Amazfit: Designing a stylish wearable

We speak to Amazfit's head designer about making activity tracking fashionable
Amazfit: Designing a stylish wearable

There are plenty of wearables that smarten up your wrist by combining tracking with eye catching designs. But some aren't smart enough or pretty enough. The Amazfit from Huami wants to change that by being both.

The Equator and Moon Beam wearables certainly have the looks down. The Amazfit offerings are a far cry from the likes of younger siblings the Xiaomi Mi Band 2 and Mi Band Pulse. However the Amazfit has much of the same tech – both software and hardware – inside the round, mint shaped bodies, from many of the same minds behind the Mi Bands.

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Huami's head of US marketing and sales Frederik Hermann, along with industrial designer Pengtao Yu, gave us an insight into what inspired the new Amazfit wearables and where the company is heading next.

Who is Huami?

Under the Xiaomi flag, Huami has made a name for itself quietly by providing software engineering and hardware designs for the Mi Bands that have seen quite a lot of popularity in China, and worldwide. In fact, since establishing a partnership with Xiaomi in 2014, 24 million Mi Bands have been sold.

It seems like the company is trying to capture that same wave with Amazfit, a wearable it's been planning on launching right from the start. Hermann says, "The goal was to always launch products under our own name and not just be a design and manufacturer partner to others. Amazfit is one of the first products that does exactly that."

Amazfit's eye-catching design

It's difficult to make a device everyone will want to wear. With all the various iterations, it seems Apple, Samsung, Fitbit and company are getting closer to finding out what exactly is needed to achieve the perfect balance between fashion and functionality.

Amazfit is one of those immediately striking wearables thanks to its odd yet refreshingly original look. Influenced by traditional Chinese jade pendants, Yu says the team modernised the design for the fashion conscious who want to monitor their daily activities with a discreet device.

"We knew we were designing a fitness product and we found our inspiration from traditional Chinese pendants that also symbolise healthy lives in Chinese culture," Yu told us. "We also wanted the jade feel with our kind of material so we chose ceramic."

The ceramic body also hides the tech well, which Yu says is the whole point – that you can't see it's chock-full of tracking hardware. But it's all definitely there, crammed into the little donut shape and waiting to measure your sleep and steps.

"The whole module is made out of ceramic – two pieces of ceramic. The gap is very small. A lot of people can't even see the seam and think it's one piece. It doesn't feel like any other consumer electronics. It looks like a piece of stone.

"We didn't want it to look like consumer electronics. We wanted to be different. We wanted to make a kind of fashion accessory."

Ceramic sounds like you'd be wearing the same material vases are made out of, but the module apparently will remain durable and difficult to break. Yu notes that it sounds fragile and is similar to how a mobile phone is fragile, though wearing an Amazfit is an advantage: "Ceramic is a very hard material. It's almost impossible to scratch it. It will also be on the wrist so you're not going to drop it often like a cell phone."

Aside from the material, the shape is the next most noticeable aspect of the Equator and Moonbeam tracker. It doesn't seem possible to fit sensors and a battery inside the device but the team figured out a way – though it was difficult.

"It was very challenging. We had to customise many of the components, for example, the battery. It is not a regular rectangle shaped battery. We also had to choose the smallest possible components to fit everything in there."

Fitness for the masses

It's clear that Huami wants to give users a fashionable wearable, all the while providing an accurate and reliable way to track activity. To do that Yu says the algorithm for the Amazfit is based on Mi band technology, which has helped the company hone in on how Huami plans on delivering you helpful nudges throughout the day.

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"Our algorithm is based on Mi Band," Yu explained. "The Mi Band has shipped millions of units so the data has helped us refine the Amazfit algorithm."

So why can't someone just buy a Mi Band? Well, if you haven't exactly been blown away by the design of the Xiaomi tracker, Amazfit wants to fill that void. It's a similar concept as the Misfit offerings – simple or fashionable looks, reliable tracking, affordable price. But Hermann says it's best to avoid the term fitness tracker and focus more on activity tracker and sleep tracker when thinking about Amazfit.

"I think the main thing is that when you go to the competitor's websites, you often see already very fit people who are quantifying their workouts and the things they do and that's totally fine. But there's still a majority of people who have not worn or considered buying an activity tracker.

"The reason for this is there's not enough persuasive use cases for them to do so. I believe with Amazfit and other products we will launch in the future, we will be able to target a much broader audience.

"Included with our products, we're able to provide a few tips, hints and nudges to make small changes in life. It's all about the small changes. We're not trying to get you to run a marathon. But we will reward you for the small things you can do, and provide you with ideas of what you can fit into your busy schedule."

What's next

With everything being developed in-house, including the app, Huami still needs some time to work on the Amazfit line. Still, it sounds like the company is gearing up for more releases, at least in terms of bands for the wearable.

There are 10 different accessories right now, and they will start selling five of them right away in the US. Hermann says Amazfit wants to make sure people are interested first and will then roll out the rest of the designs.

"As we have some already developed, we might be able to introduce more very quickly. The sports band will have other colour options but haven't been put into mass production yet. If it becomes popular, however it could easily be introduced shortly after.

"The ceramic material is a lot harder than the materials for the band. Right now we don't have plans to introduce colours other than the black and white. But depending on a larger partnership or so, if we can move enough units, it could be an option as well."

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