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Monday, October 18, 2021

Good yet expensive fitness watch

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No other gadget has been as hyped as the OnePlus Watch. Leaks from a few years ago came up describing the first OnePlus smartwatch flaunting Google’s Wear OS platform in an Apple Watch clone. Earlier this year, the OnePlus Health app revealed a OnePlus Watch that resembled the Oppo Watch. Hence, it was shocking to see something completely different at the OnePlus launch event. Also Read – OnePlus 9R sale begins for everyone in India today: Where to buy, top features, and launch offers

The OnePlus Watch is completely new — new in the sense that it was supposed to launch as the Oppo Watch RX that later got cancelled. OnePlus is promising lots of smartwatch features and an overall premium experience that’s aimed to take on the Apple Watch. Moreover, at a starting price of Rs 14,999 (introductory), it is within reach of the average smartwatch crowd. Also Read – OnePlus Watch sale details announced: The Mi Watch competitor will be available starting April 21

Do all that make the OnePlus Watch desirable? I strapped on a Midnight Black OnePlus Watch for a fortnight to find out. Also Read – OnePlus 9, OnePlus 9R first sale in India today: Check discount offers, price and more

Design

OnePlus has lately settled for safe designs for its smartphones and for its first smartwatch, it kept the same mentality. The OnePlus Watch looks no different than the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 with its round chassis and a simple silicon strap. The bezel around the display goes for a minimalist pattern instead of one marked with numbers (something Amazfit does with the GTR series).

Despite the chunky metal and glass construction, the OnePlus Watch appears sleek and well suited for all hands — kudos to OnePlus for getting the unisex appeal right. The pair of buttons on the right side sit flush with the body but offer satisfactory feedback when pressed. The underside is made of soft plastic and the optical sensors don’t jut out like on many affordable watches.

The display is among the best I have seen on a smartwatch. The 1.39-inch AMOLED display is bright and vibrant to look at. If you love colourful watch faces, this display makes it a joy to look at. The touchscreen is responsive and coupled with the well-optimised software, it feels fluid.

OnePlus Watch

The weight is where it all feels undone. The 75 grams overall weight of the OnePlus Watch can be felt while wearing, i.e. it’s heavy and it can slide around the wrist if not strapped securely. The 46mm dial also kept me away from wearing it at night. The silicon strap is comfortable on the skin but it is difficult to buckle with the extra belt needed to be tucked underneath. That’s uncomfortable for hairy hands.

OnePlus bundles a charging adapter with the box, which is reminiscent of the adapter you get with Amazfit and Realme watches. The watch is held together via magnets but one needs to align the POGO pins with the watch’s connector to initiate charging.

The Smart Stuff

If you go through the webpage of the OnePlus Watch, you will OnePlus evading the opportunity to talk about smart features. This is noticeable while using the watch too. The OnePlus Watch does everything you find in a modern-day smartwatch but its smartness is not on the same level as that of Samsung’s and Apple’s watches. Let me explain.

OnePlus Watch

The RTOS-based experience is reminiscent of the one from Amazfit and Realme watches. In fact, I compared the OnePlus Watch’s interface to the Realme Watch S Pro and I was struggling to find differences. I found the same style of the drop-down quick settings menu, the notification shade, shortcuts to basic features, and even the same style of app menu. The icons themselves aren’t much different either.

I applaud OnePlus for refining the software experience by optimizing the fonts well and smoothening the animations. But, there are instances where it is easy to frame the OnePlus Watch software as unfinished. For example, the notification shade looks haphazard and when you open one, you aren’t getting any extra information. Emails on Gmail and Outlook only show the title whereas

WhatsApp messages can only be read if the character length is short. The software can’t show WhatsApp images either. The interface doesn’t give you options to interact with the notifications, save for WhatsApp where you can choose from a set of four text message presets. These issues can be fixed and I hope that OnePlus addresses them in a future software update.

OnePlus Watch

The watch faces were limited initially but a recent update to the OnePlus Health app added a couple more faces. Users can’t create their own watch faces but OnePlus is giving options to customize a few of the faces mildly. You can store up to 10 watch faces at a time. The watch also has a barometer function as well as compass. You also get your usual timer, alarms, flashlight and weather apps as standard.

One of the shining features of the OnePlus Watch is its ability to make and receive a call via Bluetooth. This is unlike those Amazfit and Realme watches, wherein you can use the watch’s onboard speaker and microphone to go hands-free. The speaker is loud enough for taking calls outdoors and the microphone catches voice clearly, albeit not in the best of quality, from an arm’s distance. The ability to dial a number or choose from a list of favourite contacts from the watch itself is highly convenient.

Another nice bit here is that the watch sits as a connected device in the idle state and does not channel audio completely to its speakers. However, while OnePlus stays shut about the watch’s relation to the Oppo Watch RX, the default ringtone is exactly the one you hear on Oppo smartphones.

OnePlus Watch

Traces of Oppo’s involvement can also be seen with the OnePlus Health app. The app is not that different from the Oppo counterpart, especially given the same Oppo font used copiously throughout the interface. Laugh as much as you may about the similarities but OnePlus has done a fine job with the app – it is simple to use and everything’s within reach.

Whether you are choosing watch faces or altering the health monitoring settings, everything is just a swipe away. The fitness data is available in easy-to-decipher graphs and there’s as much information as a common man can understand. Fitness enthusiasts may have to rely on the Google Fit app, which is integrated with the Health app.

OnePlus Watch

OnePlus has also built an MP3 player in the watch and you can use it to stream music directly to your wireless earphones. I transferred an old MP3 file to the watch and hooked up the OnePlus Buds Z to the Watch – the experience was fine. I should note that it took up to three minutes to transfer the song from the phone, which is only possible via the Health app. I wish OnePlus had figured out a way to let the watch directly stream audio from a streaming service.

You can also control your OnePlus TV, if you own one, with the Watch directly. Sadly, this is the only “OnePlus exclusive” feature available on the watch. In fact, I used the OnePlus Watch for a majority of my review period with the OnePlus 9R and there are no ecosystem benefits to be seen. There’s no special interface for OnePlus notifications, or quick access to the Watch Settings from the toggles. It works as good with non-OnePus smartphones. Also, there’s no support for iOS devices yet.

The Healthy Stuff

Of course, a “smart”watch has to monitor your health parameters in a bid to justify its price. The OnePlus Watch does it too – there’s the usual monitoring as well as activity tracking. At launch, the OnePlus Watch only offers 15 of the 110+ workout modes but all the popular activities are there. For most of the activities, the watch uses its optical sensors along with the GPS to track the distances.

OnePlus Watch

Contrary to the international reviews, I find the data on the OnePlus Watch consistent and reliable. I mostly use the watch for tracking my daily walking sessions with the Outdoor Walking mode and the results it returns are comparable to my Apple Watch SE. The step count is usually higher than the Apple Watch data but the heart rate, pace and distance data is almost similar. Post completion, you can see the results and summary on the watch.

You can also check the activity data on the Health app too. However, the latest update to the app has introduced a bug that prevents me from seeing a summary of my workout. The in-app map also traces your whereabouts during the workout but the GPS accuracy isn’t quite as precise as that of the Apple Watch SE.

OnePlus Watch

The health monitoring features are reliable too. The heart rate data is near-about similar to what I see on my Apple Watch SE. The same goes for the steps and stand data. I do not have a medical-grade device to check the accuracy of the blood-oxygen saturation data but it returned data consistently in the health 95-99 percent range. The Realme Watch S Pro in comparison showcases wild fluctuations in the data.

You can also track stress levels on the OnePlus Watch and do something about it via breathing exercises. However, even on my most relaxed weekends, the Watch kept showing that I had “Normal” stress. It returned the same “Normal” stress reading on the most stressful workdays. The watch also kept giving frequent high heart-rate warnings for the initial few days; my Apple Watch didn’t panic.

Sadly, I could not check the sleep tracking feature owing to the bulbous dimensions of the watch and the discomfort it caused while sleeping. I doubt that someone will use a gigantic watch to sleep to track it.

Battery life

OnePlus Watch

The controversial decision to ditch Wear OS for a custom RTOS-based operating system was taken in favour of battery life. OnePlus promises up to 14 days of power on a single charge. This figure is unrealistic at the moment as my unit of the OnePlus Watch could only last six days at a stretch. Note that I kept the watch connected to my phone all the time and used to track my hourly walking sessions daily. Auto-brightness was switched on from the start.

I believe OnePlus will be rolling out updates with further optimizations to deliver the promised battery life figures. I say that because OnePlus almost delivers on the charging speeds it promises. With the Warp Charge 65 adapter and the OnePlus cable, the OnePlus Watch filled itself from 10 percent to 80 in 25 minutes (on average). A full charge happens in just around 40 minutes. These are good numbers for a smartwatch.

Verdict

OnePlus Watch

On the whole, the OnePlus Watch is a decent option for a premium wearable experience. It can look classy on all sexes and satisfy fitness enthusiasts with a variety of health monitoring features The large size may not be for everyone but it is comfortable to wear all day.

It is the smart bit where the OnePlus Watch falls short of its competition. At Rs 16,000, there are watches that can do a lot more of the smartwatch stuff; case in point is the Wear OS-powered Oppo Watch costing Rs 12,990. The much cheaper Amazfit GTR 2 can also do calls and brings support for Alexa commands, even if the latter is mostly a gimmick. The Fossil Gen 5E is both high on style and smart features at a slightly higher price of Rs 18,495.

The OnePlus Watch pales out in comparison, both in terms of style and functionality. There’s no standout feature to create a strong recall value, which is surprising given the hype it had prior to its launch. The software is half-baked and the overall package lacks the appeal of its rivals. Even for a OnePlus fan, there’s nothing special to reward his/her loyalty to the brand. A Realme Watch S Pro or a Xiaomi Mi Watch Revolve can deliver a similar experience for less than Rs 10,000.

At the moment, the OnePlus Watch is expensive for what it offers and, is tough to recommend, unless you like the design or want to be a part of the OnePlus ecosystem. You can save some money with the Amazfit GTR 2 and get similar smart features with better health monitoring. The Oppo Watch for much lesser will satisfy the smartwatch enthusiasts. OnePlus needs to work on the software and bring down the price to make it competitive for India.





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