If you’re one of those people in the market for a budget smartwatch with Bluetooth calling then your options are razor thin. Not because the feature doesn’t exist in this segment, but because it usually doesn’t work as intended.
I’m here to tell you that there’s a new default option in town. At ₹2,999, and with Bluetooth calling, the Redmi Watch Active 3 from Xiaomi may just be the new king in this segment.
I’ve been using the smartwatch for over two weeks now, and despite some shortcomings (most of which are hallmarks of budget smartwatches), I’ve come to really like the Redmi Watch 3 Active. Compared to brands like Amazfit, Noise and boAt, Xiaomi is a relative nobody when it comes to smartwatches.
The Redmi Watch 3 Active comes with useful features like a heart-rate monitor, stress monitor, Sp02, step tracking, sleep tracking, theatre mode and more. Above all though, Xiaomi has been pushing the Bluetooth calling feature. The question we all must ask is this: is it worth the hype? Let’s find out.
The Redmi Watch 3 Active shares many similarities with the Apple Watch in terms of design. It’s got a rectangular frame (made out of plastic) and rounded corners. The build quality is decent and the watch itself is very lightweight. There’s a glossy finish on the rims, which elevates its premium looks.
The watch comes in two colours - Charcoal Black or Platinum Grey - and I received the former for review. There’s also an olive-green strap that can be purchased for just ₹499. It looks quite elegant and is something that I prefer over the black colour. To help fit everyone’s preferred style, the Redmi Watch 3 Active comes with 200 different watch faces (more on that later).
The silicone strap itself is quite comfortable. In case you quickly need to change the band then there is a quick-release pin. I’ve been wearing the watch all the time. Whether it is to bed, or during my walks, I’ve never felt it weighing down on me. Something that can’t be said for some other smartwatches in this category.
The design may be simple and nice, but ultimately, it is boring and bland. It isn’t very inspiring. Gets the job done, as they say, but doesn’t push the boundaries. Maybe slimmer bezels would be a good place to start for the design team.
Another thing that Xiaomi has gotten right with the Redmi Watch 3 Active is its display. For a smartwatch to be good, it must be legible in the outdoor sunlight. If you’re wearing the smartwatch all the time, then you’re probably outside at least some part of each day. Thankfully, the display on the Redmi Watch 3 Active is bright enough. It also has a very good touch response. I didn’t care much for the singular button on the right-hand side, but otherwise, it was good.
It isn’t the best display on a budget smartwatch, but with a large and expansive size, it gets the job done. The display is 1.83 inches in size and comes with 200+ watch faces. The watch faces are genuinely fun, but there is one major downside. You can only install five watch faces at a time, three of which are default and can’t be removed. That’s very limiting.
There’s no always-on mode, but the auto-lock can be extended for up to five minutes.
The Redmi Watch 3 Active can be connected to both an Android device and an iPhone. That’s one ace up its sleeve. Setting up the watch, playing around with it, installing and removing watch faces -- it was all a breeze.
I’m not going to dive deep into the hardware and software performance of the Redmi Watch 3 Active. It’s a budget smartwatch after all, and hampered by two main things, which I’ll get to in a minute.
Let me just say this. The Redmi Watch 3 Active runs and functions without any lags, and the software is pretty easy to understand. Swipe gestures work well, and I never noticed any unintentional touches. You can look at call logs, see your calendar, see the weather and do a few more things. The Redmi Watch 3 Active can even act as a remote shutter for your smartphone.
Notifications. I’ve harped on this before, in another budget smartwatch reviews that I did not too long ago. It’s the bane of all smartwatches in this category. Notifications are a complete and utter mess. A lot of the time, you keep receiving the same notification over and over again. Sometimes it just says “checking for WhatsApp messages” even when that notification isn’t on the smartphone.
The other downside is with respect to tracking. All budget smartwatches are off on their tracking metrics by a good 10-20%. In the case of step tracking, sometimes it’s three to four steps ahead. So, it’s tricking you into thinking you’ve walked more than you actually have. There’s stress level tracking, which again, is off, though I don’t have any metrics to prove this. Sleep tracker again is just average. It offers a good reference point but isn’t accurate enough to make any proper inferences.
Bluetooth calling works as advertising. But who really uses it? I tried it for a call that was longer than two minutes and got tired of holding my hand up to my ear. It’s good for a quick 15-second conversation, but that’s about it. Would you really want to have a conversation, with your hand close to your ear, for a long duration? Just think about that.
I was walking amidst cars honking and I could hear the person on the other side of the line without any issues. Yes, I had to hold the smartwatch up to my ear, but that is the only downside.
Building your entire smartwatch around Bluetooth calling is quite a challenge. Are people, especially in this segment, going crazy for the Bluetooth calling feature? I think not. I’ve used it on my Galaxy Watch 5 Pro and it is miles better, both in clarity and loudness. You can type out numbers on the display and even set your favourite contacts. Xiaomi has tried to make things easier, but they should have focused more on other areas, in my opinion.
The good part about budget smartwatches is their battery life. The Redmi Watch 3 Active has a great backup per charge. I didn’t get to the 12-day backup that is claimed by Xiaomi but 10 days is still fantastic. The downside is slow charging: it takes over 2 hours to fully charge the smartwatch, but I’ll take it.
The Redmi Watch 3 Active uses a magnetic charger with a USB-A plug, which is another downside. I would have liked a Type-C charger instead.
My advice to Xiaomi: don’t hype up the Bluetooth calling feature. Frankly, it’s not worth it. It’s a feature that is good to have, and when it works as intended, gives you a heads-up over your rivals. But that’s about it.
Improving the trackers in the smartwatch is the first thing that should be done. Xiaomi makes the Mi Band, which offers much better step, and sleep tracking, than this smartwatch.
All in all, the Redmi Watch 3 Active is a good budget smartwatch and probably the best in the segment. At ₹3,000, it is a fantastic deal and a good foray into the world of smartwatches for most.
Sahil Bhalla is a Delhi-based journalist. He tweets at @IMSahilBhalla