Amazfit's $50 Arc wearable tracks heart rate but lacks key features

Amazfit says its new Arc activity tracker offers heart rate tracking and a 20-day battery for just $50. However, the wearable is missing some valuable features found in more expensive devices, and its price will increase by nearly 50 percent in December.

amazfit arc
Credit: Amazfit

Every day, I receive what seems like 6 million email pitches from PR representatives. Most have subject lines that don't exactly capture my imagination. But this one did: "Test $50 HR Monitor & Activity Tracker w/20 Day Battery?"

The email referred to Amazfit's Arc, a $50 activity-tracking wristband with an optical heart-rate (HR) sensor and 20-day battery life, according to its maker. That's an unusual combo, so I took the bait and tested the tracker. Based on my experiences, I recommend Arc for five reasons. However, it also comes with a number of compromises.

5 reasons to buy Amazfit Arc

1. Arc is inexpensive and tracks heart rate

Most activity trackers with an optical HR sensor cost $130 or more. For example, TomTom's $130 Touch Fitness Tracker tracks HR data. The least expensive Fitbit with HR tracking is Charge 2, and it starts at $150. Garmin's vivosmart HR also costs $150.

I know of only one other wristband tracker with an HR sensor that costs less than $100: Chinese hardware maker Xiaomi's Mi Band 2, which is available for $52 on Amazon.com.

Fifty dollars for a wearable with HR tracking is a great deal, and the HR data I got from Arc, when resting and while working out, was mostly in line with readings I received from Charge 2 and Apple Watch Series 2. (It's rare for different trackers to consistently provide the exact same HR readings.)

Arc's current $50 price is promotional, however, and will expire on Dec. 2. Then it will cost $70.

2. Amazfit Arc is attractive and comfortable

The 0.42-inch OLED screen is a bit big, but I like the device's overall look. The black band is easy to buckle, and at 20 grams, the tracker is comfortable to wear on a wrist.

3. Arc's mobile app is simple and intuitive

Activity tracker newbies should find Arc's Android and iOS apps to be easy to use. At the moment, the Android app offers richer data, including more information about your HR readings. An Amazfit spokesperson said the two apps will have the same features by year's end. 

amazfit arc app Amazfit

4. Amazefit Arc battery life is impressive

I haven't had Arc long enough to verify the 20-day battery claim, but after three days and nights of use, the battery was at 85 percent.

5. Vibrating alerts let you know when you receive phone calls

The device does not have caller ID, but a phone icon on the display and a haptic vibration quickly notify you of phone calls.   

5 Amazfit Arc compromises

1. You have to tap Arc's screen to see stats

On more expensive trackers, such Fitbit's Charge 2, you simply raise your wrist to see stats, including your current HR. You must tap the bottom half of Arc's touchscreen to see the time, steps taken, distance, heart rate and battery power. And you can't change the order in which the stats appear.

2. Arc doesn't track workouts

Arc records daily steps, distance traveled, active calories burned, HR, and time spent in deep and light sleep, but it does not track specific workouts.

3. Arc has a fixed band

You cannot swap Amazfit Arc's band, as you can with some other wearables, such as Fitbit Flex 2 ($100) or Alta ($130 and up).

4. There's no leaderboard

Competing with friends, family and coworkers on a social leaderboard can be extremely motivating. As of now, Amazfit offers no leaderboard, but the company says it plans to add social features in the future.

5. Arc screen is hard to read in bright light

Information on Arc's OLED screen is tough to read under sunny skies. In comparison, Charge 2's screen is a bit better, and Apple Watch Series 2's display is very easy to read in bright light.

Is Amazfit Arc worth $50? (Or $70?)

Arc might be a good fit for you if, a) you've never owned an activity tracker, b) would like to start tracking HR, daily activity and sleep, c) want a stylish wearable, d) don't want to spend much on a tracker, and finally, e) you and aren't a serious athlete trying to up your game. And the $50 price sure is nice.

If you don't fit any of these categories, you're probably better off paying a bit more for a wearable that will give you a richer set of activity data, track specific exercises, and provide some way to compete against a large user community.

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