Amazfit Verge is a better $160 watch than I expected

455c0b4f09242a9 - Amazfit Verge is a better $160 watch than I expected
Amazfit Verge
Sarah Tew/CNET

Premium budget. I’m not sure how I feel about that term, but it feels appropriate here. When I heard Amazfit was making a new watch called the Verge, I was definitely curious.

Amazfit, a brand of the Chinese wearables company Huami, already has several fitness trackers and watches that are popular on Amazon. One is the Amazfit Bip, which looks and feels like the second coming of the Pebble watch and does a great job of offering the basics at a cheaper price than the Apple Watch Series 3 or the Fitbit Versa.

The Verge, on the other hand, goes for a loftier goal: it wants to be a serious high-quality fitness smartwatch. I’ve worn the Verge for a few days so far, and it’s actually won me over. In some ways, this is the watch I still hope someone makes for Google’s Wear OS: one with a clean design and great battery life (which, despite Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 3100 promises, I haven’t seen hold true on Wear 3100 launch watches.)

Amazfit Verge

Amazfit Verge and its watch faces, up close

21 Photos

The design is plastic and a bit chunky, but seen head-on it’s got a simple, small-bezel round design that looks good. The display looks great, too. The colors pop, watch faces are full of useful data, and the fully round readout seems as nice as any Wear OS or Samsung Gear watch.

Amazfit Verge has all the extras you’d want: heart rate, GPS, onboard music storage (if you sideload from a PC), Bluetooth for headphones, and on Android phones it can be used as a speakerphone for calls (but it doesn’t work on iOS). It lacks a few things though, notably swim-ready waterproofing. IP68 is good enough for rainshowers or drops in a pool, but nothing more. And it lacks any voice-assistant function, like what Google, Samsung and the Apple Watch wearables have.

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It’s thick, though (but feels good to wear).

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Amazfit Verge’s battery life is rated at five days, and so far after three days, I’m down to about 34 percent, which makes sense. The watch handles its sleep/wake functions in a funny way, kind of like the Amazfit Bip does: raise your wrist, and you can see the colorful watch faces (full of useful fitness data). But to activate the watch face and actually be able to swipe around to apps, you need to press the Verge’s lone side button. A “tap to wake” option in settings didn’t work as well as I’d hoped. I ended up hard-poking the screen several times before it seemed to wake up.

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The pull-down menu shows weather and some controls.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The downside here is that you’re pairing with Amazfit’s app (Amazfit Watch), which feels bare-bones and oddly translated at times. It’s nowhere near as welcoming or helpful as Fitbit or Garmin. The Amazfit Watch app pairs to Strava, but that’s about it.

So far, my Bluetooth pairing with an iPhone XS has dropped a few times, too.

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Hello, notifications.

Sarah Tew/CNET

My favorite thing so far is the interface: it’s smooth and simple. Swiping down brings up quick-controls for airplane mode, screen brightness and similar items. Swiping up accesses notifications I’ve missed, and the Verge receives my notifications from everything just fine. Swiping left accesses up to two app-widgets, which feels like what the Samsung Gear watches offer. I wish more than two could be added at a time, but seeing a five-day weather forecast and daily fitness stats fast was super-helpful. After that, a grid of onboard apps can access activity/sports tracking, a timer and stopwatch, music playback, and a compass.

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Amazfit Verge (left) and Apple Watch S4 (right).

Sarah Tew/CNET

Instead of using Google’s Wear OS, the watch has its own custom OS. As a result, it lacks an app store or extra downloadable watch faces, which Wear OS, Fitbit, Garmin, Samsung Gear watches and the Apple Watch all offer in one form or another.

Amazfit Verge ends up feeling surprisingly functional as an everyday watch. Is it a great fitness tracker? I can’t tell yet, but I’d prefer a Fitbit, which costs nearly the same. Still, I’m really enjoying wearing it, and the design is a lot better than I expected.

This might not be the watch I’d choose over the Bip, but Amazfit’s progress as a wearable tech company is still worth keeping an eye on.

wc2bgkzjym0 - Amazfit Verge is a better $160 watch than I expected

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