OnePlus Watch Review: Not quite settled yet
A few updates away from the finished article
The OnePlus Watch is the first smartwatch from OnePlus, and the second fitness wearable following the OnePlus Band earlier this year.
While the watch comes with a number of features, it does have a few teething troubles. Troubles which OnePlus is solving through the (usual) spate of updates
At Rs 14,999, it faces stiff competition from the likes of the Mi Watch Revolve and the Realme Watch S Pro.
Remember the original OnePlus smartphone? It was quite an amazing device in its own way, but initially, it was, to be brutally honest, a bit of a pain to use. It had bugs aplenty, brightness settings were all over the place and crashes were so frequent that if it had been a stock market, most investors would have perished of heart attacks. And yet, after a while and several updates, the phone seemed to come into its own and suddenly became a benchmark for the competition.
We are getting a similar vibe from the first smartwatch from the brand, the OnePlus Watch. On paper, it comes packed with potential, but it has a few issues to address.
Looks smart, but not very different
We had covered the design and specs of the OnePlus Watch in our first cut, and here’s a quick recap: while OnePlus does claim to have put in a lot of effort into the design of the watch, the OnePlus Watch follows a rather familiar format – a 1.39-inch AMOLED display with a 454 x 454 resolution in a stainless steel frame with two navigation buttons on the side (one of which has OnePlus branding on it, although it is difficult to read), and heart rate sensor behind it. Rather surprisingly, the display does not have an “always-on” option (considering it is available on its lower-priced competitors), although you do get a “raise to wake” one. Alternately, you can simply tap one of the navigation buttons to wake it up.
The watch comes with a Fluoroelastomer strap in the box, and while the watch is a little on the large size, the slightly textured dark-colored strap itself is comfortable. Does it stand out in a crowd? Well, yes, its size and bright display ensure that people will give it a second glance, but as we pointed out in our first impressions, it can be mistaken for a Mi Watch Revolve or a Realme Watch S Pro unless you look really closely at the navigation buttons. There is a Cobalt Limited Edition that is supposed to look very different indeed, but the regular (Classic) edition sticks to being smart but not spectacular. It is pretty tough though and comes with IP 68 and 5 ATM water and dust resistance, so you can literally go swimming with it. It also comes with GPS inbuilt, so you can get more accurate activity tracking even without having your phone near you.
Packs in lots of features
There is a large amount of functionality packed into that large-ish, slightly familiar-looking frame. OnePlus has opted to go along with the RTOS platform which we have seen on Realme and Xiaomi watches and which lays greater stress on fitness and health while optimizing battery life. So yes, you will not get the option of installing apps on this watch, and neither will apps on your phone have watch versions. But what you will get is the ability to track heart rate (with heart rate variability alerts), blood oxygen, a number of workouts (more than 110 promised), monitor stress levels, track sleep as well as count steps, monitor breathing, and even check stress levels.
On the “smart” side, it lets you receive phone calls on the watch itself (there is a microphone and a speaker on the watch) and also serves up notifications from social networking and messaging applications on your phone. You can also play music directly off it (there’s 2 GB of storage there) and if you have a OnePlus TV, it can actually act as a remote for it, and even turn off the TV when it detects you are asleep. In terms of compatibility, it works best with OnePlus but should work with pretty much most Android phones, without any major loss of functionality – you need to use the OnePlus Health app to pair it and control features. There is no iOS app at the time of writing, though. All of this topped with fourteen-day battery life with normal usage.
An inconsistent performer rescued by updates
There are two ways to look at the performance of the OnePlus Watch – before and after updates. The “before updates” version was rather inconsistent, and almost alarmingly so. And ironically, a lot of it was around health and fitness. For instance, it often got my heart rate 15-20 beats lower per minute than what it actually was, and insisted I was sleeping eight to ten hours, although I seldom go beyond five or six hours. Step counts also tended to fluctuate a little wildly, going a hundred to two hundred in either direction. Another odd thing that kept happening was the watch’s occasional insistence that it was time for me to move (“Let’s move”), which was very considerate of it, had it not asked me to do so while I was walking! Yes, all this did not happen ALL the time, but the very fact that it happened frequently enough (for a smartwatch) made one start wondering if all was well, not just with oneself, but with the watch.
All of which is the stuff of which smartwatch disasters are made. But hang on, this is a OnePlus. There is always an update to save the day. In this case, there were two.
And performance since then has improved remarkably. The heart rate and sleep tracking issues seem to have been resolved and the readings one is getting are closer to actual ones (in the case of sleep, I am just largely guessing as the figures are in line with other trackers – it is not as if I am actually awake, keeping track of them snoozes and snores). Footsteps and fitness tracking too seem to be more accurate. And well, I have not been asked to move when I already was moving, which is a move in the right direction, pun intended.
A good tracker (now) with a stunning display and battery life
With the “inconsistencies” ironed out, the OnePlus Watch is a decent performer. Setting up the phone through the OnePlus Health app is easy. And the app itself, although a little too minimalist for our liking (more graphs and data please), is a handy one and hands out a fair bit of information. Speaking of information, that large display is great for viewing not just notifications but also fitness and health data. So you can not only see the number of steps or the current heart rate number but also graphics and other information related to them – a huge edge that smartwatches have over fitness bands. And while on the subject of that display – it might look a lot like those on the Mi Revolve and Realme Watch S Pro, but OnePlus has put in some very distinct wallpapers to mark it out.
The touch experience on the display is very responsive and the navigation buttons do their job – with the upper one bringing up links to different health and fitness data and settings on the watch, and the lower one taking you to workouts. Settings can also be accessed by swiping down on the watch display, and swiping up from the base will show you the notifications. The watch also did a decent job of tracking fitness routines, although there are only fifteen workouts covered right now (including Badminton and Cricket which we could not really try out, in the circumstances), although more are expected to be added in the coming days.
And battery life actually is very good. It is close to a dozen days and comes down to almost half that if you turn on sleep blood oxygen monitoring. Incidentally, blood oxygen monitoring (so important in these pandemic times) is quite accurate and close to what we got on our Oximeter. A surprise is the absence of women’s cycle tracking, something that is becoming a staple feature even in budget fitness bands.
The smart side (STILL) needs work
The OnePlus Watch however gets a little iffy on the smart side. Phone call receiving functionality works fine. Some might find it convenient as it is not available in many of its competitors, but we still feel odd bringing the watch near our mouth to speak into it. The speaker on the watch itself is a good one, but some of the people we talked to also said our voices were echoing a little. Also, while it allows you to attend to phone calls without taking out your phone, you cannot make any calls from the phone.
The watch also comes with the option to respond to messages from the watch itself, using canned responses. On paper, that is a great idea. The implementation, however, is a little hit and miss. One cannot have a customized message – you can only choose from the four options there (which are right out of DND land, from a basic “ok” to a statement that one is driving and will get back to the sender later). But the oddest part is that these responses are only available to messages from WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook Messenger, Line, and Discord. That’s not a bad list, but you cannot respond with even a basic message to an urgent mail or even an SMS, which is a little odd.
Notifications in general work fine, but for some reason, notifications from some services got to the watch faster than others. For instance, Facebook Messenger notifications would take a while to show up on the match, whereas Twitter alerts were very quick. Rather oddly, some Gmail alerts came almost instantly, and some took their time. On the subject of notifications from the phone, these tend to be sent in duplicate, with two notifications about the same mail, message, tweet, and so on. Kind of odd.
The absence of an always-on-display also gets a little annoying as the “raise to wake” function tends to go missing about two times out of ten – it is not a high equation, but the very fact that you raise your wrist to see the time and get to see a dark display can be irritating. We are hearing that this might change with – sound the trumpets – future updates, but these are niggles that one does not expect.
Worth that price?
And it is those misses that really throw a spanner in the works of the OnePlus Watch. At Rs 14,999, it is priced well ahead of the likes of the Mi Watch Revolve and the Realme Watch S Pro, which offer a similar design and broadly similar functionality, and are priced below Rs 10,000 at the time of writing. Well, the call handling on the OnePlus Watch might come across as a clear benefit to some, but that apart, the device does not really have any major aces up its sleeve at this time. It is a good smartwatch with a bright display, (now) good health and fitness tracking, and superb battery life, but there is not much it does that its competition does not. Indeed, the absence of features like an always-on-display and women’s cycle tracking are potential deal-breakers.
Mind you, that could change in the coming days, giving the brand’s ability to improve performance and add features through software updates – and we have already seen evidence of that. But as of now, we would call the OnePlus Watch promising more in terms of potential than performance. Right now, it is a little erratic and inconsistent.
Ironically, it needs to settle.
- Big, bright display
- Ability to handle calls
- Superb battery life
- Supports multiple exercise modes
- Getting better with updates
- Measurement issues
- No always on display (yet)
- Predictable design
- No women's cycle tracking
- On the expensive side
The OnePlus Watch is the first smartwatch from OnePlus, and the second fitness wearable following the OnePlus Band earlier this year. At Rs 14,999, it faces stiff competition from the likes of the Mi Watch Revolve and the Realme Watch S Pro.