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OnePlus Watch review: The beauty is only skin deep

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
149
inc VAT

The OnePlus Watch is almost impossibly beautiful for the money but it doesn’t do enough

Pros 
Gorgeous design
Long battery life
Very reasonable price
Cons 
Sports features are unadventurous
Rudimentary notification handling
No third-party apps
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When OnePlus launches into a new product area, it’s always a bit of a red-letter day. And the company’s reputation for knocking out top-quality hardware at reasonable prices continues with the OnePlus Watch.

This is the firm’s first wearable, yet it appears that OnePlus has nailed the hardware side of things, producing a smartwatch that is among the most attractive and well made that we’ve seen.

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OnePlus Watch review: What do you get for the money?

With a large, sharp 1.39in 454 x 454 resolution AMOLED touch display, the OnePlus Watch comes in black (pictured) or silver, and there’s also a limited edition “Cobalt”. Made from a heavy, polished stainless steel (or cobalt alloy), it’s topped with hard, scratch-resistant, sapphire crystal glass and comes with a thick, pin-and-tuck silicone-rubber strap. It’s 5ATM waterproof (50m) and IP68 rated as well.

It feels luxurious to wear and is one of the most attractive smartwatches I’ve come across, which makes the £149 price tag all the more remarkable. If looks are important to you, OnePlus has well and truly nailed it on its very first attempt. The only thing that’s mildly disappointing is that there’s no smaller version: at 46mm across, the OnePlus Watch’s body is on the large side and won’t suit those with slimmer wrists.

Pre-order the OnePlus Watch now from OnePlus


OnePlus has included all the features a smartwatch needs, too, with plenty of sensors and radios packed in. There’s a combined optical heart-rate and blood-oxygen monitor on the rear, GPS for positioning (with support for GLONASS, Galileo and Beidou, too), an accelerometer, gyroscope and barometer.

As with most smartwatches, the watch connects to your phone via Bluetooth and it’s managed via the new OnePlus Health app, which is also where you can view health stats and workouts tracked via the watch’s various sensors.

Perhaps most impressive, however, is the OnePlus Watch’s battery life, which extends to a claimed 14 days for “typical use” and 25 hours of continuous exercise with GPS. I can’t vouch for either of those figures but, having taken delivery of the watch, fully charged, at midday on Saturday, it was still going strong with 36% left on the gauge at midday the following Tuesday, with around three and three-quarter hours of continuous GPS usage in that time.

OnePlus Watch review: What does it do?

With battery life like that, it probably won’t surprise you to discover that the OnePlus Watch doesn’t use Android Wear. Instead, the watch’s software is of OnePlus’ own design.

So, what can you do with it? Clearly, it can tell the time, which is a start, but there’s plenty of choice when it comes to watch faces and it’s good to see that OnePlus has clearly worked out something that so many other smartwatch manufacturers fail to do – that pure black backgrounds work best. OnePlus promises 50-plus watch faces to choose from, although you can only store 14 on the watch at once.

Other than this, the Watch delivers everything you’d expect it to: you get notifications from any apps on your smartphone, music controls for Spotify and the like, plus the ability to transfer playlists and MP3 files for playing locally on the watch. You can even make and receive phone calls using the Watch’s built-in microphone and speaker.

This being a first attempt at smartwatch software, there are some gaps, however, with the main one being how notifications are handled. The system is pretty rudimentary with only the subject line displayed and no means of expanding and reading the full message or responding on the watch itself.

There’s also no means, right now, of adding to the watch’s capabilities via installable apps, which puts the OnePlus Watch at a disadvantage to Android Wear devices or the Apple Watch. In this respect, its natural competitors are watches such as the Huawei Watch GT 2 and the Amazfit GTR, both wearables that also use proprietary software.

The rest of the watch’s features focus on health and fitness and there is plenty here to like: the watch does step, calorie burn and sleep tracking automatically, and there are plenty of activities you can track manually, too.

There are profiles for all the core activities you’d expect, including running, hiking, cycling and indoor swimming (with stroke count and SWOLF tracking), plus more gym-based activities such as indoor cycling, elliptical trainer and rowing machine sessions, yoga and freestyle. OnePlus promises there will be over 100 activity profiles at launch, but my review unit was only showing 13 at the time of writing.

It will track your position via GPS, which means you can leave your phone at home when you go out on a run and you get an impressive amount of information displayed while you exercise, including heart rate, heart rate zone, pace and calories burned. It even displays more advanced stats when you pause your workouts, including VO2 max and how much time you’ve spent in the various heart-rate zones.

Elsewhere, you get the chance to measure your blood oxygen level – either as a spot check or overnight – and your stress levels. There are guided breathing, barometer and compass apps, too, and a remote control app for the OnePlus TV.

And it’s all pretty easy to use and responsive. On the Watch, you use a combination of swipes and button presses to navigate around, which is simple to get to grips with. The Watch syncs reliably with the OnePlus Health app, too, where you can view your stats in more depth, share workouts and sync data to Google Fit.

Pre-order the OnePlus Watch now from OnePlus


OnePlus Watch review: What don’t we like?

It’s at this point that the OnePlus Watch begins to fall short, however. There’s currently no means of analysing your long-term trends so you can see your progress over time.

There’s no way of implementing a training plan or creating simple structured workouts. You’d think that this type of device would be ideal for Couch to 5km but, as it stands, all you can do with it right now is track one-off workouts and view the results in isolation.

What’s more, many of the reported numbers simply bear no relation to reality. The VO2 max calculation, for instance, is completely off. Most fitness devices estimate my VO2 max at between 50 and 55; the OnePlus Watch estimated it at 21. Perhaps an update or a few more workouts will sort this – I’ll update this as I use the watch more.

Heart rate isn't bad. It's a little unresponsive like most wrist-bound optical heart rate monitors, which means it isn't very useful for interval training, but averages and peaks for steady workouts weren't a huge amount off what my Polar H10 chelt belt was reporting. 

The GPS is another kettle of fish, however. Once the watch has a satellite fix, it's decent enough as evidenced by my most recent long run with it. I left the watch out on the garden table to ensure it had a solid lock and over 23.57km it was only 1.1km short versus the super-accurate Stryd pod I was also running with. Given much of the run was under fairly dense tree cover, that isn't a terrible result. On other runs where I waited long enough for it to get a fix, it tallied with other wearables I was running with at the time as well.

Unfortunately, if you don't have the time to wait for it to get a fix, and there's no clear indication in the workout view whether it has a firm lock or not, your results will be out and not by a small amount. I went on several runs with it where it completely missed the first kilometer or more: on 14 April, I ran 7.32km and the OnePlus Watch registered 7.07km (a difference of 0.25km); on 20 April I ran 7.22km and the OnePlus Watch registered 6.03km (a difference of 1.19km); on 27 April, I ran 7.74km and the OnePlus Watch registered 5.46km (a difference of 2.28km).

It's worth noting that this problem has persisted, despite OnePlus updating the watch on 21 April and supposedly improving GPS performance.

There are some other things I don't like about this from a sports perspective, too. The text on in-workout screens is too small to read when you're bouncing up and down running, making it tough to keep track of your stats while you exercise. And there are a number of smaller missing features, too:

  • No always on-screen option – just tap to wake or raise to wake (UPDATE - 05/05/21: this feature is coming soon, so may not be a con for long) 
  • No external fitness sensor support, for example for Bluetooth heart rate chest belts 
  • As mentioned above, no third-party app support
  • No iOS app

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OnePlus Watch review: Should you buy one?

The OnePlus Watch is a great-looking smartwatch. I’ve come across nothing like it in terms of pure hardware appeal for this sort of money – it’s absolutely gorgeous.

Couple that with long battery life and decent ease of use, and you have something that will almost certainly appeal to staunch OnePlus fans.

For fitness fans, however, and those who want their smartwatch to do a little more, OnePlus is going to have to do a lot more work on the Watch than this. It’s a good start, and very temptingly priced, but it’s disappointing that it doesn’t do more.

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