When I started seeing these gorgeous, thin smartwatches by a brand called Zepp showing up in other reviewer friends’ hands, I was intrigued. Who was Zepp? Are they any good? What are they going to cost? Turns out, I have an answer to all of those after 3 weeks with one of the Zepp E watches. I have the Square variant, whilst others have the circular unit. They both have the same name, weirdly, but this is not something that should be overlooked.
- Stunning build
- Gorgeous screen
- Performant software
- Standard Watch straps
- Decent battery life
- Limited feature set
- Very spotty sleep tracking
- Questionable battery life.
- 1.65” AMOLED
- 188mAh battery
- ~7 days battery
- Bluetooth 5.0
- 20mm watch straps
Regardless of which Zepp E you get, the square version like I have, or the circular option my friends have, you are treated to an absolutely gorgeous hardware design with impeccable craftsmanship. The square version I have does share some design traits with the Apple Watch and Oppo Watch, except, it is a single button, instead of two on the Oppo Watch. Also, there is no crown like on the Apple Watch.
The chassis is stainless steel, but the mirror-like coating on it makes is feel like glass, and it is stunning just how nice it feels on the wrist. The 44mm chassis is small enough for most wrists, including mine, and the 9mm thickness ensures it slips under a shirt cuff easily. The front is an uninterrupted screen with much smaller bezels than I was expecting, obviously being an AMOLED display most of the watch faces are primarily black in order to save as much battery as possible, but even the ones that are full screen go much farther to the edges than I was expecting, practically all the way up to when the cover glass curves.
On the left-hand side is nothing, seriously no microphone hole, no speaker grille, nothing. The right-hand side has the power button/home button/app launcher button, also covered in that gorgeous mirrored dark chrome that makes it look like glass. The top and bottom just have the absolutely tiny lugs for the 20mm watch straps, again you can use any 20mm watch strap you want. Then we make our way to the rear. It is a seamless piece until you get to the sensors in the middle this is a circular cut out which protrudes to make better contact with your skin for heart rate tracking and bloody oxygen tracking, this appears to be a different material as it conducts heat differently, potentially glass?
The watch straps that my Zepp E came with is listed as a Fluoroelastomer, or basically a silicone type rubber. This is just one of them, the other colours come with leather straps, which seems a lot more fitting of this watch, in fact, I put an old leather strap I had on it and it instantly felt more expensive than it already did.
I’m genuinely quite shocked at how nice this watch feels because, if you didn’t know, Zepp’s previous name was Amazfit, know for the Bip, GTR, T-Rex style watches, and whilst they were functional and often times well built, none of them, not even the fancy GTS they released almost 2 years ago, feels as premium as this does, and even after this time I’m gobsmacked.
The software that the Zepp E runs is completely custom, it doesn’t appear to have a name that I can find, and that’s fine, but it is not Android, and definitely not WearOS for those that care. The Operating system Zepp is using (from here on out I’m calling zOS) is incredibly lightweight, each and every tap seems to be registered without an issue and swipes too with only the occasional one needing to be redone. This small lightweight operating system allows Zepp to put in a small battery at just under 190mAh and still get roughly a week with it, although be warned if you enabled the Always-on Display you will drop that to about 4 days.
Navigation is consistent with most other watch operating systems, you start at your watch face, this is “home”. Swiping from the top down gets you to the quick settings panel, with Torch mode, brightness adjustment, DND mode settings, battery saver mode, a screen lock mode, a find my phone button, a theatre mode, and a button that keeps the watch awake for 20 minutes for… some reason.
Swiping up from the bottom of the watch face brings you to the notification centre for the watch, these are stacked in bubble-like cards, very nice and cute without feeling childlike. You cannot answer notifications or do anything but read them, thankfully it does at least get rid of the notification on your phone once you look at it on the watch.
As usual, left and right is a carousel, so swiping enough times gets you to the watch face again. Swiping from right to left shows you the first pane which is your activity rings, popularised by Apple and pilfered by everyone else, these rings are a pretty good way to incentivise you to workout more, especially if you use a watch face that shows you your rings every time to check the time. If you swipe up from the activities pane you see how many metres you’ve walked and how many calories you’ve burnt today and there is a button that allows you to change your goals. The pane after the activity rings is the heart rate one which instantly starts reading your pulse in a tachometer style with a virtual needle. If you swipe up from the bottom here, it tells you the percentage of the day your heart was in certain loads of stress, for example, “warm-up” “fat-burning” “aerobic” and others.
The next pane is simply a music manager, play/pause, forward and back, a track and a name of what you’re currently listening to, this also works for YouTube videos and Netflix. The pane after this is the weather tab, this is really quite feature-packed as well, with not only the current weather where you are, but highs and lows that day, the current humidity, and even the UV index where you currently are, which would have been very useful that day I got second-degree sunburn! Swiping up from the bottom here shows you the wind force over the course of the day, and swiping up again shows you a full week forecast with high and low temperature, estimated conditions and even a nice little icon for them. The last pane before reaching the watch face again is the PAI one, and PAI stands for Personal Activity Intelligence, and it is basically a metric that combines all your other scores and grades you, a higher PAI meant you were more active that day and you can drill down where and how, it’s pretty interesting, and once again you can swipe up to have more info such as your heart rate throughout the day, and how often you fell into each of the PAI states.
Back at the watch face, pressing the side button opens the application panel. Most of these “Apps” show the exact same information as to their counterparts in the carousel, so if I mentioned it in the carousel, I’m not mentioning it again. Some of the different things you can do inside here check your blood oxygen saturation with the Sp02 app, as always it is important to note that these are for fitness and for a general understanding of your health and should not be used in place of properly calibrated medical equipment. The alarm section lets you, well-set alarms for yourself and the watch will vibrate in the morning to wake you up instead of blurting out noises and waking your partner up too. Inside the “widget” section is a sub-folder for the compass, the timer, the countdown clock and “find mobile” which rings your phone if you are still within Bluetooth range. The “workout” section has plenty of workouts preset, including outdoor running, walking, outdoor cycling, treadmill use, indoor cycling, pool swimming, elliptical workouts, climbing, trail running, skiing, and finally “free training”.
Lastly is the settings app, which lets you change your watch face, the time it takes ford your watch to turn off, in increments of 5 seconds from 5-30 seconds, I left mine on 5 seconds as It seemed good for how I used the watch. Next is the Always-On display settings, and this is cool because you can have it set to the AOD setting from your current watch face, all of them have one, you can set it to a standard analogue watch or a standard digital watch, you can also set the AOD to only come on when the watch is uncovered, or for a certain time, for example, 8 am to 10 pm – very flexible and very cool.
You can change what long pressing the side button does, I actually have it set to the countdown timer for the bloom time of my coffee in the morning instead of having to get my phone out for it. Next, you can adjust what shows up in the carousel, I usually only have my activity rings and the weather for an uncluttered experience, lastly is the system panel that tells you about the watch, what firmware you’re running, it actually shows that the emojis used were supplied by Google code, which is nice, you can see all the regulatory information as well as reboot the watch, shut it down and factory reset it.
Something I feel I need to note is the Sleep tracking here. the Zepp E does support sleep tracking and you can see the results inside the app, but the results always seemed weird to me, so after a few days, when the Huawei Watch GT2 Pro turned up, I wore both, and the results where pretty bad for Zepp, the Huawei sleep tracking algorithm has been one that has been certified by universities and the Huawei TruSleep tech has been the most accurate sleep tracker of any non-medical grade device so I feel pretty comfortable with its results, so when the GT2 Pro said I slept 7 hours and the Zepp says I slept 9 hours and most of it was deep sleep, I know which one I’m going to trust. other reviewers have also noticed this and according to Zepp, a fix is on the way, which is good because I really like the rest of the software suite.
It’s a simple OS for sure, but Zepp has made the most of it, and unlike other, they haven’t wasted this high-resolution screen, all the text looks crisp, the icons are perfectly scaled and this is something that a lot of companies should take note of because a lot of them will put a higher resolution screen on a watch and not make any changes to the user interface.
For connecting the watch to your phone, you use the Zepp App in the Google Play Store. The App can also be found on the App Store on iOS, although I still think that without a shadow of a doubt, the best smartwatch for iOS is the Apple Watch. The Zepp app has three tabs, the homepage, which shows your heart rate graph, PAI, sleep score, as well as any data that you have generated such as the change in muscle mass etc. In the top left of the homepage is a plus button which is for pairing a new smart device to the app. The top right also has a button this is for accessing all the data you have generated, such as your step count over time, or your sleep score. The next tab is strangely called “Enjoy”, which as I can understand appears to be a general settings section, for setting alarms, your schedule, setting your workout targets etc. The last tab is the Profile tab which is where you get to the devices section such as the current battery status of the watch and when the last time it was synched was. You can also change watch faces and you can tell the app which wrist you wear the watch on, whether you want health monitoring to be occasional or 24/7, and what notifications you get from what apps.
The Battery section is one that was always going to partially disappoint me, coming from the Huawei Watch GT2 (and reviewing the GT2 Pro at the same time as this, so look forward to that review) anything less than the 2 weeks that watch consistently gets, even after a year of use was going to be disappointing. The 7-day claim Zepp give is generous, I was getting 6 at a push, and once I enabled Always-on display from 8 am to 10 pm that tanked down to just about 4 days.
If you don’t need or want the Always-On display, I would personally turn it off, lift to wake is really quite fast on this. Is this a good battery life? I’m not so sure, whilst 188mAh is a small battery, and this is a large, bright, high-resolution screen, this is still an incredibly low power chip and a custom operating system that Zepp should be able to get more out of.
Thankfully, charging is nice and easy. A small magnetic puck that clips on vertically to the rear of the watch, in about 2 hours the watch will be fully charged but it slows down greatly after about 60% which is why that charge time seems low given how small the watch is.
Now we come to the conclusion, do I like it and should you buy it. I think it’s pretty clear for the second one, I adore the Zepp E, it is not as functional as some others, but as someone whose smartwatch use boils down to “is this notification important” the limitations of the Zepp E are actually a benefit to me. The problem, however, is cost. At a whopping £209 the Zepp E costs a lot for any smartwatch, especially when you can buy the Apple Watch Series 3 for £199, or the brand new Apple Watch SE for £269. Or the Huawei Watch GT2 for £150, maybe you like Garmin for fitness features, the Venu SQ is just £179.
The high price is made easier to swallow by the lovely design and stunning build quality, but I’m genuinely not sure I can recommend such a limited smartwatch to people unless I know they are wanting to use a smartwatch like me, as a notification screener rather than a communications tool or another place for apps.