Since my Motorola OneVision died recently, I needed a new phone anyway. While researching options, I decided I wanted to take some baby steps into the world of wearables and get a new gadget: the Amazfit GTS 3 smartwatch. I’ve taken up running this year, and it became cumbersome always to use the phone for performance and health tracking. Sometimes you just want to take a quick peek at your current metrics.
Therefore it was a nice coincidence that there is currently a new generation of smartwatches, which means that the predecessors will become even more competitive from a price perspective. A “true” smartwatch using WearOS or even an AppleWatch would have exceeded my budget, and the rather mediocre battery runtime was also a factor against these. I don’t need a phone replacement on my wrist, I certainly donÄt want to take calls. Just health tracking, maybe music controls, and, of course, a timepiece.
The options quickly narrowed down to one of the Huawei Watch Fit models (either the special edition or the second generation), or a model by Amazfit, a brand that belongs to the Huami/Redmi conglomerate.
Huawei or Amazfit?
Although the Huawei gadgets seem to have better tracking capabilities, I didn’t like letting this company into my ecosystem. Also, the fact that I’d have to sideload the companion app (with all the usual disadvantages) was a big no-no. Apparently, you also need a Huawei phone to unlock the full potential of the watch, but I had already decided to get another Motorola.
So the choice was clear – Amazfit. The key features I deemed necessary were
- Reasonable battery runtime
- Legible display, even in direct sunlight
- An altimeter, since I also cycle a lot
- Decent GPS tracking abilities, but I didn’t mind if the GPS would be 5 meters off occasionally
- A pleasing design that doesn’t hurt the eyes
- Maximum price around 150 EUR
I didn’t care whether it was possible to listen to music on the watch, as long as it had some options to control the music on my phone. I also don’t need any phone or payment capabilities. A decent app store would be nice, but as long as the basic functionality was there and there was a choice of watch faces, I didn’t mind too much.
The plot thickens…
Easier said than done. I didn’t like the Bip series because TBH it’s just ugly and the display is crap (no idea why they didn’t stick to the great transflective display of the first generation). The GTS 4 mini looked nice and I liked the slightly smaller size, but it missed an altimeter and some other features. The “large” GTS 4 was outside my budget. I preferred the AppleWatch design over a round watch, too, so in the end, I got the GTS 3.
In comparison to the new GTS 4, it sports an older version of the proprietary ZeppOS operating system. I couldn’t quite figure out what the advantages of the new version 2.0 might be, though. It also lacks ANT+ connectivity for e.g. an external heartbeat monitor. This is a bit annoying, but this didn’t seem to justify the extra 90 EUR.
I ordered the watch from Amazon where I also got a 20 EUR discount, and after a few days (complicated because Amazon apparently uses one-time passwords for delivery) I could check it out.
The gadget certainly looks more expensive than it was. A beautiful, slightly pinkish aluminum body, and a very good display, which I could so far read perfectly under any circumstances, despite the shiny surface. Comfortably light to wear, with a decent silicone wristband. The “crown” serves both as a button and as a scroll wheel in the menus. The box didn’t include a adapter but since I have more than enough already that didn’t bother me. The charging cable attaches magnetically. The watch does not support wireless charging, which however is absolutely uncommon in this price range. Charging took a while, but I the meantime I could already install the companion app on my phone.
Pairing the phone
Pairing the phone was a matter of seconds. I had to scan a QR code which redirected me to the Play Store where I could download the companion app. The watch is paired via Bluetooth but doesn’t use the OS’s pairing procedure. Instead, you have to use the companion app. So far I haven’t had any connectivity issues.
Some translations are a bit strange, but everything was understandable. The “manual” in the box was a joke, but that’s also quite common. Amazfit provides a more comprehensive manual online.
The user interface
Being a smartwatch newbie it took me some time to get used to the UI. Luckily the touchscreen is very precise and responsive. During setup the system will warn you if your options might be detrimental to battery standby – nice! I did disable “always on” and a lot of background services. I don’t really need an automatic workout detection; so far I still know what my workout is. The advertised 12-day standby is probably way too optimistic. So far I could reach a week with moderate use (sleep tracking, workout every second day, etc.)
Apps, apps, apps…
The companion app is well structured, albeit riddled with ads for a “Zepp-Aura” subscription, which seems to be some wellness/meditation stuff. I don’t need this and finally found a way to at least disable the tab.
Most of the watch settings can also be done via the phone, which is often more convenient. The watch OS is a proprietary system, which seems to be optimized for the limited hardware resources. Just waiting until someone manages to install Linux on the gadget 😉 There is a small app store, which provides a lot of watch faces and a bunch of more or less useful apps. I installed a metronome app and a navigation helper which is supposed to display the phone’s navigational instructions on the watch, which worked rather well in my limited trials.
Nice but standard: You can use the phone and/or the watch to find the other device. Perfect for my unorganized life!
I immediately took the gadget for a short bike ride, only the e-bike this time because I had to go shopping. This first test worked well, I will certainly come up with a more exhaustive review once I have exercised the gadget more. My requirements for the watch were rather moderate, and so far it seems they are met well, and the device seems to be capable of bridging the gap between a pure fitness tracker and a proper smartwatch.