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OnePlus Watch review: room for improvement

After all these years of affordable flagships and the promise of never settling, OnePlus finally gave us a smartwatch in 2021. It’s true that the OnePlus Band was the first wearable from the brand, but there’s been buzz around OnePlus’ smartwatch for years, which also meant there were high expectations from this product.

Also readOnePlus Band review: good, but not the best

In India, the OnePlus Watch is priced at Rs 14,999, which sits in the semi-premium category. Now, for a wearable in this price bracket, you would plenty of smart features along with effective fitness and health tracking too. So, does the OnePlus Watch deliver on these aspects? We used the wearable for over a week to find out, and here’s our detailed review.

Design and display

If there is one thing we have learned over the years about OnePlus, it is that design is at the forefront. The OnePlus Watch does fit broadly into that narrative, but this time it’s a mixed bag. The look and feel of the device is very watch-like. You have a round screen with buttons on the side and sensors at the back. The likable part is the fit and finish. There are no rough edges and the quality of straps will satisfy most users. We got the grey colour strap with our review unit and the wraparound ergonomics work quite nicely.

OnePlus Watch sports a premium design

The main issue with the OnePlus Watch is with its size. The company is offering a single 46mm model that will prove to be quite big and bulky for many users, especially women. And if you want a wearable that helps you track sleep at night, something this heavy isn’t comfortable.

Par for the course for OnePlus, the Watch has a stunning display. It sports a 1.39-inch AMOLED panel with a resolution of  454 x 454 pixels. The large size of the display makes it easy to navigate and give you more details at once. Even the text looks sharp and adds to the premiumness of the Watch.

OnePlus Watch sports a 1.39-inch AMOLED display

The display is bright, and colours pop but not in an aggressive way. You can easily take a glance at the screen under bright sunlight. You might prefer using manual settings for brightness though, as the auto feature does not always work as expected.

One display feature is sorely lacking on the OnePlus Watch though, and that’s an Always-on display. Having to move your wrists to light up the screen is a pain. Also, you have to use the buttons to light up the screen, instead of tapping it to turn on. We’re hoping that a future update with a fix for tap to wake rolls out soon.

Software and OnePlus Health app

For a smartwatch to succeed, the software is crucial. And in some ways, OnePlus using a customised operating system for OnePlus Watch has its strong and weak points. The software is compatible with the OnePlus Health app which we have extensively talked about in our OnePlus Band review earlier this year.

OnePlus Watch runs on customised OS with its own watch faces

Unfortunately, the app is currently only available for Android, which means the Watch is a no-go for iPhone users. Secondly, the software is still in its nascent stage of development, so the feature set of OnePlus Watch are limited to what the company offers. OnePlus Watch comes with a total of 14 watch faces, and you’ll need to rely on OnePlus to roll out more customisation options.

Having said that, the strong points about the software is that you get a slick interface that is smooth and streamlined to give you the important data.

We should address that early reviews pointed out several software issues with the OnePlus Watch, but when we started using it, most of these had been resolved by way of software updates.

Fitness and health tracking

OnePlus Watch caters to all the requisites of a fitness device. The built-in SpO2 monitor helps you track blood oxygen levels. The heart-rate sensor monitors your heartbeat. The GPS is used for navigation when you are out running or cycling. But none of these work with any popular fitness or tracking app. You operate in a closed ecosystem.

OnePlus Watch has a slew of sensors like heart-rate, SpO2 monitor, GPS and more

You can track sleep, stress level, and other fitness activities without any major complaints. The Watch display only shows you the time you have slept. But head over to the Heath app and you get details like sleep assessment, deep sleep, awake time and sleep stages among others. This works similar to other fitness devices that we have used before.

The heart-rate sensor transmits data to the app, with information about average rate, resting rate and highest rate recorded. We tracked data on the OnePlus Watch for over a week, and matched its level with other fitness apps and found them to be similar. The wearable also has Stress feature which gives a daily reading ranging from low to high.

And then you also have SpO2 monitor to know your blood oxygen levels. This feature has become a must-have ever since the COVID-19 pandemic struck last year. We compared the built-in SpO2 monitor with a regular oximeter to track the blood levels, and in most cases we found there was a difference of one to two units. This means, when we got 97 on the SpO2 sensor of the OnePlus Watch, the oximeter showed it around 95 or 96.

You can track sleep, steps and stress level with this device

As for the fitness modes, you get Walking, Running and Cycling among others. The step count and walk feature tracks your timing accurately, giving you details like distance covered and time taken among others. In fact, the Watch can even detect when you are going for an outdoor walk and asks you whether it should start a timer for the activity. But that’s about it.

Other features

The OnePlus Watch can receive app and call notifications, but there’s no support for third-party apps. The Watch has a built-in microphone that lets you take voice calls and the quality is decent, as long as it’s a quick call. Unfortunately support for a voice assistant is missing, which means you can’t operate the Watch hands-free. As for the apps, you can only reply to messages from WhatsApp, and the set of reply options are limited. Additionally, you will have scroll through the messages to get the latest one.

The OnePlus Watch comes with 4GB of storage, out of which 2GB is available. You can use this space to store music on the watch, but the process of transferring tracks, especially large file sizes, is tedious. However, this does mean you can pair the Watch with a Bluetooth headset and leave the phone back at home to listen to music for outdoor workouts.

OnePlus Watch has physical buttons as well

Before we forget, OnePlus Watch pairs with OnePlus TV to offer wireless control. But since we don’t have a OnePlus TV we couldn’t test the feature.

OnePlus Watch also gets IP68 and 5ATM rating for water resistance. So you can take a dip in the pool wearing it. It also comes with NFC which might probably make sense when you can use it. Right now, payment options are not available in India, hopefully that works out in the future too.

Battery life

OnePlus Watch is claimed to offer battery life up to 14 days on a single charge. The bundled charger slots in at the back, while the USB interface can be plugged into a power adapter or even a power bank. The charging is quick; you get 10 to 45 percent in less than half an hour and around an hour’s charge give you full juice.

You get close to a week’s battery life with this smartwatch

With an AMOLED display, the first thing you worry is if OnePlus Watch can prove itself to be frugal. Thankfully, the use of a customised OS plays a big part in extending battery life. While you won’t be getting two weeks of juice with all the features turned on, you can expect a week’s usage for sure. Turning on features like GPS however will drain the battery sooner.

Bottomline

OnePlus Watch is a new beginning for the brand. However, it does fall short on a few aspects. The lack of third-party app support is one, which means it functions more like an advanced fitness tracker rather than an actual smartwatch. An always-on display is a big miss at this price range, as is the lack of an iOS app. The fact that there’s only a single 46mm dial size also makes it uncomfortable for users with smaller wrists.

OnePlus Watch is a mixed bag that needs improvement

Things are not all bad though – the AMOLED display is stunning, and the battery life, though not in line with OnePlus’ claims, still lasts you a full week. The slick app interface, accurate health and fitness tracking and inbuilt SpO2 sensor should suffice for most users as well. That said, at Rs 14,999, the OnePlus Watch falls short of smart features.

OnePlus is known to push out software updates to improve its products over time though, so we hope the OnePlus Watch benefits from this. Until then, you can also consider options like the Mi Watch Revolve and OPPO Watch that offer similar features and a cheaper price tag.

Pricebaba’s rating: 7 / 10

What works

  • Sharp AMOLED display
  • Built-in microphone
  • Accurate SpO2 sensor
  • Built-in GPS
  • Decent battery life

What doesn’t

  • 46mm dial size is too large for many
  • No support for third-party apps
  • No always-on display
  • No iOS app
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