Amazfit GTS hands-on review: Not just an Apple imitator
“The Amazfit GTS looks like an Apple Watch; but don’t dismiss it, as this is about as slick and feature packed as a clone can get”
- A good-looking, well-made smartwatch
- Beautiful AMOLED screen
- Wide choice of colors and straps
- Onboard GPS
- Software not tested yet
- Looks like an Apple Watch clone
It’s very easy to dismiss the Amazfit GTS as a cheap Apple Watch knockoff. It’s undeniably a clone, due to the distinctive shape of the body; but to ignore it entirely because of this would be a mistake. I visited the Amazfit booth at IFA 2019 with some trepidation. I had never used one of its watches, but my head filled with thoughts of many early (and very bad) smartwatches that traded on interest alone. Things have moved on. Smartwatches can be great. The world doesn’t need to regress back to budget, novelty models that offer a bad experience.
What would the Amazfit GTS deliver?
The GTS is a pleasant surprise. The metal body is really slim — slimmer than the Apple Watch Series 4 — and the metal itself has been given a wonderful tactile texture. A company representative told me this was to make the watch feel even more premium, and it works. However, it’s the screen that really grabs your attention. The 348 x 442 pixel AMOLED panel, just 1.65-inches, is a beauty. Inky blacks and a well-designed operating system mean the display appears bezel-less, and the mature, bright icons are pin sharp due to the 340 pixel-per-inch density.
It doesn’t have WearOS onboard (and obviously not WatchOS either), but software of Amazfit’s own design. It works in the expected manner: Swipes to the left and right, and up and down to locate menu options and to find the shortcut menu. It was smooth and fluid, and definitely far from the poor experiences once associated with other cheap smartwatches. The model I used was not linked to a smartphone, so I can’t comment on how this affects performance, but operation was natural and easy when using the GTS on my wrist.
I think the Apple Watch’s design has become iconic, and while some still disagree about its style, it is distinctive and attractive, especially when paired with the right strap. Amazfit has not been subtle about its design choices, but has opted for a single crown on the right of the body to avoid potential lawsuits. It still works, and is, if anything, closer to H. Moser’s fabulous Swiss Alp mechanical watches, which also take inspiration from Apple’s design. The straps measure 20mm, and are a little small on bigger wrists. Amazfit has several colors, with the black-on-black model looking stealthily cool and the red silicone strap — vermillion orange according to Amazfit, but I assure you it’s more red — standing out as the best alternative.
The watch’s feature list is strong too. There’s a heart rate sensor on the back, sleep tracking, and GPS inside so you don’t need your phone on a run. It’s also water-resistant to 50 meters. The watch face can be altered to make it your own, and widgets can be added or taken away. It’s not cluttered or messy. It links to Amazfit’s app, which is available for Android and iOS using Bluetooth 5.0. The 220mAh battery should last for 10 days before needing a recharge.
How much for the Amazfit GTS? Just 130 euros, or about $144 U.S., and it’ll be out in October through a selection of online channels including Amazon in the U.S. Yes, it’s an Apple Watch clone. Yes, people will take a glance and think you’re wearing an Apple Watch. No, it’s not the disastrous operational nightmare I feared it would be, and no, the materials and construction are not cheap and nasty either. It’s rather good-looking, and my first impression is that it’s well-made and sturdy too.
Question marks remain though. I haven’t used it connected to a phone, so I don’t know how simple it is to set up, how it performs with notifications, how solid the connection is, or how effective the fitness tracking is. These are the reasons we buy a smartwatch, and bad experiences mean we don’t use the watch once we have it, so they need to be really good no matter how low the price.
I’ll be giving the Amazfit GTS a longer review soon. In the meantime, based on looks and first impressions alone, the Amazfit GTS looks to be a genuine competitor to watches like the FitBit Versa and Versa 2, and hybrids like the Withings Steel HR Sport.