OnePlus Watch review

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After years spent in the rumor mills, the OnePlus Watch is finally here and on our hands. With the company slowly diverging into other markets, it was only a matter of time before we got a smartwatch from OnePlus. In fact, it’s slightly weird that we got a OnePlus TV before a OnePlus Watch.

But the OnePlus Watch almost didn’t exist. The original smartwatch project was canceled sometime in 2015-2016, with Carl Pei then revealing early design sketches of a watch that will never exist in a since-deleted tweet. But since then, the company seems to have changed its stance on wearables. Last year, we saw OnePlus launch its first fitness band and today we have the OnePlus Watch.

OnePlus Watch review

So what is the OnePlus Watch? For the most part, it is a fairly typical smart wearable. It isn’t running on the Wear OS platform by Google but rather OnePlus’ custom software. This does seem to give it one big advantage, namely an advertised 14 days of battery life. All of this for a starting price of $159.

But is it any good as a smartwatch or is it just a glorified fitness band? Let’s find out.

Design

The OnePlus Watch has a classic, circular design. The casing is made out of polished stainless steel with classic lugs that hold fluoroelastomer straps.

OnePlus Watch review

The glass covering the display is of an unspecified scratch-resistant variety with curved edges. Underneath the glass, the bezel around the display has circular rings similar to those found on some other OnePlus accessories.

OnePlus Watch review

On the right side of the watch are two buttons, a function button at the top and a power button below. The function button has the OnePlus name embossed on it, which brings back suppressed memories of the Verizon logo on the Samsung Galaxy Note II home button. Fortunately, this one is too small to notice.

OnePlus Watch review

The back of the watch has a plastic cover for the casing and all the optical sensors. There are also two connectors for the magnetic pogo pin charger. On the left side (when facing the display) is the loudspeaker and on the bottom is the microphone.

The straps connect to the watch using standard spring-loaded bar pins, which should allow the user to swap them out with any other traditional watch bands. The buckle for the default strap uses a similar design to the Sport Band on the Apple Watch, except the one on the OnePlus Watch is a bit loose and pops out while you’re trying to put the watch on. You also get just one size in the box.

OnePlus Watch review

As you’d expect from a watch designed for fitness tracking, the OnePlus Watch is IP68 and 5ATM rated for water resistance.

At 46mm, the OnePlus Watch is pretty large. It certainly doesn’t look right on my small wrists and looks like I have the sundial wristwatch from The Flintstones. The one-size-fits-all band is also massive and loops almost twice around my wrists. OnePlus seems to think this is okay because obviously everyone has the same giant wrists.

OnePlus will also be selling a Limited Edition version of the OnePlus Watch. This version uses cobalt alloy for the casing rather than stainless steel and it comes with two bands, the standard fluoroelastomer strap and a leather strap with butterfly buckle. In India, the leather strap is switched with a vegan leather strap, likely to keep costs down. However, this version will be arriving at a later date at an unknown price.

Personally, I’m not a fan of the OnePlus Watch design. I’m a bit tired of the ‘digital smartwatch looking like a regular watch’ cliche and the OnePlus Watch design is about as cliched as it gets. You’ll have a hard time convincing me someone spent more than a day designing this.

OnePlus Watch review

What’s more disappointing is that the sketches from 2015 look far better than the final product. It was still round back then but the design had more flair and some interesting ideas. The final OnePlus Watch is about as generic as it gets and wouldn’t get a second glance, especially in this Midnight Black color that we received.

Display

The OnePlus Watch has a 1.39-inch, 454×454 AMOLED touchscreen display. The large size of the watch has allowed the display to also be pretty sizable, which makes it quite easy to operate the touchscreen and fit more information on-screen at once.

OnePlus Watch review

In terms of image quality, the display is quite sharp thanks to the ample 326ppi pixel density. Small text and iconography do not look rough and jagged as it tends to on many other smartwatches. The use of an AMOLED panel means the primarily dark UI also has a perfectly black background at all times.

Interestingly enough, the OnePlus Watch is one of the few that doesn’t have a ridiculously oversaturated AMOLED panel as seen on many other watches. Most colors look vibrant but not aggressively so. The display doesn’t have a high bit depth, however, so there’s some noticeable banding on some watch faces with gradients. Or perhaps the issue lies with the watch faces.

The touch response is so-so. It’s not super responsive, which can occasionally feel a bit jarring if you’re coming from a smartphone but it works fine most of the time.

The display has five manual brightness levels and an auto mode. You can also quickly toggle between three manual modes and the auto mode from the drop-down control panel. The display gets bright enough under sunlight but the auto-brightness is very conservative. The display often appears too dark indoors and had me switching to manual brightness. However, this seems like a OnePlus thing as even their smartphones do the same thing.

The display has two major limitations. First, there’s no always-on mode, which means you have to raise your wrist every time you want to see the time. Second, you can’t tap the screen to turn it on. For some reason, the touchscreen gets disabled when the screen is off so the only way to wake the watch is to raise it on press one of the side buttons.

Now the raise to wake function mostly works fine but it’s not as good as some of the best smartwatches out there and oddly enough, also worse than the OnePlus Band, which woke up at the slightest tile of your wrist. In comparison, the OnePlus Watch requires a much more deliberate twist and raise to wake up, which isn’t always convenient. Even if the raise to wake was perfect, it still can’t beat the convenience of an always-on display.

Software and features

The OnePlus Watch runs on a custom OS by OnePlus. This is likely a version of the OS used on the OnePlus Band, with a few extra features added on top.

OnePlus Watch review

You control the UI using the touchscreen and the function button. Pressing the function button once brings up the app launcher. Pressing it again takes you back to the homescreen from wherever you may be in the UI. You navigate by tapping on items and then swiping from the left edge to go back.

OnePlus Watch UI
OnePlus Watch UI
OnePlus Watch UI

OnePlus Watch UI

The app drawer is a list of all the functions that the watch is capable of, such as workouts, activity tracking, sleep tracking, heart rate monitor, stress monitor, blood oxygen sensor, alarms, timers, and so forth. The large display makes it quite easy to go through all the features without having to scroll too much, as was the case with the Band. The UI is reasonably responsive. It also scrolls at 60fps, which makes it relatively fluid.

From the homescreen, you can swipe down to bring the control center. Here you have shortcuts to enable DND, adjust brightness, find your phone, set alarms, use the screen as a flashlight (a pretty poor one to be honest but usable if you have literally no other source of light), and access the settings.

Similarly, you can swipe up from the homescreen to access your notification. These don’t seem to be synced at all with the phone, which means they persist even if were to access them on the phone and dismiss them there.

Pressing and holding presents the UI to change watch faces. This is a fairly standard UI that we have seen on pretty much every other smartwatch now. You get a sideways scrolling list of installed watch faces, you can tap on them to select them or hit the settings button below to customize them. Depending upon the watch face, you can adjust the design, color scheme, and/or complications.

Watch faces
Watch faces
Watch faces
Watch faces
Watch faces
Watch faces
Watch faces
Watch faces
Watch faces
Watch faces

Watch faces

As of this writing, the OnePlus Watch had 15 different watch face designs, of which 14 can be installed on the watch at any given time. If you want to add more, you will need to remove existing ones. The transfer of watch faces is significantly faster than it was on the OnePlus Band as they basically transfer instantly here.

Not being on a standardized platform such as Wear OS does mean there is no third-party app support on the OnePlus Watch, including that for watch faces. Any additional functionality will have to come from OnePlus as the company hasn’t announced any SDK for third-party developers to build upon. It’s likely that OnePlus will add more watch faces in the future through updates but I’m not expecting any additional features or app-specific functionality. Makes it a bit hard to justify the smartwatch moniker.

OnePlus Watch review

Still, the OnePlus Watch does come packed with a fair number of features. Apart from all the fitness-related features mentioned before, the OnePlus Watch has a built-in audio player. You transfer any audio files you have to the watch through the phone app, pair some Bluetooth headphones to the watch and then you’re good to go. If your playlist can fit within the 2GB of available space on the watch then you don’t need to take your phone with you out on a run if all you need it for is to listen to music.

The OnePlus Watch can also interface with any OnePlus TV models that you may own. You can control basic TV features through the watch and if the watch detects you fell asleep while watching, it will automatically turn the TV off after 30 minutes.

The OnePlus Watch includes phone call functionality. Although the watch doesn’t have any networking capability, it acts as a headset to the connected smartphone and you can make and receive calls through the watch. If you have headphones paired to the watch, you also don’t have to worry about everyone around you listening in on your call.

OnePlus Watch review

The OnePlus Watch also includes a barometer and a compass.

To connect to the watch, you need the same OnePlus Health app that was required for the OnePlus Band. Through the app, you can add or remove watch faces, pick apps to sync notifications, and change the watch settings. You can also download and install updates for the watch through the app. More importantly, the app acts as a hub for all the fitness data coming through the watch and helps you keep track of all of it.

The Health app is available on the Google Play Store. This lets you use the watch with basically any Android smartphone. However, there is no iOS app at the moment, so you cannot use the OnePlus Watch with your iPhone, something that’s possible with Wear OS and also Samsung smartwatches.

OnePlus Health app
OnePlus Health app
OnePlus Health app
OnePlus Health app
OnePlus Health app
OnePlus Health app
OnePlus Health app

OnePlus Health app

Overall, the OnePlus Watch UI is well-designed and easy to use. There’s also a decent number of features built into the watch. Unfortunately, there is no possibility to install any applications and any additional watch faces will have to come from OnePlus. The watch is also not compatible with iPhone.

Fitness tracking

When I checked out the OnePlus Band last year, I found it to be a competent fitness tracker for the price. The OnePlus Watch has largely the same fitness tracking features with a few minor extras.

OnePlus Watch review

By default, the watch always tracks your activities when you put it on. This includes counting your steps and deducing your calorie burnt as a result. The watch has built-in GPS and multiple sensors, such as an accelerometer, gyroscope, geomagnetic sensor, barometer, blood oxygen sensor, and heart rate monitor, which helps it keep track of your activities.

The watch supports tracking various fitness activities, which you can find and enable through the Workout menu. Here you will find options such as outdoor running, indoor running, fat burn run, outdoor cycling, indoor cycling, outdoor walk, swimming, elliptical trainer, rowing machine, badminton, mountaineering, cross-country, cricket, yoga, and freestyle training. This is the same list of options found on the OnePlus Band.

OnePlus Watch review

Unfortunately, the OnePlus Watch does not include gym workouts for some reason so you can’t have the watch count your reps while you lift dumbbells or use one of the weight machines.

The fitness tracking works reasonably well and the UI for it is pretty simple. The large display also makes it easy to see information at a glance but the lack of an always-on display once again means you need to perform deliberate gestures to wake up the display.

Aside from tracking your activities, the OnePlus Watch also has a sleep tracker, which tracks your sleep through the night and keeps a log of it with any recorded interruptions in the Health app. It can also track your blood oxygen levels through your sleep.

OnePlus Watch review

The sleep tracking worked fairly reliably for me, as with the OnePlus Band. I did not see any major deviation from what the watch and the Health app recorded and what I experienced.

A feature new to the OnePlus Watch but not on the OnePlus Watch is stress tracking. It grades your stress level on a scale of 100, with 1-29 being low, 30-59 being normal, 60-79 being medium, and 80-100 being high. On the watch itself, it will just say low, normal, medium, or high so you will have to open the Health app to get the exact reading.

One feature that was missing on the OnePlus Band was menstrual tracking for women, a feature offered by several other fitness trackers and smartwatches on the market. Unfortunately, the feature is still missing on the OnePlus Watch. It’s not a super complicated feature to implement but for some reason, OnePlus continues to ignore it even though half the world’s population could stand to benefit from it. It would easily save people having to download and possibly pay for another app if it was just built into the OnePlus Health app.

Overall, the OnePlus Watch is an above-average fitness tracker. For most people, it has a sufficiently wide set of tracking features. However, it doesn’t track any kind of weight training and gym exercises outside of running, cycling, and rowing, which makes the watch significantly less appealing to those who regularly work out. It also lacks menstrual tracking, which is just lazy at this point.

Battery Life

The OnePlus Watch has a claimed battery life of 14 days, which is the same figure they quote for the OnePlus Band. As with the band, the figure is quite optimistic for the OnePlus Watch as well.

OnePlus Watch review

Sure, if you use the watch at the default settings, it may last you the full two weeks. But I prefer to have the display set to manual brightness as the auto mode is too aggressively dim, 8-second screen off timer, set heart rate tracking to smart, enable auto stress monitoring, and keep SpO2 tracking enabled during sleep. If you use the watch this way, you’ll get about a week of use out of a full charge.

Compared to other full-featured smartwatches, this is still quite impressive. In fact, I would be willing to further compromise some of it to get an always-on display mode. But like with its smartphones, it seems OnePlus is going to make us suffer unnecessarily long before enabling it.

OnePlus Watch review

The OnePlus Watch comes with a standard magnetic charger with pogo pins. This allows it to charge pretty fast, with OnePlus claiming a week’s power with a 20-minute charge. That’s obviously based on the 14-day claim so I wouldn’t put too much stock into it but the watch does charge pretty quickly.

Conclusion

The OnePlus Watch is a mediocre smartwatch. In fact, calling it a smartwatch is a bit of a stretch since it has no third-party application support, not even for watch faces. It really is then just a gloried fitness tracker.

As a fitness tracker, it’s okay. It’s missing some key features but it’s on par with most other trackers in this price range. If you’re considering buying this for the fitness tracking features, you really should go through the list of activities it can track and see if that’s going to be enough for your needs.

OnePlus Watch review

As a watch, it’s not that impressive either. The design is generic, there is no always-on display mode, and there are only a handful of watch faces available at launch, none of which are particularly striking. The complete lack of sizing options means you are stuck with this giant watch with a lengthy strap regardless of your wrist size. The week-long battery life is the only saving grace but even that’s not as impressive as the advertised 14-day figure.

At $159 starting price, the OnePlus Watch is still decent value in the US if you’re okay with the design. But at INR 14,999 in India, it’s definitely overpriced compared to options such as the Mi Watch Revolve, which is currently available for just INR 8,999 and has several more features, including an always-on display.

Overall, the OnePlus Watch is just not an appealing product. Even if the design was outstanding, it would have still been hard to recommend over its rivals. As it stands, that is not the case, so we don’t see any reason to recommend this right now at the current prices.

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