TECHNOLOGY

Would Better Smartwatch Specs Draw Consumers Away from the Apple Watch?

The AmazFit Bip is an Apple Watch look-a-like rumored to have a battery life of 30 days.

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BY Kayla Matthews - 10 Feb 2018

Would Better Smartwatch Specs Draw Consumers Away from the Apple Watch?

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Although adoption levels in the smartwatch market are not as widespread among the target audience as some people had hoped, Apple is undeniably one of the most prominent players.

Analysts often point to the brand's marketplace dominance as one of the critical factors that put the once wildly successful Pebble smartwatch brand out of business after a Fitbit buyout.

However, a just-released smartwatch that looks similar to the Apple Watch and offers numerous enticing features just might be the thing that makes the Apple realize it's time to keep a close eye on a formidable competitor. Known as the Huami AmazFit Bip, it weighs only 1.1 ounces and offers a battery life of up to 30 days per charge with typical usage or 15 days more on a minimal notifications setting.

The Bip is not the only smartwatch sold by the company. It also offers the Pace, but that model only has five-day battery life.

An Integrated Heart Rate Sensor and Other Fitness-Specific Features

Smartwatch manufacturers often emphasize the benefits of using these devices to improve your health. Scientific studies have so far failed to find a link between better health and using those gadgets to monitor step count totals or heart rate variations.

However, a recent small study found consumer smartwatches could also detect heart rhythm abnormalities. The investigation used the Apple Watch and discovered a 97 percent accuracy rate for the detection of atrial fibrillation. That finding is significant because that kind of heart arrhythmia can be severe but often does not have apparent symptoms.

Since the AmazFit Bip has a sensor that detects VO2 max and whether a person is in the optimal heart rate zone, it could theoretically offer similar monitoring capabilities. There's also a three-axis accelerometer that gathers data related to a person's physical activities and amount of sleep. GPS route tracking and an elevation detector are advantageous to people who also like to explore.

The watch's Mi Fit companion app also goes into significantly greater depth about the sports people play or other things they do to stay fit. For example, it's possible to get metrics about stride length, speed, the number of calories burned and more.

A Durable Choice

Many people may resist buying the Apple Watch because even the cheapest model costs $329. Individuals who are accident-prone or put their gadgets through demanding conditions could easily justify their lifestyles are not suitable for such a substantial investment.

The AmazFit Bip, on the other hand, costs over three times less than the Apple Watch at $99, and it comes with an assortment of features that could prolong its lifespan even during heavy usage. For example, the Corning Gorilla Glass face has a scratch-resistant coating.

Additionally, the watch features an IP68 rating, which means it's dust-resistant and can tolerate accidental submersion in water deeper than one meter.

Could This Watch Make More People Interested?

The attractive combination of a feature-rich watch available at a lower price could make the AmazFit Bip heavily responsible for making more people want to use smartwatches if indeed that trend occurs.

Near the end of 2017, eMarketer released a study projecting that 50.1 million adults will use smartwatches this year -- that's less than 20 percent of the population.

Researchers pointed out that many smartwatches cost as much as smartphones. So, consumers find it difficult to justify the cost. That's especially true since most wearables and handheld gadgets perform similar functions.

The AmazFit Bip reduces the cost-related barrier that may stop many people from buying smartphones.

Indeed, Apple and other well-known smartwatch manufacturers have name recognition on their side. Many people might not be willing to buy a smartwatch from a brand they don't know.

Statistics show, however, that Huami -- the parent company behind the AmazFit brand and Xiomi's wearable technology partner -- already has substantial global momentum.

According to 2017 Q1 statistics from IDC, Xiomi earned the top spot in the worldwide wearables market ahead of Apple and Fitbit, commanding a 14.7 percent share. By the third quarter of last year, the percentage slipped to 13.7, but Xiomi still held the No. 1 ranking.

Analysts expect the Apple Watch to still have substantial traction in 2018, projecting the Series 3 edition could sell as many as 25 million units this year. If it comes to pass, that number represents a 20 percent year-over-year increase.

Huami was only established in 2014, but the company has distributed more than 33 million devices since then. If that kind of success continues, Apple may soon realize Huami and the AmazFit Bip watches are strong competitors.

However, due to the product's extremely recent release, it's too early to say if it'll make a substantial impact on smartwatch adoption levels.

Even so, it'll be fascinating to see if the watch makes people realize they can afford smartwatches after all -- and that they should look for cheaper options beyond what Apple provides.