or Apple Watch if you’re looking for a device that does more, and that if you’re looking to really step into the world of wearables, look into those before you look too much further into these, because you’re going to be disappointed if you think you’re getting something like those, and get one of these.

iOS, Android, does it really matter?

We’re 11 years into the modern smartphone era that was launched, in my opinion, by Apple’s release of the first iPhone in 2007, and the marketplace has changed drastically in that time. 2007 was a land of flip phones, and tactile keyboards. Blackberry was the prominent all in one device, having released their first device in 1999. While Blackberry is still gasping for air, sort of in the mix with the modern smartphone market, Apple’s release of the first iPhone was a game changer for the entire mobile industry, and it really has never been the same since. Have you actually tried to look for a phone with a real keyboard lately? Blackberry is still in that market, but that’s about it.

I got my first iOS device, which was consequently my first smartphone in 2009, it was an iPhone 3g. That 3.5″ display was HUGE! To paraphrase Steve Jobs, there was never any reason to go to a larger display. Then came the 4, yep, 3.5″ display as well! Then… THEN we had the 5, now that was it, a 4″ display? An additional row of apps on the bottom? Wow! Where was the huge display our whole lives? Then came the 6, 7, and 8, all having 5″ displays (4.7″ if you want to get real technical). We could get into the rise of the Phablets, and the Plus models, and now the 10 (or X) with it’s bezel-less 5.8″ display, which allows it to truly be the same size as the iPhone 8.

Last year however, I switched over to Android for a little bit. I picked up a Moto Z Force, and for the first year, it was a fantastic phone. Who doesn’t love the idea of the modular phone? Wireless Charging/Extended batteries on any phone, High Quality audio from a speaker that is directly attached to the phone itself, not bluetooth, and no clunky wires, a full optical zoom camera, or even a 70″ projector screen, those are just some of the additional features. It is a pretty great platform that allows you to customize your device to do whatever it is that you want. Sure, I had played with Android some before it, and it really is a great OS, but I have one real complaint with it, and that is the updates are all carrier and manufacturer controlled. Motorola and Samsung being the worst offenders with updates, and AT&T always being right behind Samsung. Motorola and Samsung both produce hardware that should be able to match the specs required for at least two additional generations of OS, but when they don’t let you update, that’s a problem. Not to mention at the point where android O was released, my battery was already starting to falter.

I went back to Apple after a year and a half because I knew the quality. Every iPhone I had, if it survived me at least, lasted a minimum of 2 years – my 6 lasting 3 years and change holds the record. The OS Support is top notch, lasting a minimum of 3 OS releases, which coincidentally will likely be 3 phone releases as well. In addition, I’m not a developer. And as much as I love technology, and will pull everything apart, make repairs, build it into my everyday life, I don’t need to be able to mess with system BIOS. Most importantly, if I pick up someone else’s phone to show them something, I know exactly what everything does, how to work it, what the settings menu should show, how to reset it if something goes wrong – I don’t need to learn what the device does, the surface of the device looks the same on every single device. In addition though, every other device I use is Apple, and the majority of the people that I know have iPhone’s, and iMessage is much more reliable than SMS – multiple text messages to people that didn’t go through for 3 days or so.

But, I digress, in looking at the two OS’ objectively however, does it really matter which one you choose? I will be the first one to tell you that I think both Android, and iOS are fantastic OS’, and they have both earned their place in being the predominant things that we run our everyday lives off of – I am on my phone for work a lot, between calls, texts, and emails, and then when I’m out of work, I’m on it again a lot for personal use – more calls, texts, and emails, but also social media, GPS, photos, games, etc. They both have definite perks, and they both have a purpose for sure. What are the differences? If you’re dropping $800 to $1200 on a phone, you want what is going to best fit your needs. Below is my opinion of which OS fits what type of person best.

iOS: Perfect for the Student, or average person who needs their phone for work. It is the perfect Day-to-Day device that you want to just work. You can take it out of the box, and with after punching in your info, you’re ready to roll. Apple’s built in applications for Calendar, Mail, and Web Browsing are perfectly fine, in fact a lot of companies – if they’re not requiring you to download another mail client that is, support the native Apple client. With quite a lot of the native applications, you can’t remove them, so if you decide that you want to go with a 3rd party developer app over the Apple client, then you’re going to have to make yourself a little useless folder to file those applications in and forget about.

Android: Perfect for someone who wants to fiddle a little bit. While the same built in applications mentioned for iOS are built in to android as well, they are no where near as refined… that is depending on what phone you get. Android allows users more options for configuration when it comes to applications, allowing you to delete pretty much everything that comes on it, and replace it with an alternative Google app, or any 3rd party. Motorola, for example, builds mostly Google apps into their release of the OS. Your browser is Chrome, mail is Gmail, maps is Google Maps. Samsung uses Google Maps, however everything else is a proprietary Samsung app when you pull it out of the box. To use the native Google applications you have to go out and install them. They thrive on the customization aspect, while locking everything down.

In summary, I’ll tell you the same thing I have told everyone at this point – if you want something that’ll be good to go right out of the box, something that will have a few years of support, and will always be to the OS manufacturer’s specs, go with the iPhone. If you want to fiddle a little bit, want to play with basic app development, or even just want a blank slate to build it out how you want it, I’d suggest an Android device. If you do side with the Android device, I would suggest the Pixel outright. It is made by Google, runs virtually native Android, and will likely have the longest product life of any of the devices because of it.