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OnePlus Band review: Stick with the Xiaomi Mi Band 5
OnePlus OnePlus Band
What we like
What we don't like
Anyone following OnePlus knows that the company has bold ambitions to be a full-ecosystem player. Over the last year, it has expanded into mid-range smartphones with the OnePlus Nord. It aimed lower still with the cheaper Nord N10 and N100 months later. The company has also increased its range of audio products with the OnePlus Buds and OnePlus Buds Z. Predictably, next up is an entry into the fitness wearable category with the OnePlus Band.
On paper, the OnePlus Band is playing it safe with a predictable and somewhat unexciting set of features. So what exactly sets the OnePlus Band apart from some of the best affordable fitness trackers on the market? Can it match the Xiaomi Mi Band 5, or even the Mi Band 6 that is available in regions other than India?
I spent a week with OnePlus’ first-ever wearable to find out. This is Android Authority’s OnePlus Band review.
Update: May 2021: We have updated our OnePlus Band review with details on the latest software updates.
Design and hardware
The OnePlus Band is pretty generic as far as fitness bands go. There’s limited room for differentiation here, but all said and done, the fitness tracker is fairly discrete and certainly not an eyesore.
The central module includes a 1.1-inch AMOLED display that functions as a touchscreen. The 294 x 126 resolution is par for the course for this category of fitness trackers. It’s been a cloudy few days here in Delhi, so I can’t attest to visibility under bright sunlight. However, I don’t expect it to pose any issues.
Navigating the interface is straightforward enough and can be done through a series of gestures. Left or right swipes let you cycle through a collection of watch faces. Swiping down from the top of the display, on the other hand, brings up notifications. Pretty standard stuff.
Swiping up brings up the all-apps page. Here, you’ll find a daily activity log that gives you a one-glance look at your health metrics, workouts, heart rate monitoring, capturing SpO2 data, sleep data, breathing exercises, weather, and tools. We’ll get to this last one in a bit.
Related: The best sleep trackers you can buy
Over at the back, you’ll notice an array of sensors including the heart rate monitor and the SpO2 sensor. Finally, two pogo pins at the top slot into the charging dongle.
OnePlus is serving up the Band in a single color option — anthracite-like black — however, additional strap options will be available to purchase at launch. This includes a navy blue and an intriguing tangerine grey combo reminiscent of OnePlus’ McLaren edition phones.
The strap is pretty comfortable once you get it on, but putting it on can be a bit clunky. I’m not a huge fan of button-in-the-hole style clasps, and locking the OnePlus Band in place can take a few tries. This is especially true if you find yourself reaching out for the further-off adjustment holes.
You’ll need to pop out the central module from the silicon strap to charge it up. This is easy enough, though attaching it to the dongle can be a finicky affair. It doesn’t slot in too easily, though once done, it manages to stay in place. Additionally, the dongle is way too short. You’ll find it dangling off the end of the USB charger.
Talking about charging, it takes about 45-50 minutes to completely charge the 100mAh battery. OnePlus claims 14 days of battery life. However, with the SpO2 monitoring cranked up, I managed just about three days. Since then, OnePlus has issued a software update that was intended to fix the incessant battery drain.
Battery life on the OnePlus Band, even with the latest update, is well below the competition.
Unfortunately, I’m witnessing even worse battery life after the update. Admittedly, I’ve got SpO2 monitoring cranked up to real time but that only works when I’m sleeping. Battery life dropped from a full charge to just 63% over a 24 hour period with a five-hour sleep cycle in between. This is absolutely woeful for a fitness tracker in its class.
Fitness and health tracking
Fitness tracking on the OnePlus Band is a curious mix of good and bad. To start with, the band tracks all key metrics like your daily step count, total distance moved, heart rate, calories burned, and sleep data.
The OnePlus Band also has support for connected GPS, but I found it to be a bit unreliable. Across multiple fitness sessions, I didn’t get very reliable GPS data. I wouldn’t buy the OnePlus Band if that’s a priority. Nevertheless, the regular Bluetooth connection on the OnePlus Band is rock solid, so I can’t really chock it down to that. The band didn’t log the GPS route for the majority of the activity period.
An IP68 rating and support for most major sports mean tracking your preferred activity should not be a problem.
Like competing products such as the aforementioned Mi Band 5, the OnePlus Band ships with a robust array of fitness tracking modes. This includes outdoor and indoor running, fat burn run, outdoor walking, outdoor cycling, indoor cycling, elliptical trainers, rowing machine, cricket, badminton, pool swimming, yoga, and free training. Yes, the watch is IP68 rated so you should have no trouble at all taking it for a swim.
Workouts can be started right from the watch by swiping down to the relevant applet. I found step tracking to reasonably accurate on the OnePlus Band. However, there’s always a slight margin of error to be considered on entry-level fitness trackers.
Compared to the heart rate tracker on my Fitbit Ionic, the overall resting and active heart rate recordings were reasonably in line other than a few dips which the OnePlus Band failed to record. However, reading granular data from the app can be a bit hard. That’s mostly down to the woefully inadequate app, but we’ll get to that in a second.
See also: The best heart rate monitors and watches
Sleep tracking is the OnePlus Band’s strong suit. You get detailed data on light, deep, and REM sleep cycles. Moreover, with the SpO2 tracking switched on, it will even tell you your blood oxygen levels over the course of your sleep. For daytime use, you can manually trigger a measurement using the wearable. I used a dedicated pulse oximeter to compare values. Two out of three times, they lined up indicating a fair amount of accuracy.
The OnePlus Band offers insights into sleep apnea on the basis of overnight blood oxygen levels.
In addition to regular sleep tracking, the OnePlus Band offers breathing analysis and can indicate sleep apnea on the basis of blood oxygen levels. SpO2 levels below 88% can indicate hypoxemia which is a strong indicator of sleep apnea. In my case, the lowest I recorded was 90% which is roughly within the normal range. The functionality is there, but I feel that OnePlus could do a better job of bringing out this data to the forefront.
Regardless, you shouldn’t take these values as sacrosanct. Instead, they can be considered as indicators of approximate blood oxygen levels.
The OnePlus Band certainly isn’t a smartwatch, but it still manages to pack in a reasonable subset of features. Table stakes like relaying notifications work accurately. The band automatically picks up on music players and presents a music player widget for most, but not all music apps. For example, Spotify and YouTube Music worked just fine, but Tidal didn’t.
This aside, the overall reliability of the Band’s features really shone through. It never missed notifications or call alerts, even if can’t reply to them. The tools tab on the band includes a stopwatch, a timer, a find my phone function, as well as the ability to trigger the camera on your phone.
Customization settings are relatively limited compared to the Mi Band, but there are a few. The built-in do not disturb mode can be set to automatically trigger when you fall asleep. And while the band does not have an ambient light sensor, you can manually adjust display brightness levels in 20% intervals. Finally, the vibration intensity can be set to low, medium, or high.
OnePlus Health app
The OnePlus Health app is where things get dicey. Simply put, it just doesn’t have too many features. The app offers three key sections — Health, Fitness, and Manage.
Health, as the name suggests, is where you can find all relevant data including health rate, sleep information, SpO2 readings, as well as your workouts. The fitness tab, on the other hand, can be used to activate a running or walking workout on your phone.
Finally, the manage tab is what you need to cycle through watch faces, set alarms — the watch can store five of them — and set the hours during which raise to wake works.
However, if you were hoping to use the OnePlus Health app as a one-stop hub for all your health monitoring needs, you’ll be disappointed. It lacks basics like weight logging, let alone water-intake or diet monitoring.
While the OnePlus Band launched with no support for third-party integrations, it has subsequently added in support for Google Fit via the OnePlus Health v1.3.2 update. It, however, still doesn’t support major players like MyFitnessPal or Strava.
|Display||1.1-inch AMOLED color touchscreen|
126 x 294 resolution
|Dimensions and weight||40.4 x 17.6 x 11.95mm|
22.6g (with strap)
|Colors and materials||PC plastic case|
|Water resistance rating||5ATM|
|Sensors||3-axis accelerometer and gyroscope|
Heart rate sensor
Digital MEMS microphone
14-day battery life (advertised)
|Compatibility ||Android 6.0 and above|
|Exercise Modes||Outdoor Run, Indoor Run, Fat Burn Run, Outdoor Walk, Outdoor Cycling, Indoor Cycling, Elliptical Trainer, Rowing Machine, Cricket, Badminton, Pool Swimming, Yoga, Free Training|
Value and competition
At Rs. 2,499 (~$34), the OnePlus Band is reasonably priced, but that doesn’t mean much when most of the competition is within spitting distance. And that’s where the problem lies.
The excellent Xiaomi Mi Band 5 is priced about the same and offers a much more evolved user experience. The capability set is similar to the OnePlus Band, except features like connected GPS actually work. It even tosses in additions like female health-tracking, a PAI score for overall fitness levels, and the ability to track stress levels. The Mi Band 5 is priced at Rs. 2,499 in India and can be had for €39.99 (~$47) across Europe, and for £39.99 (~$53) in the UK.
Then there’s the Amazfit Neo. It brings effective step and sleep tracking, with the added benefit of a truly unique throwback design. The Amazfit Neo is priced at Rs. 2,499 in India.
For a little more money, you can get yourself the Redmi Watch. Xiaomi’s budget fitness watch includes GPS albeit with concessions made to the build quality and general usability through a relatively clunky interface. The Redmi Watch can be had for Rs. 3,999 (~$54) in India and goes as the Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite in the US where it costs a much higher $95.
OnePlus has yet to announce pricing or a release date for the OnePlus Band in the UK, Europe, or US.
OnePlus Band review: The verdict
The OnePlus Band was the company’s first entry into the fitness wearables work, but it has since followed it up with the OnePlus Watch. Despite the sound hardware, the band disappoints in its execution with spotty tracking and poor battery life. As such, the hardware fundamentals are all in place, but the execution leaves much to be desired.
At the core of a fitness tracker is its ability to, well, track fitness levels. The lack of accuracy with connected GPS and the occasional dropouts in heart rate tracking isn’t very reassuring. Neither is the abysmal battery life. But more than that, it is the underwhelming OnePlus Health app that disappoints.
The OnePlus Band is a surprisingly unpolished product surrounded by mature competition.
Sure, most of these software woes can be sorted out over time with subsequent updates — a recurring theme with OnePlus. Nevertheless, for a brand making a bold step into a brand new product category, it is disappointing to see such a derivative, unfinished product.
The OnePlus Band is a serviceable fitness band in need of a whole lot of polishing before it can take on the existing competition.