When Zepp reached out to me, my initial response was ‘who?’. It turns out Zepp is the new name for Amazfit and here’s their first smartwatch under the new name…
Huami, the company behind both brands, may still use the Amazfit name for future products, but given the Amazfit app has been rebranded as Zepp, Amazfit users will now see the Zepp name when managing the device on their phone. A little confusing, perhaps?
I’m not entirely sure what the reasoning was for a rebrand, given it might lead many potential customers to see the company as an unknown, and therefore untrusted and Zepp having to start from scratch. That said, a lot of people may not have heard of Amazfit either.
Amazfit has built some excellent watches, including the Bip I bought some time ago as the spiritual successor to my obsolete Pebble watch.
My reasoning for loving the Pebble over fancier watches, and later the Amazfit Bip, was the e-paper screen that offered far superior battery life and an always on display.
Basically, I want a smartwatch that performs well as, well, a watch.
In addition, having simple notifications and maybe the weather forecast is fine for what I need. I have never felt the need for apps on my watch; I’ve got a big-screen smartphone in my pocket for that, thank you very much.
That’s not to say I haven’t tried to use navigation tools, or controlling my phone to play music (which you can do on this watch for what it’s worth), but it has never been something I instinctively want to do.
More recently, as battery life has improved, I turned to the Huawei Watch GT2 as my watch of choice, with the ability to retain an always-on display and yet not have to charge every single day as with most others (especially any WearOS watch).
The Huawei (and its Honor equivalent) watch has proven themselves as offering excellent battery life, along with a high-quality display, thanks to the excellent Kirin A1 chip the company built in-house.
Sure, it was not as good as the Bip (that could last for two weeks or more between charges, and even more than a month in the right circumstances), but it perfectly good to do away with the need for near daily charging.
While e-paper screens serve a purpose by giving exceptional battery life, they’ll never be as good as high-resolution AMOLED. I’ve come to accept a certain level of compromise in order to experience a better look and feel, and the chances are you have too.
And the Zepp E Circle display is nothing short of incredible. Although appearing to be domed but actually flat, the pebble (as in shape, not brand) watch design was love at first sight, although I might have preferred a slightly larger display size. The square version of this watch bumps the screen size up from 1.28 to 1.65-inches.
The packaging for the watch shows that Zepp is trying to ensure a premium look and feel, and it has delivered perfectly.
With the black glass hiding the display inside, you can barely see where the bezel ends and the screen starts (in fact, it only really seems to show at all in photos).
With some excellent watch face designs (and there are many, including a store to add more as time goes on), it feels as if the whole glass is display.
The colours are incredibly vivid and the watch has plenty of brightness for sunny days, although that obviously comes at the expense of battery life.
When I first got the watch, I was just hours from heading off on a long bank holiday weekend to Devon. Fully charged from the start, I left the charger behind.
Having opted to use the always-on display (AoD), and extended the standard display time from five seconds to ten (that’s the time the fully animated watch face remains on, as against the minimal AoD one), I realised by late Saturday that maybe I wasn’t going to make it all the way until my return.
Opting to scale back my rather ambitious settings, I was thankfully able to return without running out of power.
I have no doubt I’d have managed four or five days before requiring a spell on the magnetic charging cable had I kept it as configured out of the box.
That said, besides monitoring my heart rate, steps and sleep, I never actually activated a specific workout, which would have resulted in further battery drain.
Having used the watch more since, I’d advise you to charge the watch every three days, or four at a push, to avoid any close calls, enabling you to adjust the settings as and when you see fit.
If you want the screen on at all times (and you can restrict this to a chosen set of hours per day), charge every two days to be on the safe side – but likely have another day ‘in reserve’.
Considering the size of the watch, which is just 9mm thick, it’s quite an incredible achievement.
The functionality is pretty basic, and anyone who has used an Amazfit watch will probably recognise the app it works with. While the look of the app has changed a bit since my Bip using days, the core software appears to be mostly unchanged.
On the watch itself, the touch screen is fast and responsive and the 416×416 pixel resolution enables a nice, smooth, scrolling of the menus. A single button can turn on the display if you don’t want to keep anything on by default, including the ability to switch it on by raising your wrist.
The button also serves to open the menu,or perform a preset action with a long press.
A pull down from the top gets you to shortcuts for certain functions that include a basic torch mode (white display, max brightness), adjusting brightness and so on.
Dragging up brings you notifications. You choose what apps on your phone will send notifications, and you can also see incoming texts or see who is calling.
You cannot interact with notifications, but in most cases you don’t need to, or wouldn’t want to.
You can’t use the watch as a speakerphone as you can on many others, and there’s no Wi-Fi or LTE connectivity (nor would I think anyone would expect there to be). It’s purely connected via Bluetooth.
A notable improvement is the integrated watch face store, doing away with the need for a third-party app as I had to use before, followed by ‘hacking’ of one of the factory fitted faces to show the chosen face. Now you can install multiple watch faces and change between them on the watch itself.
I am particularly happy that if you opt for the always-on display, you don’t just get a standard analogue or digital watch design. Each watch face has an alternative design that kicks in, giving you a lot more customisation.
Flick your wrist and it all comes back on. It’s simple, but very neat and adds to the professionalism of the whole thing.
Accuracy caught snoozing?
What is perhaps a little less impressive was the sleep monitoring, and an issue I had with my Bip too.
The default settings are geared to saving battery life, and when it comes to sleep tracking it doesn’t even register any sleeping during the day (yet it claims to register naps?).
When working through the night and going to sleep at 9am for five or six hours, it failed to even detect me sleeping. At. All.
This was the same case with my Bip and I assume all other Amazfit watches. I’ve not even been able to find a way around this in the settings, as it’s not a part of the watch you seem to be able to adjust.
Perhaps this watch isn’t for shift workers then.
What is frustrating is the fact that when it does track your sleep, it does a very good job indeed – noting all the different sleep stages and even having a new feature (in beta) to monitor your sleep breathing quality.
Update: Zepp has informed me that they are going to be making some changes to the sleep tracking that will fix this problem. This is what they told me:
“Currently, sleeping between 12am-6am and 6 pm-11am, will be categorized as “sleep”. While sleeping between 11am-6pm will be categorized as “nap”. If a sleeping period overlaps the 12am-6am period, the entire sleeping period will be spotted and displayed. For example, a nap from 7pm-1am will be displayed, while a nap from 7pm-10pm won’t be able to be displayed.
“A software update that is on its way will solve this issue and will monitor any sleeping periods (longer than 20 minutes) at any point during the day.“
Secondly, the watch congratulated me on a 30 minute fat burning session even when for a lot of the time I wasn’t even walking at a brisk pace.
Hopefully that’s just a software issue that can be fixed in a successive update.
All things considered, if you aren’t massively worried about the watch not tracking your daytime sleeping, and simply want a fantastic looking watch then the Zepp E Circle comes highly recommended.
Yes, some will see it as fashion over functionality, but not everyone wants or needs a smartphone in a watch. I certainly don’t think I’m alone in thinking this (if you think otherwise, let me know in the comments).
At a price starting at £209 and rising to £249 depending on the colour/strap, it is more expensive than, say, the Realme watch that will do much the same for a quarter of the price, but that doesn’t have a fraction of the elegance on show here.
The screen on this watch will surely have other manufacturers seething because as far as I can see right now, nothing else comes close if you want something so stylish on your wrist.
- You can purchase the Zepp E Circle (and Square) Smart Watches from Amazon.
Zepp E Circle Smartwatch£209-£249
- Best screen on any smartwatch I've seen
- Battery lasting up to 3 days with always-on display
- Battery will last even longer if left on standard settings
- Smooth and simple user interface
- Screen diameter might be too small for some (if so, check the square version)
- Sleep tracking doesn't work if you sleep odd hours
- A couple of tracking issues that will hopefully be fixed soon