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Featured Review: Oukitel A28 Smartwatch

August 3, 2015 - Written By Nick Sutrich

Oukitel is an up and coming Chinese brand that’s only released a few phones and devices so far, but is diving head on into the smartwatch trend that’s begun to envelop the smart devices segment.  As is the norm for many Chinese manufacturers Oukitel is playing the price war game, pricing this far below most smartwatches at under $60 almost no matter where you look, some $200-300 less than the big names out there at the very least.  This price point almost eschews a “disposable” mentality, one where a customer can purchase different styles and wear them depending on the day, giving greater variety all while keeping the budget intact.  Is the A28 as forgettable a product as its name suggests?  Let’s take a look.

Hardware

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The box itself is a super simple brown cardboard box with an Oukitel logo and picture of the device up top.  Inside you’ll find the fairly basic supplies of the watch, charging cradle and USB cable.  There’s no wall charger included here, which is a little suspect, but I guess Oukitel supposes you already have enough of those lying around anyway.  The cradle that the watch sits in fits snugly and charges the watch via a 4-pin system, and undocking the watch is as simple as pulling it out of the base with a little force to unclip it.

If you’ve ever seen the Asus Zenwatch you’ll likely recall that it looks incredibly similar to the Oukitel A28, a similarity that likely isn’t a coincidence.  The Zenwatch is arguably the finest looking square smartwatch on the market and its getting a followup soon too.  The overall design of the watch is a rounded-off square design with a ribbed chrome trim around the face.  A sizable black bezel fits a fairly small square LCD screen in place, and the only physical button is the power button on the right side of the watch.  Underneath you’ll find a grey matte plastic bottom as well as a biometric sensor and recessed charging pins so they don’t touch your skin.  The device definitely comes in a bit thicker than most smartwatches and will have to be up to the user as to whether or not it’s too thick.

The watch ships with genuine leather bands, mine shipping with a black one, that attaches via a pin system to the main body of the watch.  I didn’t see any obvious way to detach these pins although it’s likely there is one if you try hard enough.  The included band was very comfortable and easy to adjust however I thought it was a bit too thin for my wrist, something that would be more easily rectifiable if the band were more easily replaceable.  There’s a slight curve to the glass which houses the screen giving it a more elegant appeal than if it were just flat.  The display itself looks quite good with good resolution for its size, good black levels and colors that pop.  Brightness is always a concern for something like a watch since you’ll no doubt be looking at it outside often times, and thankfully it was plenty bright to be able to see well.

App and Battery Life

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The Oukitel A28 runs an OS that’s not based on Android and has compatibility with both iOS and Android, although there are a few extra features if you’re running an Android device because of the way Android functions.  Connecting to your phone is done via the MediaTek Smart Device app, a free app found on the Play Store that’s designed to connect your MediaTek-powered smart device via Bluetooth and deliver notifications and other information to the phone.  To put it lightly this app isn’t the best, and in fact I had an immensely difficult time getting it to connect to the watch at all.  This isn’t an exclusive problem with the Oukitel A28 either; the other MediaTek smartwatches I’ve tried all have the same problem.  As I don’t have a phone in my possession that’s not running Android 5.0 or 5.1 Lollipop I can’t see if it’s a problem with Google’s newest OS, but seeing as how Lollipop has been around for developers to work off of for over a year now there’s no excuse as to why this shouldn’t work.  Unless there’s some other app that’s compatible with the watch that will work better I’m not sure I can honestly recommend this as a connected watch for your phone.

Connecting to the phone likely takes a toll on battery life, but without the Bluetooth connection being active the watch lasted well over half a week without needing a charge at all.  This was some really nice standby time that gives you some additional functions over a basic watch without sacrificing the battery life you would expect from something like a watch.  I can’t attest to actual connected battery life since I wasn’t able to get it working with the app most of the time, but I would expect around a day as rated by Oukitel.

Functionality and Software

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Outside of the awful experience I had with the MediaTek software, the watch itself has been pretty great.  The watch comes with 4 pre-installed faces, two analog and two digital.  While the rest of the UI isn’t so bad these watch faces are just plain ugly in every sense of the word.  There’s no obvious way to add additional watch faces so you’re going to have to be happy with what you get here unless Oukitel offers another way to add more or even customize the ones that come with the watch.  There are three different themes for the system but these are independent from the watch faces themselves, meaning only the list of apps seen after pressing on the face is what actually gets themed.

Navigation is pretty straightforward and involves a series of swipes to move from one screen to the other.  The watch face acts sort of as a lock screen of sorts, swiping it away reveals the list of apps and the rest of the OS.  To return to the watch face you can wait for the specified timeout value, press the power button located on the right side of the watch or swipe up or down anywhere on the watch.  Like many other watches the time is not always displayed on the watch itself, especially when in apps.  This is irritating but again isn’t exclusive to this watch, so while it’s a negative it’s certainly one that every smartwatch to date seems to share.  Lighting up the face can be done either via the standard gesture, where you rotate your wrist toward yourself, or by pressing the power button on the watch.  The gesture works well and registered every time without having to fling the watch or anything obnoxious like that, and didn’t seem to have any significant impact on battery life.

Since I was never able to actually successfully get the MediaTek app to work right with linking both the phone and watch together it’s a little difficult to review exactly how well the phone and messaging functionality work.  The notifications I did receive periodically from the phone during successful connection periods were useful and pop-up on the screen as a window with the sender’s name, scrollable text and a set of action buttons below.  Unfortunately replying to someone was extremely difficult, as the watch wants the user to type with an actual keyboard, something that’s not really reasonable with a screen this small.  There’s no easy voice typing that I could find, but then again without it being connected 100% of the time it’s difficult to see what works here and what doesn’t.

Calling someone can be done without the app though and works very well.  Contacts should be synced with the watch so using the watch as a speakerphone is possible, as all sound comes through the speaker on the watch including phone notifications unless turned off otherwise.  You can dial numbers straight from the watch or just use the included phonebook, which resembles the one found on your phone and again should include the same contacts.  When connected to your phone the watch can notify you if it’s been disconnected as well as assist you in finding your phone based on lose Bluetooth calculation distance.  We’ve seen this sort of technology used in part with the XY Smart Beacon and it’s generally a good way to narrow down which room in your house or which car you might have left your phone in.

Other remote control functionality includes Bluetooth music control where you can adjust the volume or change the track of any song currently playing on your phone.  This only applies to sound playing through the watch though and cannot be used for sound just playing on your phone or through another speaker, so the functionality is limited.  Remote capture is designed to allow the user to take pictures with your phone via the watch, so taking a group photo by setting the phone down and pressing the shutter button on the watch makes things easier than setting a timer and running back to the group.

Operations that can be performed on the watch without any sort of syncing to your device are actually quite numerous, and are by far the biggest selling points of the watch.  In fact I would recommend buying this watch only for these features, and if you can get any of the above features to work at all it’s more of a bonus than anything.  Built-in health functions include a pedometer, which must be started manually but doesn’t shut off after that unless asked to, even between days.  A sleep monitor helps monitor sleeping patterns to help you identify how deeply you’re sleeping.  Sedentary reminder is a simple reminder for you to get up from your desk at the office and stretch or do some excercise, with customizable 30-minute intervals up to 300 minutes.  The heart rate monitor works incredibly well, is fast and most importantly accurate.  You can use it either to take a single snapshot of your heart rate or leave it on to constantly monitor your heart rate every so often.  All of these apps store the data on the watch in an easy to read format that’s categorized by date, so if you want to see a history of steps, heart rate or sleeping patterns it’s super simple to pull it up.

Lastly are the sound recorder and calculator tools, which do exactly what they sound like.  The digitizer on the watch is high quality and easily registers the smallest peck, so something like a calculator that requires more precise input works just fine here where it wouldn’t on some other smartwatches.

Conclusion

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A smartwatch means more than one thing, and for around $50 the Oukitel A28 offers a smartwatch experience that’s very hit or miss depending on what you’re buying one for.  Battery life when not being synced was phenomenal, although this is likely to drop significantly depending on how many health monitors you’re running as well as whether or not it’s connected to your phone.  Build quality was actually pretty nice and didn’t come off looking too cheap, although you’re not going to fool anyone into thinking you’ve paid hundreds of dollars for this thing.  The included leather strap is comfortable and should fit almost any sized wrist, which is good because there doesn’t seem to be a good way of taking the band off to replace it.  The biggest issue here is connectivity, where the MediaTek Smart Device app completely falls on its face.  I simply cannot recommend the Oukitel A28 for more than simple health monitoring and the occasional phone call or calculator use, which may be just fine given the fact that it’s only about $50 anyway.  You can purchase it with Coupon code: A28  Coupon price: $49.99 right now, our trusted supplier GearBest.