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Xiaomi’s Shape-Shifting Watch S3 Is a Solid Budget Smartwatch

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The Xiaomi Watch S3 is an affordable smartwatch with a highly customizable look that includes swappable bezels. It can track your health, fitness, and sleep, bring phone notifications to your wrist, and last several days between charges. The downside? It runs Xiaomi’s software, which feels a bit basic, and you can forget about third-party apps.

Closing in on a month with the Xiaomi Watch S3, I’m impressed by its tracking capabilities, considering the relatively low price, and the changeable bezels are a neat idea. But I’m also fine with saying goodbye to it. The Watch S3 has too many limitations for me, but it’s important to remember that this device is less than half the price of the most affordable option in our best smartwatches guide.

Before we dig in, it’s worth noting that there is a global version of the Xiaomi Watch S3, but it’s not sold in the US, there’s no official US support, and certain features (like NFC for payments) vary by region.

Smartwatch Chameleon

Photograph: Simon Hill

For folks who like to match their watch with their outfit, the Xiaomi Watch S3 has a unique trick up its sleeve in the shape of interchangeable bezels. Changing the strap on a watch can be impactful, but being able to change both the strap and bezel almost makes it look like a completely different device.

The Watch S3 has quite a chunky 47-mm aluminum case with angled lugs and two buttons on the right. A stainless steel bezel sits on top of the screen, and you can rotate it to remove and replace it with a different bezel. It’s easy once you get the hang, and there’s a wee marker on the inside to help you align. The bezels slot into place securely, and I never worried about them coming loose.

Attach a new bezel and the Watch S3 suggests a matching watch face. It’s a neat trick. There are more than 100 watch faces in every conceivable style, and you can even create your own. Changing the strap is also straightforward, so you can quickly change your look. My favorite of the straps and bezels Xiaomi sent was the classy green and black combo. You get one black or silver bezel with a matching fluororubber strap with the Watch S3, and alternatives must be purchased separately.

The 1.43-inch AMOLED screen has a layer of protective Corning glass. The display is roomy and crisp, but the relatively low peak brightness of 600 nits (a luminance measurement) meant it was sometimes hard to read in direct sunlight. The Watch S3 is also 5ATM rated for water resistance, meaning you can swim with it.

Photograph: Simon Hill

Streamlined for Stamina

The Xiaomi Watch S3 focuses on the basics with call and notification alerts from your phone; health, fitness, and sleep tracking; and a handful of utilities like a voice recorder, camera shutter control, and compass. It runs HyperOS, so there are no third-party apps like you will find on a Google Wear OS smartwatch.

Navigating around the Watch S3 is slick and lag-free. HyperOS is not the most attractive software and lacks a cohesive design, with a mix of dull and garish icons. But it mostly worked well, aside from the odd missed notification from my phone. It connects via Bluetooth 5.2, and you can use it with any phone running Android 8 or iOS 12 or later. I tested with the Xiaomi 14 Ultra.



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