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OnePlus Band review: good, but not the best

On: February 6, 2021

OnePlus started out as a phone brand, but has expanded its presence to span other categories like accessories, audio devices and televisions. The brand is now taking a leap into wearables, and the first device in the segment is the OnePlus Band. The budget fitness tracker is priced at just Rs 2,499, and at that price goes up against the Mi Smart Band 5 (review), which is arguably the most popular fitness band in India.

Also read: OnePlus Buds Z review: a cheaper, better alternative to the OnePlus Buds

I’ve used the OnePlus Band for the last couple of weeks, paired with the OnePlus 8 Pro (review). To find out if OnePlus’ first fitness band can stand up to Xiaomi in the budget wearables category, read on.

Design and display

The OnePlus Band is probably one of the most comfortable fitness bands I’ve used, primarily thanks to its lightweight design. Weighing just 22.6g, I barely noticed it on my wrist, and the thin strap ensures minimal friction with your wrist. The band features IP68 and 5ATM water resistance, which means it can be used for swimming or underwater.

Design wise, it looks similar to most other fitness bands, with a core module that pops out of the strap. The module is more square shaped than rounded, and I liked that it’s slightly recessed in the strap which ensured the display didn’t get nicked as easily. The strap features a dual-tone black and grey finish, and OnePlus also sells Tangerine Gray and Navy straps separately, which are priced at Rs 399 each.

While the module seems quite large, the AMOLED display measures only 1.1-inches. There’s no capacitive button below the display, which means you have to rely only on swipes, taps and long-presses for navigation. Thankfully, there were no issues with responsiveness. The display is legible under bright sunlight, and while it doesn’t feature auto-brightness, you can choose from 5 brightness settings to adjust it manually.

The display can be customised with dozens of watch faces available in the OnePlus Health app. You can save up to 5 watch faces on the band at a time, which you can cycle through while swiping to the left or right. You can also customize a watch face using a photo from your phone. While the available watch faces are aesthetically pleasing, only a few show your step count, and none show your heart rate.

Navigation and OnePlus Health app

Navigating through the OnePlus Band is slightly different than other fitness bands. As I mentioned earlier, you can swipe left or right to switch between watch faces. This is a wasted gesture in my opinion, given that I ended up accidentally changing watch faces when I didn’t want to. I had to finally delete all the saved watch faces but one to disable the horizontal swipe.

You can swipe up and down to cycle through the other options, like heart rate, SpO2, sleep, breathing, tools, etc. To go back to the homescreen, you need to long press the screen. If you have any notifications, you can swipe down from the top to access these. The OnePlus Health app tells you all the available navigation gestures via the Tips section.

Speaking of the app, OnePlus Health is currently available only on Android. Compared to Xiaomi’s Mi Fit app, OnePlus Health features a minimalist design that makes it easy to find settings and customise your band. You can see overviews of your daily activity, heart rate, sleep, SpO2 measurements and workout logs. You can also set step and calorie goals, alerts and customise all other parameters.

Fitness and other features

There are 13 exercise modes available on the OnePlus Band, including Outdoor Run, Indoor Run, Fat Burn Run, Outdoor Walk, Outdoor Cycling, Indoor Cycling, Elliptical Trainer, Rowing Machine, Cricket, Badminton, Pool Swimming, Yoga and Free Training. There’s no inbuilt GPS, so you have to use your phone’s GPS if you want to track an outdoor workout.

Unfortunately, I found the pedometer to be inaccurate on the OnePlus Band. While many budget bands suffer from overcounting steps, on the OnePlus Band I found it to be consistently under counting. I compared it to the Mi Smart Band 5 and Fitbit Charge 4, and found the OnePlus Band to count significantly lower steps through the day.

The heart rate tracking is fairly accurate, and in line with readings on the Fitbit Charge 4. You can choose to measure your heart rate every 6 minutes, every 2 minutes or every second. The last option will cause of the battery to drain much faster. I had it set up to check my heart rate every 2 minutes during the review period. You can also set up alerts to notify you when your resting heart rate and workout heart rate cross pre-determined high levels.

The inbuilt SpO2 sensor isn’t seen on many budget fitness trackers, and is a useful feature to have. The band gave me measurements between 98-100, which is the normal rate. You can measure SpO2 manually or set it up to measure your breathing quality when you sleep. I only measured it manually, since the latter drains the battery significantly.

Sleep monitoring was accurate as well, with the band recording both night time and day time sleep. It also shows deep sleep, light sleep and awake time, with an overall sleep assessment and useful insights on the issues with your sleep, such as sleeping too late and too many interruptions.

The band also offers other features like weather, controlling music playback, alarms, find phone, timer, stopwatch, remote camera shutter and breathing exercises.

Battery life

I had the band set up to track heart rate every 2 minutes, and enabled notifications only for incoming calls. With that setting, the band lasted me about 6 days on a single charge. That’s quite a low number considering the Mi Smart Band 5 (review) lasts for 2 weeks plus.

There’s no magnetic charger unlike the Mi Smart Band 5, which means you need to pop the module out of the socket and insert it in the proprietary charger. The band takes about an hour to charge completely, which is quite fast.

Bottomline

At its asking price of Rs 2,499, the OnePlus Band several things right, such as accurate heart rate tracking and sleep monitoring, an inbuilt SpO2 sensor, fast charging, comfortable fit and a well-designed app. However, it falls short on battery life and the accuracy of its pedometer, both of which are not an issue on the similarly priced Mi Smart Band 5.

While the Mi Smart Band 5 has the upper hand in this round, the OnePlus Band is still a first generation product, which means the next iteration has scope for improvement. OnePlus is also known for pushing out software updates (I received three during my review period), and I’m hopeful one of them will fix the pedometer. In sum, the OnePlus Band is a good buy for a budget fitness tracker but it’s not the best, yet.

Pricebaba’s rating: 8 / 10

What works

  • Comfortable, lightweight build
  • SpO2 sensor
  • Accurate heart rate and sleep monitoring
  • Well-designed app
  • Fast charging

What doesn’t

  • Pedometer undercounts steps
  • Battery life is average
  • No magnetic charger
  • Navigation on band needs improvement
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Ketaki Bhojnagarwala

Ketaki has over 10 years experience writing on tech, having worked at the Hindu Business Line and 91mobiles earlier. When she's not editing copies or reviewing the latest gadgets, she spends her time binge-watching Netflix and reading fantasy fiction.