How to open (teardown) the Xiaomi Amazfit Pace. This watch is a bag of hurt

The Xiaomi Amazfit Pace and its successor, the Amazfit Stratos are both prototypes. Yes, I said it. Those two watches are experiments where customers paid money for. The Pace was the first Xiaomi sports watch. But what really get was a bag of hurt. The watch has so many problems. That I decided to buy a Garmin. Garmin is maybe expensive. But you will get a product that works. I really think that Amazfit used the experience they gained with the first stratos and the pace to built the latest GTR generation.

Before the Amazfit you had Pebble.

For years I used a Pebble Time watch. It was the perfect watch. It has an always-on screen. Long battery life and a simple user interface.  When Fitbit announced that they bought the Intellectual property from Pebble and that all Pebble’s products were discontinued I felt sad. There was not a good alternative in the market.  Which watch could show me simply my phone notifications, has an always-on screen, and can stay active for days without a charge?  Oke. It was not a big drama. Fitbit kept the Pebble infrastructure running for one and a half year and now Rebble is hosting the Pebble servers. But you could see that the infrastructure was crumbling. One day the weather services stopped working. The other day apps were disappearing from the Pebble shop.

The ship was sinking. I wanted a worthy successor. At the Pebble forums, people started to mention the Amazfit Pace. I want an always-on screen. I can see the time without making a weird movement. I can see the time when the watch is just laying on the table. Also, I love to use the sleep recording function. If I have a bad day then I want to know if I had a bad night’s sleep. So the watch should also offer a long battery life. I was not in the mood for a watch that I need to charge every night.

Let’s try the Amazfit Pace

In 2017 I ordered from China for 107 euros an Amazfit Pace. I had read a ton of reviews and I have seen many YouTube videos. This watch will be my daily driver.

  • A battery that can last for four days.
  • Always-on-screen that’s even visible in super bright sunlight.
  • GPS Heart rate monitor and I can also use a Bluetooth heart rate sensor if I want to have a better readout of my heart rate.
  • Works under android and IOS devices.
  • It can handle rain and showers. But it’s not waterproof enough for a swim.
  • Has 4GB of memory to hold music and audiobooks.
  • a silicon band. I love silicon bands. They feel invisible.

But slowly I started to hate this watch.

  • Every time I want to do a work-out the GPS says it A-GPS database is expired. Getting a GPS fix takes sometimes 15 minutes because of this.
  • The Pace has synchronization problems with the smartphone. It doesn’t want to synchronize. It doesn’t want to connect. Really frustrating if the watch keeps telling it doesn’t have an actual A-GPS database but it can’t update it.
  • If you are doing a work-out the way you are using the phone doesn’t make sense. In general. The whole usage of the phone isn’t fun. I mostly use is for checking the time and the notifications.
  • You have to do a factory reset if you want to repair it with the Amazfit app.
  • Notifications stopped working almost every day. I wear a smartwatch so I don’t need to check the phone often.
  • The charging contacts on the back of the watch are eaten away by electrolytes.
  • One day the watch will just stop charging.

The watch doesn’t want to charge

I have seen this problem many times in the Amazfit Facebook groups. The watch just stops charging. First I thought it was the charging contacts on the back. They are really dissolved through electrolytes. This means that water, salt, and flowing electrons are dissolving metal. If you charge the Pace after you have done a workout you will have sweat on the contacts. Sweat is water and salt. I never had this problem with my Pebble or with the Garmin watch I own now. I blame Xiaomi that they have used the wrong metals for the charging contacts.

But this wasn’t the case. Even with two metal pins with 5 volt direct connected to the contact didn’t make the watch to charge. Something in the watch is broken. Let’s take a look.

Let’s open the watch

To open this watch we need four things.

  • A heat gun (or a microwave heat pillow. Like the iFixit iOpener)
  • a sharp knife
  • an opening tool
  • a cloth

With the heat gun, you will warm the watch uniform. Don’t make it too hot. But warm it gently. With the sharp knife, you will push the two parts van each other. Do this slowly and even. Do use too much force because its easy to break the knife. I use the cloth to hold the watch because it was to warm to hold it in my bare hands.

When there is enough space between the two parts of the watch you can switch to the opening tool. This tool is stronger than the knife. Slowly you will work your way around till the moment the two parts will get apart.

You don’t need to be afraid if there is a flat cable between the two enclosure parts. You can now see the inside of the watch. I want to focus on the four contact points you can see in the picture below.

I want to know if I can charge the watch if I connect 5 volts direct on the point. I stripped an old USB cable and connected it to a USB volt/current meter. The red wire on the 5-volt contact point and the black wire on the GND contact point. The good news is that the watch starts charging again. So the problem has to be in the 4 contact springs in the enclosure.

With some 90 percent alcohol I cleaned the contacts and the springs. After this, I could charge the watch again with a USB cable.

To close the watch I decided not to use glue. I only have glue that will make a permanent connection. I don’t know if I need to open the watch in the future. So I decided to use hot glue. I apply a thin layer 360 degrees. Then I put the two parts of the enclosure together and with the hot air gun, I made the watch warm. With my finger, I pushed gentle the two parts together. The watch is close again.

I have to decided what I want to do with this watch. Sell it so someone else can use it. Throw it in a box and use it later. I even have the plan to open it again and print a new back for it so I can use it as a bike computer.

This is just a simple watch, not an investment. Don’t buy a smart watch with the idea that you want to use it for years. In three to six years the battery will be completely worn out. Maybe the software support in the app will be gone sooner. It’s not an Omega or a Rolex. Those are great watches you invest in and give them to your grandchildren. Those mechanical watches are made 100 years in the same way. Some of them can even work for hundreds of years. But a smartwatch is never produced to be a decade-long pall. It’s just a piece of junk.

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