Android phone users will be happy that this cool smartwatch now exists
The OnePlus Watch is finally here. There’s a lot of promise to see, there’s a dollop of potential that’s obvious and there’s that feeling of a gamble too. Especially with the timing. The OnePlus Watch comes alongside the latest and greatest smartphones that OnePlus has made, the OnePlus 9, the OnePlus 9 Pro and indeed the OnePlus 9R. The ingredients seem to be well in place: a design that looks good, there’s even a cobalt limited edition version, lots of features packed in, works seamlessly with Android phones, the promise of long battery life and software which is breathtaking fresh air. It took a while for OnePlus to get into the smartwatch space. But before you brush this aside as what seems like an afterthought, let me point out that the timing might just be ideal for OnePlus to launch the OnePlus Watch.
Let’s take a look at the situation as it stands now. For a start, we can now safely say that all those rumors about the resurrection of Google Wear OS are greatly exaggerated. This is especially unfortunate for Android phone users. All those promises, those claims and all that potential have been in vain. Yes, you might still find Wear OS smartwatches from brands like Fossil or Mobvoi, but I wouldn’t recommend spending your hard-earned money on all these watches – and they don’t come cheap, mind you. Your only real smartwatch option back then was, in the truest sense of the word, everything that Samsung offered as the Galaxy Watch lineup. Those aren’t cheap though, with the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 priced at around Rs 32,990 and the Galaxy Watch Active2 for over Rs 24,090. This brings us neatly to the OnePlus Watch. First on sale, the OnePlus Watch will come in Moonlight Silver and Midnight Black color options. These are priced at Rs 14,999, which is a hefty pinch less than Samsung’s smartwatches. The OnePlus Watch Cobalt Limited Edition will arrive later.
There is something very striking about the design of the OnePlus Watch. Mind you, it doesn’t have garish colors or racing stripes or a unique design. Only this smartwatch, in the color Midnight Black, looks very nice. There’s no typical smartwatch mass, no big buttons or dials sticking out and a really nice round watch design that gives a brushed look to the frame around the screen. Mind you, this is a great watch, because the OnePlus Watch only comes in the size 46 mm. Still, it won’t look or feel particularly bulky, even on the thinner wrists. The watch is made of stainless steel and this particular variant gets the Fluro elastomer band – which is a nicer way of saying a band that has a rubberized feel and finish. The OnePlus Watch also feels much lighter than I initially imagined – it weighs 76 grams and sits fairly comfortably on the wrist without getting in the way. It’s a very understated design yet with enough modern touches and visual elements to make the OnePlus Watch look sophisticated. The OnePlus Watch is IP68 water and dust resistant, which means you can swim with it.
Speaking of the Fluro-elastomer band, OnePlus only bundles one size band with the OnePlus Watch. For my thinner wrists, I was just about lucky with the very last groove used to secure the watch. Any thinner, and the watch would have been impossible to wear. Yet the OnePlus Watch is still loose enough to slip on my wrist in case I extend my arm over my head – there’s no way to get that little bit extra tighter, which would have given me the perfect wrist fit with the OnePlus Watch. Perhaps this is something for OnePlus to consider for users who may also run into this problem. And it’s a little confusing because I’ve never had a band size issue with any smartwatch I’ve ever used so far. In the midst of this confusion, I should note that the belt itself has a nice series of grooves running its length. This is a nice change from the flat straps that come standard with many smartwatches.
The software on the OnePlus Watch seems quite special simply for its simplicity, yet packs in a whole host of features. It’s proprietary software, OnePlus Watch OS, and for what is essentially version one with updates expected in the coming months, it still makes for a great first impression. Plenty of watch faces to play with, a very neatly arranged app drawer and detailed settings without anything getting too complicated. There are hints of Wear OS at times, especially with the swipes to access other menus and screens while on the watch face. For example, one of the really cool features is that the OnePlus Watch allows you to control your OnePlus TV and even detect when you are sleeping and turn off the TV in front of you. I really like the ability to control the TV functionality from the wrist and not worry about a remote that eventually manages to hide itself when you need it most. Still, it took some tries to connect it to my trusty OnePlus TV – the problem was that the TV needed a firmware update. I haven’t tried the auto-off feature yet, as wearing a smartwatch to bed isn’t something I find very comfortable. Though that is purely subjective.
If wellness tracking is something you want your smartwatch to do for you, the OnePlus Watch is a good place to make it happen. It can monitor and monitor the heart rate and all possible ranges and variations, has a blood oxygen monitor which is often an indicator of a disease, stress level detection, sleep tracker and an air pressure sensor. The blood oxygen levels, at least for my readings, were very similar to a pulse oximeter reading readings from the finger: it was within a 1% range and matched the readings on the Apple Watch Series 6. The heart rate variability readings will alert you if it detects unnatural fluctuations. What really helps you understand these measurements and numbers is the updated and significantly redesigned OnePlus Health app for Android phones, which now has a much more intuitive layout than before, and actually feels like a natural companion app to a watch that’s as smooth as this. You can retrieve data by day, week and month and everything is nicely separated. That said, it often took a while for the OnePlus Watch’s data to sync with the app, and a manual refresh of the app’s home screen often resolved the lag.
Fitness tracking is something the OnePlus Watch ticks off nicely enough at the moment, but things will get a lot more lively with one of the upcoming software updates. At the moment, the OnePlus Watch allows you to track 15 workout types, including cricket, yoga, freestyle training, badminton, rowing machine, cross-country skiing, swimming, fast fat burning and of course running, cycling and walking. You can access it directly from the OnePlus Watch training menu. The OnePlus Health app lists automatic exercise detection as one of the features for the OnePlus Watch. With this enabled, I noticed that the OnePlus Watch was not detecting an outdoor run and an indoor treadmill run. Maybe that’s something that will be fixed with a software update.
Oddly enough, after the first firmware update installed shortly after installation, the OnePlus Watch switched to Hindi from the English language previously set. If you come across that too, then you have no choice but to carefully navigate through the settings menu and land on the language option and change it to English.
Claims about battery life are pretty robust with the OnePlus Watch. The battery lasts about 14 days for most users when used for a combination of tasks such as daily use, sleep tracking, or routine daytime use. However, that will come down if you turn on sleep blood oxygen monitoring. I haven’t had enough time on the watch to completely drain the battery over a period of almost 14 days, but I’m noticing a daily battery discharge of about 9%, giving the watch about 10 days of life on a single charge . This is by no means an absolute number and an estimate based on the time that I have used the watch.
The 1.39-inch AMOLED screen does a very good job visually. The colors look nice, it’s bright and there’s enough space to make text understandable. This does well with auto brightness, with smooth transitions across the brightness range. There is currently no always-on display available with the OnePlus Watch. While raising wrist to wake up almost always illuminates the screen, I sometimes found that trying to tap the screen to wake it up doesn’t always get the job done. Second, and I’m not sure if I’m missing something here – I didn’t find an option to set a time of about 2 minutes or 5 minutes for the screen to be on after you tap it or the wrist to wake it up.
The last word: a first attempt that is more than a first attempt
The thing with the OnePlus Watch is that it’s instantly likable. The design, the software, the in-store features and of course the relatively more affordable price tag. The long battery life, detailed fitness tracking promise and useful features such as the ability to control certain functionality of your OnePlus TV add value. For a smartwatch and if you don’t demand the world from it, this just works. At least still. There’s also a lot of promise, and a lot more expected from the upcoming software updates. Still, there’s that unshakeable feeling that the OnePlus Watch lacks a few things – more accessory and strap options at launch, no support for third-party apps or the popular apps you can use on your phone, not always-on display, and no integration with voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. And you only get this in one size, which may not be to everyone’s wishes or comfort. All said and done, the OnePlus Watch has entered a smartwatch market that offers a lot for Android phone users, but also mysteriously doesn’t offer much if you’re actually going to buy a smartwatch. As a smart watch, the OnePlus Watch neatly removes the basics. It’s the extra range of added value that still needs some tweaking and tuning. The OnePlus Watch may feel like a first try, but it’s certainly a very sophisticated first try – it all depends on what you’re demanding of it at the time. It is a pity that the OnePlus Watch is not yet available for the Apple iPhone.