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How do you test a smartwatch in a pandemic?

The Amazfit T-Rex Pro smartwatch   | Photo Credit: Amazfit

The Amazfit T-Rex Pro is meant for the bronzed and beautiful — people who have bodies with definition, who have gone beyond running, walking, swimming and cycling, though of course it measures all these too.

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Unfortunately, we are in the middle of pandemic, and rowing down the Ganga is not something any of us will be doing soon. So my first outing with the watch was to report from a 24x7 oxygen centre in Gurugram, one where people desperate for oxygen, their O2 levels plunging as low as 40, were showing up.

It was a reminder to check my own on the watch, to reassure myself that I am more than alive. There was no longer any need to read up about what SPO2 levels were.

The Amazfit’s polycarbonate body and silicone strap feels bulky with its 22-millimetre width strap, but also like it was made for hard places (it can withstand -40°C and 70°C). Ironical. Did its creators imagine it would be tested in such emotionally stressful conditions?

Perhaps they did, because there’s a measure for stress. Mine is surprisingly well in control, in my 20s (a measurement upto 39 means I am in the safe zone). It will continue to stay steady for the next couple of weeks, despite all that will unfold across the country: the outpouring of anger at unnecessary deaths, the sense of helplessness, fear.

Amazfit T-Rex Pro specifications
  • Display: Always-On 1.3” colour AMOLED, 360x2360
  • Dimensions & Weight: 47.7 x 47.7 x 13.5mm, 59.4g
  • Positioning: GPS+GLONASS/ GPS+BeiDou/ GPS+Galileo,
  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth 5.0 BLE
  • Sensors: BioTracker2 PPG Bio-Tracking Optical Sensor, 3-axis acceleration sensor, 3-axis gyroscope sensor, geomagnetic sensor, ambient light sensor, barometric altimeter
  • Battery: 390 mAh lithium-ion polymer battery (typical value)
  • Operating system & Compatibility: RTOS, Android 5.0 or iOS 10.0 or above

The Amazfit’s face is covered with tempered glass that has an anti-fingerprint coating — it works well with surgical gloves. After stepping out, I come home and dunk it in water, washing off the intensity of being in a COVID dense zone. It has a 10 ATM level of water resistance, meaning you can wear it to swim with. I laugh at the irony of a choice of over a 100 workouts, including open water swimming, outdoor rowing, and surfing.

Put to the real test

A couple of days later, I am on a flight to Chennai — my father has COVID. At this time any other year, the airport would have been crowded with families taking their summer vacation. I wonder how different testing the phone would have been if things were ‘normal’. I could have put it into ‘hiking’ mode or something called ‘shuttlecock kicking’ (my inner non-adventure being laughs; ‘in your dreams’ it seems to say).

I will not need the compass or the barometer on the watch anytime soon either, not that I have ever needed these. I’m not the sort to wander off alone into the desert or climb a mountain. Maybe the pandemic will change our personalities and make me do those things, grabbing all that life has to offer, all the adventures it throws up.

What I do need is long battery life: it claims 9 to 18 days (from heavy to light usage), and I get something in between. The magnetic charging base is a bonus in terms of ease of use — it takes an hour and a half to charge.

Over the next few days in Chennai, I measure my life in steps and heartbeats, frequently checking my heart rate (usually between 60 and 70 beats per minute) and how much I have moved (I can realistically only do about 5,000 with the city in lockdown). It’s 10 steps to my father’s room, where I place his food on a tepoy; 30 from one end of the house to another; 90 if I walk along the terrace wall.

I have not earned too many PAI (personal activity intelligence), a score that rises with activities that elevate heart rate — the aim is to improve cardiorespiratory fitness levels. The maximum you can achieve in a week is 100, and Zepp, the app on the phone linked with the Amazfit T-Rex Pro, tells me I “can start as low as 30”. Mine is lower — so low I cannot say it aloud. My training load too is low. How do I tell Zepp I have asthma and don’t want to push too hard?

The Amazfit T-Rex Pro smartwatch

The Amazfit T-Rex Pro smartwatch   | Photo Credit: Amazfit

My indoor workout mode comes on in the morning; the indoor walking mode helps too, as does my mother’s indoor cycling. I fleetingly wonder whether I should buy a rowing machine, more because I see how little I am actually doing by way of exercise, guilty that I am ‘wasting’ a good outdoorsy smartwatch. Or at least hula hooping — perhaps I can come out of the pandemic with that skill, and a fitness record of how I performed.

Sleep stats

Over the duration of the pandemic, there has been a strange tiredness that has crept in, with sleepless nights a reality. I look at my sleep stats on Zepp: While my duration has been low (6.5 hours), it tells me I have fallen asleep earlier than 36% of people, and have a longer sleep duration than 12% of people. It also reprimands me: “Try going to bed around 22:00. Staying up late isn’t good for your immune system and speeds up ageing…”

Naturally, like everyone who is even slightly vain, I am alarmed at this information, resolve to rest more, sleep early, though the device’s detailed log options don’t push me to input my thigh and calf circumference or visceral fat and bone mass.

What the device does for me peak pandemic, is to help me stay in touch with my body, to remind me to take care of myself. Mostly, it keeps me grounded — even if a part of that is because of its bulk — and that’s a lot from a device that costs ₹12,999.

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Printable version | Aug 1, 2021 10:57:25 AM |

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