Ecosystems are the next battleground in the constant race for brand dominance in the consumer tech world. With smartphone demographics reasonably demarcated amongst brands, companies are increasingly trying to create “stickiness” to their own brand ecosystems through, well… ecosystem products. As it turns out, wearables are generally the most affordable entryway to get a taste for a brand’s product portfolio. It’s a tried and tested formula that generally works as long as the product delivers.
Enter OnePlus and the OnePlus Watch. Now an established name in the global smartphone industry, OnePlus is hoping to trap those same customers in its own burgeoning interconnected product family with its second shot at the wearables market. Unfortunately for OnePlus, the companies’ non-smartphone devices have been hit-and-miss. The over-engineered OnePlus TV was too expensive, while its first stab at the wearables space — the OnePlus Band — was half-baked and didn’t release in key markets such as the US and Europe.
Can OnePlus make inroads into the lucrative wearable and ecosystem space with its much-hyped first smartwatch? That’s what we aim to find out in Android Authority‘s OnePlus Watch review.
What you need to know about the OnePlus Watch
- OnePlus Watch: $159/£149/€159/Rs. 14,999
- OnePlus Watch (Cobalt Edition): Price to be announced
The OnePlus Watch follows the OnePlus Band as the company’s second entry into the fitness wearable space. However, the biggest difference is that the OnePlus Watch is launching globally, making it the first OnePlus wearable to hit US and European shores in addition to India, China, and other regions.
The wearable has a strong health and fitness focus. As a result, it comes with all of the essentials of a modern fitness smartwatch, including heart rate tracking, SpO2 monitoring, and a bevy of sensors, including a barometer and compass. OnePlus is promising up to 110 fitness modes, though most of these will be available as a post-launch update. Additionally, you get an IP68 rating for waterproofing.
The OnePlus Watch has its work cut out for it in the fitness smartwatch space.
The OnePlus Watch has its work cut out for it. It needs to stand out amongst established competitors in the fitness smartwatch space like the affordable Huami Amazfit lineup, Xiaomi, Realme, and more established global brands like Garmin and Fitbit.
OnePlus hopes to stand out with its focus on attention to detail, especially with the Cobalt Limited Edition that replaces the standard 316L stainless steel for a cobalt alloy and the silicon strap for a leather variant.
Does the OnePlus Watch look good?
I’d be putting it mildly if I said OnePlus is playing it safe with the OnePlus Watch design. You’ve seen this design a thousand times. At the core of it, it’s really just a round display with a bezel around it. It’s a functional look, but I couldn’t help but think how similar it looks to some of Amazfit’s watches.
The star of the show is the 1.39-inch AMOLED display that has a 2.5D curved glass on top. It’s bright enough to be easily viewed outdoors, and the ambient light sensor does a great job at turning down the brightness indoors.
Also read: Everything you need to know about OnePlus
The app includes a wide selection of watch faces with 50+ to choose from at launch via the OnePlus Health app. However, you can’t add your own custom watch faces, there’s no third-party watch face support, and there’s no always-on display support. The latter, in particular, is a big miss as you’ll need to wake the watch with a wrist turn gesture whenever you want to check the time.
You’ll definitely notice the bezels, but subtle concentric circles add a bit of visual flair. However, I wish OnePlus had opted for a slightly smaller dial and/or bezels here. Clocking in at 46mm, the watch is definitely a chonker, and even with the strapped pulled down to the tightest fit, the watch still felt loose on my wrist.
You’ll find two buttons on the side — one for the menu and the other being a quick access key that defaults to the workout modes.
I have mixed feelings about the OnePlus text emblazoned on the button, but you don’t see it nearly enough to be an eyesore. The back of the watch is unremarkable, aside from a handful of sensors and pogo pins for charging — standard stuff.
The OnePlus Watch can be used to make phone calls, which can come in handy on occasion.
For all the Dick Tracy fans out there, the OnePlus Watch can make and accept phone calls. It’s not a feature that I was actively seeking out to use during my time with the watch, but it came in handy while I was doing the dishes. The speaker is reasonably loud and crisp for a quick call. That said, a speakerphone replacement it is not.
Over to the strap, OnePlus is keeping it straightforward with a silicon band. The rubber is suitably supple and soft, and it doesn’t attract much grime either. I would have preferred a more conventional buckle system over the pin-strap system here, which can be a pain to fit in, but that’s a personal preference. It’s good then that the watch uses a standard 22mm strap size; you can easily switch out the strap for another one of your preference with the universal fitting.
Overall, the OnePlus Watch’s design is all very neat and clean — perhaps a bit boring even. But what’s here works just fine, and I can’t really complain. I particularly like the weight of the watch. At 45g, the watch feels more like a well-built analog watch than a fitness tracker. Other features include IP68 and 5ATM ratings. This means you can submerge the OnePlus Watch by as much as 50 meters for up to 10 minutes. Suffice it to say, you can take it for a swim.
On battery life, OnePlus claims the Watch can last two weeks on a single charge. While I haven’t had the watch for two weeks, I can safely say that you likely won’t get anywhere close to that longevity. In my time with the OnePlus Watch, I went from 70% charge down to nearly zero in about five days. You can stretch this a bit further by turning off SpO2 monitoring or reducing the frequency of heart rate monitoring, but that defeats the purpose of a fitness smartwatch.
A week of use on one charge is still a pretty respectable time frame considering the number of features you’re getting here. Charging is quick as well, with a five-minute top-up getting you enough juice to get you through a whole day.
How smart is the OnePlus Watch?
The OnePlus Watch isn’t much of a smartwatch at all. In fact, for all practical purposes, it’s really just a fitness watch with some “smart” features tacked on. I’ll admit, this wasn’t really something I expected from OnePlus, but it makes sense given its choice to opt for an RTOS software platform instead of Google’s ailing Wear OS.
Calling the OnePlus Watch a smartwatch is a misnomer.
The watch doesn’t support any smart assistant, nor does it have much additional functionality aside from viewing notifications and a few pre-bundled apps. Most notifications are non-actionable, though you can tap a few built-in responses for WhatsApp and similar services.
The built-in weather, alarm, stopwatch, timer, and flashlight apps work as expected. I liked the inclusion of a barometer and compass, which should come in handy when I’m finally able to step out for hikes. There’s a find your phone app as well. OnePlus is also touting integration with its smart TVs. Unfortunately, I didn’t have one of those on hand to test it out.
If you do a lot of running, you’ll like the inclusion of 4GB of storage space, of which 2GB is available to users. You can load up your favorite tunes using the OnePlus Health app. These transfers take place over Bluetooth, and it’ll take a long time to fill up that storage. Additionally, you cannot play music over the built-in speaker.
The robustness of the Bluetooth connection stood out to me over the course of my time with the watch. Sure, the operating system is fluid, but that tends to be the case for most of these fitness watches. However, connection reliability can be lackluster on cheaper smartwatches. Paired up with a OnePlus 9 Pro, the OnePlus Watch rarely, if ever, failed to deliver notifications.
The OnePlus Watch doesn’t connect to Wi-Fi or LTE, so you’ll need your phone to receive notifications. Additionally, while it has NFC on board, it doesn’t have any payment support.
How is the health and fitness tracking?
Fitness tracking is at the core of the OnePlus Watch, and the company has tossed in enough sensors to make sure it can excel at the job. It does all the basics like step tracking, daily caloric burn, distance tracking, and heart rate monitoring just fine.
I found step tracking to be accurate and in line with my Fitbit Ionic. No issues there. The same is true for calorie burn. I also found the OnePlus Watch to be exceptionally good at heart rate monitoring and blood oxygen saturation monitoring.
Also read: The best fitness trackers you can buy
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve kept a close eye on my heart rate and SpO2 levels. I compared the OnePlus Watch readings with a dedicated pulse oximeter and found the reading to be within spitting distance of the dedicated meter. On most occasions, the variance was to the tune of 1%, making the OnePlus Watch a viable alternative for spot-checking oxygen saturation levels, though not a replacement for a dedicated sensor. The OnePlus Watch can be set to record SpO2 measurements automatically while you sleep for better data analysis, and this works as expected.
I have similarly good things to report about heart rate monitoring. The OnePlus Watch is exceptionally accurate and closer to a dedicated meter than my Fitbit. The spot values I took lined up with a dedicated heart rate monitor with a negligible variance of 1-2bpm. The resting heart rate readings were also in line with other fitness trackers I had on hand.
OnePlus claims that the Watch supports up to 110 different activities, though this isn’t the case at launch. The OnePlus Watch is expected to get a firmware update in mid-May to add these extra modes. At launch, users will have access to 15 different workout modes that should cover the essentials. These include:
- Outdoor running
- Indoor running
- Fat burn run
- Outdoor cycling
- Indoor cycling
- Outdoor walk
- Elliptical trainer
- Rowing machine
- Freestyle training
Additionally, the OnePlus Watch has built-in GPS support for outdoor workouts. I couldn’t really take it out for a run on my preferred running path given the prevailing circumstances, but a long walk with the outdoor walk setting gave me some keen insights.
The OnePlus Watch does an excellent job at latching on to GPS signals.
For one, the OnePlus Watch does an incredible job at latching on to GPS signals. This has usually been a pain point for me with many fitness wearables. Chalk it down to poor antenna positioning or a high-density urban environment, but my Fitbit can take up to 10 minutes to get a good signal. The OnePlus Watch barely took 10 seconds. Moreover, it held on to the signal over the entirety of my workouts.
The step accuracy was more or less in line with the data recorded by my Fitbit Ionic. The watch captures essential data like distance, heart rate, step counts, estimated calorie burn, and cadence. You’ll even get heart rate zone reports directly on the watch itself. Additionally, a neat feature is the ability to see workout records where you can go back and take a look at previous workouts for reference.
Related: The best running watches you can buy
On a brief run around the block, the OnePlus Watch did an excellent job of holding on to the GPS signal despite tall apartments on all sides. The cadence sensors picked up on nuances like me slowing down to avoid a pothole. Heart rate measurement, too, was in line with my current completely out-of-shape self. I don’t have a chest-mounted heart rate monitor to compare the watch with, but a spot check against a Fitbit Ionic showed very similar heart rate values. It’s definitely good enough to give you an overview of your fitness levels.
As a life-long insomniac, better data on my sleep has been a revelation. It’s not a life-changing difference, but I’ve taken steps to maximize the quality of the limited sleep that I do get. The OnePlus Watch was spot-on in recognizing exactly when I went to bed and when I woke up. The granular analysis of my sleep cycles was in line with my Fitbit once again. Moreover, it tallied up very well with how I was feeling the next morning.
I’d have liked more data on the sleep breathing analysis, but what’s here is good. The watch will give you an average SpO2 figure based on spot readings taken through the night. It’ll also tell you if your breathing was normal, which is great for anyone who doesn’t want to dip too deep into the data side of things. If you want more detail, you can head over to the dedicated SpO2 tab in the OnePlus Health app to slide through the charts.
Finally, most major fitness trackers have added menstruation cycle tracking to the mix, but you get no such functionality here.
How’s the OnePlus Health app?
The Achilles heel of the OnePlus wearable ecosystem has to be the OnePlus Health app. This was the case with the OnePlus Band, and it’s the same story here.
The app is too basic. It’s divided into three tabs: Health, Fitness, and Manage. The Health tab pulls up an overview of fitness data and lets you dive into individual sections for more information. The default tabs let you view the average heart rate, last night’s sleep, SpO2 value, stress, and workout logs.
I noticed a few inconsistencies here. For one, despite taking multiple spot readings for blood saturation, the app displayed none of my manual readings. I could only access the data for saturation levels monitored while sleeping.
The app presents a pretty looking graph and value over on the stress section, with no indication of how it reached that score. Nor are there any suggestions on how to improve on it.
The OnePlus Health app is too basic.
Head over to the workout section, and the graphs look pretty again, but you can’t look up heart rate values at specific instances of the workout. Not very useful.
It’s not all bad, of course. Both heart rate and sleep tracking sections provide ample data. In particular, the latter gives you deep insights not just on sleep stages but also on oxygen levels and general sleep advice.
The Manage section of the app is where you can change the watch faces on the OnePlus Watch. Additional device settings include the ability to add music to the onboard storage. You can even shoot over 30 contacts for quick access as well as set daily workout goals.
My biggest gripe with the app is its inability to connect with most third-party services bar Google Fit. Now, Google Fit is fine — even if it is a little rudimentary for hardcore health nuts — but as someone who has been using Strava for years, I need my data to be exportable, and there is no way around that here. This is further compounded by the fact that food tracking is a major part of fitness tracking. I use MyFitnessPal to manage my daily macros, and the inability to integrate that data with the OnePlus Health app was frustrating.
OnePlus Watch specs
454 x 454 resolution
|Dimensions and weight||46.4 x 46.4 x 10.9mm (without sensor base)|
|Materials||316L stainless steel|
Cobalt alloy (only for limited edition)
|Colors||Midnight Black, Moonlight Silver|
Air pressure sensor (Barometer)
Optical heart rate
|Fitness tracking||100+ workout modes|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth 5.0 BLE|
|Compatibility ||Android 5.0 and above|
No iOS support
Value and competition
The OnePlus Watch is going up against a world of competition in every market.
The most obvious alternatives in the US and Europe are the fitness-focused watches from Fitbit and Garmin. The Fitbit Versa 2 can be had for around the same price, though even the Versa 3 is only marginally more expensive if you need some extra sensors like onboard GPS. Likewise, the Garmin Venu Sq is a great buy for $199. Both Fitbit and Garmin offer a far more robust software ecosystem and superior companion apps.
Meanwhile, in India, you’ve got alternatives like the Realme Watch S Pro that brings much of the same functionality, barring spotty GPS at a significantly lower Rs. 9999 (~$132). The Xiaomi Mi Watch Revolve is a fitness tracking-oriented watch with a bolder design and brighter display. It’s available at just Rs. 9000 (~$122), making it an affordable entryway into the world of wearables.
Read more: The best smartwatches you can buy
The Amazfit GTR 2e is another option with much of the same features, albeit with more sports profiles. The watch looks rather fetching and has a vibrant display for just Rs. 9,999 (~$132).
Finally, if you want a full-blown smartwatch, you could do worse than the Wear OS-powered Oppo Watch. While the battery life predictably isn’t a scratch on the OnePlus Watch, the sheer functionality is miles ahead. The inclusion of Google Assistant makes it a solid bet, and you can, of course, install more apps. The Oppo Watch starts at Rs. 13,999 (~$190) and can be had for £229 in the UK for the 41mm variant.
If you’re not wedded to having a smartwatch on your wrist, there are also a ton of fitness bands worth considering. That includes the Xiaomi Mi Band 6, which is set to release globally in the coming months and offers similar functionality at a fraction of the cost of the OnePlus Watch.
OnePlus Watch review: The verdict
OnePlus is charging far too much money for its glorified fitness tracker.
I do like what’s here. The design is inoffensive, battery life is solid, and there’s scope for excellent fitness tracking. However, the app is severely lacking in functionality. Be it better data analysis or the ability to integrate into broader ecosystems, the app feels unfinished. It removes a lot of the appeal of the OnePlus Watch as a fitness tracking aid. There’s also the fact the majority of the fitness tracking functionality is yet to come.
The OnePlus Watch isn't a bad fitness wearable, but it's not up there with the very best.
Sure, it isn’t competing against the Galaxy Watches and Apple Watches of the world, but even as a regular fitness wearable, it’s nowhere near ready to go up against established options. More so when you could just as well buy a Fitbit or Garmin with equally good or better tracking and a software ecosystem that is leagues ahead.
The OnePlus Watch isn’t a bad fitness watch, but you’re paying just a bit too much for the OnePlus brand. In a sea of established alternatives, I’m really not sure it’s a premium worth paying for.