Amazfit Band 7 review: where did all the budget trackers go?

The Amazfit Band 7 is $50.

I could end my review there — my take on Ernest Hemingway’s six-word story, “Baby Shoes.” But I’m not Hemingway. All I’m saying is everything that’s good, bad, and in-between about the Band 7 can be traced back to its absurdly cheap price.

Usually, when I buy something this cheap, I’m expecting a lot of tradeoffs. Something that makes me go, “A-ha! That’s why it’s $50.” (Technically, it’s actually $49.99, but let’s not quibble over a penny.) And yes, I had a few of those moments while wearing the Amazfit Band 7 these past few weeks. But as with the $99.95 Fitbit Inspire 3, wearing the Band 7 felt like stepping through a portal to the early days of wearable tech — and it made me realize how rare fitness bands are nowadays.

It makes sense. The line between fitness bands and smartwatches grows ever blurrier, to the point I often wondered during testing if anyone would miss fitness bands if they were to completely disappear. The jury is still out on that one, but it led me to another question. Where did all the budget fitness trackers go?

It’s not a looker, but it’ll do

No one is going to compliment you for wearing the Amazfit Band 7. I doubt anyone would even give it a second glance unless it’s to ask, “Oh, is that a Fitbit?”

I mean, look at this thing. It doesn’t help that black is the most boring color for a gadget, but stylish or distinctive, this is not. There are other color options, like pink and beige, but they’re only interesting in that they’re not black. This is the tracker for utilitarians who purse their lips at premium design flourishes, thinking, “Why would I need any of that?”

The default strap is a bit stiff, but nothing feels like it’s about to fall apart. (It does tend to collect dead skin and dust, however.) The whole thing feels a bit plasticky, but that’s perfectly fine because that’s what you sign up for with a $50 tracker. The Band 7 is light at 28g and is comfortable enough to wear to sleep. It’s “heavier” than the Inspire 3’s 17.7g, but I doubt most people would be able to tell the difference.

The colorful watchface adds a pop of color and personality to the otherwise bland Amazfit Band 7.

It is, however, almost impossible to put on one-handed. I had to brace it against a table to stop it from sliding around my wrist when trying to secure the strap. I suspect this is a problem exclusive to the Tiny Wrist Club, but even when I did get it on, it was still too loose. I had to wear it further up my arm for a good fit as I was on the smallest hole already.

The good news is it’s easy to swap out straps. Like the Garmin Vivosmart 5, there aren’t any pins. You just pop the tracker out. The bad news is you need to get a strap specifically for the Band 7, which mostly limits your options to other colors. I did, however, find this snazzy third-party strap on Amazon for about $13.

The nicest thing about the Band 7 is its 1.47-inch OLED display. The bezels are smaller than its predecessor, and everything on the display looks bright and colorful. Notifications are easy to read, and I had an easy time swiping through menus. Surprisingly, the new watchfaces are cute as well. I was particularly fond of the one you see in these review photos. It added a pop of color and fun that’s missing from the overall design. For the data nerds, there are other watchfaces that’ll display the stats you crave — and those aren’t too bad looking, either.

I’m not a fan of this enclosure. It’s very hard to secure one handed, especially if you have smaller wrists.

And OLED doesn’t totally destroy battery life. The Band 7 lasted a little over two weeks on a single charge, with the always-on display enabled about a third of that time. Be careful, though, as it comes with a proprietary charger. Don’t be like me and forget where you stashed it because you didn’t need it for so long. I swear I stuck it in my work bag, but I can only conclude it fell through an interdimensional portal to the great e-waste graveyard in the sky. At least replacing the charger isn’t quite as bad as with other devices. An extra charger costs $9.99 from Amazfit itself, but you can find a better deal so long as you’re okay rolling the dice with third-party accessory makers on Amazon.

What $50 gets you in 2023

If you’ve never heard of Amazfit, you only really need to know one thing about its wearables. They pack a metric crapton of features at prices that probably leave Fitbit executives gnashing their teeth.

For instance, here’s a list of the Band 7’s main features:

  • Amazon Alexa
  • Continuous heart rate, blood oxygen, and stress tracking
  • Sleep tracking with sleep stages, sleep scores, and breathing quality
  • Training metrics like VO2 Max, recovery time, training load, and training effect
  • Virtual Pacing for runs
  • Abnormal heart rate, SpO2, and stress alerts
  • PAI, which is similar to Fitbit’s Active Zone Minutes or Garmin’s Intensity Minutes
  • 120 sports profiles, which somehow include parkour, folk dancing, and chess. Yes, chess.
  • Menstrual cycle tracking
  • Push notifications, quick replies (Android), find my phone, camera remotes, alarms, timers, and even a Pomodoro timer
  • Media controls

Stress tracking is still relatively new and not something I expected to see on a tracker this cheap.

Generally, I don’t expect to see these types of training metrics on something under $180 these days unless it’s on sale. I really don’t expect to see abnormal heart rate notifications for under $100. And you get a good level of accuracy for all the basic health metrics. (I can’t say much about the abnormal heart rate and SpO2 alerts other than that I never triggered them.) These features, combined with the OLED display and longer battery life? Pfft. Paying $50 for this feature set feels like you’re getting away with something.

There are a few things that will remind you that this is a budget device, however. The Zepp app — Amazfit and Zepp share a parent company and companion app — isn’t as polished as what you’ll find on bigger-name brands. There are quirks. For instance, it would be great if Zepp could figure out how to make switching to Imperial units stick 100 percent of the time. It’s also overly generous to call Zepp’s 10 mini apps an ecosystem, as its site claims. Occasionally, you have to reconnect with GPS satellites before an outdoor workout, or your data will be wonky. (You’ll be notified before starting, however.) But the app is uncluttered, simple to navigate, and gets the job done.

The features that are missing feel more like sensible compromises than glaring omissions. There are no NFC payments, for example, and it uses your phone’s GPS instead of having its own built-in sensors. And while you can talk to Alexa, there’s a tiny lag, and there’s no speaker, so you have to read whatever its responses are. (Not a terrible loss, however, if you find Alexa annoying.)

Navigating through menus is a breeze, and text is easy to read.

In my day-to-day, I wouldn’t say the Band 7 went above and beyond my expectations. That said, it did exactly what I wanted it to. It told me when to take a break from sitting, notified me when texts came through, and occasionally urged me to chill out. It’s such a lightweight device I often forgot I was even wearing it. As with the GTR 4, I made most use of the Pomodoro timer while puttering around doing chores. It’s not a glamorous device, but it’s not meant to be. Sometimes, it’s a relief to use a device that doesn’t aspire to be more than it is.

Casual activity, not training

The Band 7 is best for people who want to move more. I most enjoyed using it for activities like walking, yoga, and bodyweight strength training. Those are the kinds of exercises where I’ll maybe glance at my wrist to check duration or heart rate. That’s perfect since the display isn’t going to show you as much as a larger smartwatch would, anyway. As for accuracy, metrics like step count and heart rate were right on par with other devices I tested during the same period, including the Apple Watch Ultra and Garmin Forerunner 265S.

I’m also a big fan of Amazfit’s PAI system. It gives you an indicator of whether you’re getting enough activity by measuring how many PAI points you get over the course of a week. You earn PAI by raising your heart rate. I go more in-depth into PAI in my Amazfit GTR 4 review, but the gist is it’s a more holistic and beginner-friendly approach to getting your recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.

You won’t see a ton of data on any one given screen, but that’s alright for casual activities.

I’m very much a fan of Amazfit’s PAI system of evaluating your weekly activity. It’s great for beginners or anyone with busy schedules.

That said, I’d never use this to prep for my next race. If I’m going to torture myself with 12-16 weeks of training, I want more precise GPS data than a tethered device can give me. On a 3.03-mile run recorded by my iPhone, it only logged 2.45 miles, while the Apple Watch Ultra logged 3.01 miles. That, in turn, threw off metrics for pace and VO2 Max. (Though some of this was due to a delay in the Band 7 acquiring a GPS signal.) That’s okay for short, casual runs (e.g., 1-4 miles), but it’s not what I wanted during the home stretch of my half-marathon training. Between the Forerunner 265S and the Band 7, you can guess which one I left on my nightstand on race day.

Where have all the fitness bands gone?

These days, there are more smartwatches than fitness bands. That wasn’t always the case. It used to be that I could list several sub-$200 fitness bands off the top of my head. There was the Misfit Ray and Shine, the Fitbit Alta HR (and most Fitbits before the Blaze), the Jawbone UP, and Samsung Gear Fit 2. But aside from the Amazfit Band 7, I can only name a handful of other fitness bands that have come out in the past year — the nearly identical $49.99 Xiaomi Mi Band 7, the $99.95 Fitbit Inspire 3, and the $149.99 Garmin Vivosmart 5.

And now that I think of it, it’s odd.

We have budget phones, laptops, speakers, TVs, and headphones — and I suspect my peers in these categories could probably name more than three from reputable brands that came out in the last year. There are several reasons I can think as to why that is, but the fact is companies are prioritizing premium flagship smartwatches at the expense of affordable, simple fitness trackers. I’m sure profit margins have something to do with it, but it’s a shame.

Affordable fitness bands like this aren’t as common as they used to be.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

But perhaps I’m wrong. Maybe this is people voting with their wallets. Maybe fitness bands have had their time, and the vast majority of people don’t find the savings or extra battery life worth it. I somehow doubt that. And even if it were true, that doesn’t negate the need for good budget options. Whatever you think of wearable tech, fitness trackers can be a motivational tool to improve your health or stay connected without staring at your phone 24/7. You shouldn’t need to pay $200 or more for that if all you want are the very basics.

So, yes, this is a $50 fitness band. And a good one at that. I wish there were more like it.

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