A Budget-Friendly Fitness Wearable & Watch
No.1 is a lesser-known Chinese smartwatch maker with a huge range of products covering everything from fitness bands to watches that feature full versions of Android, complete with Google Play Store. Among their latest creations is the No.1 F6, which launched in January of 2018. The F6 falls squarely into the category of budget-focused fitness wearables, so it certainly isn't going to fit the needs of every consumer looking for a new smartwatch. Those needs would be better served by the company's D7 or another Android-based wearable. It also is not among the most stylish fitness wearables on the market or the most feature-rich. However, that doesn't mean it isn't worth looking into, as it fits almost perfectly into a very precise niche of wrist-borne technologies. Specifically, No.1's F6 may be one of the best available options for users who need a very durable but low-cost solution to tracking fitness metrics and time while not worrying too much about battery life.
With regard to specifications, this is not the everyday run-of-the-mill smartwatch. For starters, this is among the most affordable smartwatches available at around $40, with sale prices dipping well below $35. So, it shouldn’t be too surprising that it doesn’t feature top-of-the-line hardware on the inside or the most premium design on the outside. The No.1 F6 is powered by a 32-bit Nordic NRF51822 processor, backed up by 256K of RAM and internal storage at around 32KB. Bluetooth 4.0 is built-in to that and there are an array of motion sensors on board, as well as a heart rate monitor on the portion of the watch that meets the wrist. The whole package is powered by a 350mAh battery and squeezed into a silicone and stainless steel frame behind a low-resolution 0.96-inch OLED screen. Buttons along either side of that face are used for the vast majority of interactions and that experience is heavily augmented via smartphone connection with compatibility for either Android or iOS.
In The Box
Opening the box for the No.1 F6 reveals the smartwatch itself, with a screen protector pre-installed underneath a protective, branded film. There’s a protector on the back as well, to prevent the stainless steel from scratching. Aside from the watch, the box only contains a user manual - which provides instructions in a dozen or so languages, and a charging cable. There’s no adapter included for that cable in the package and we weren’t able to find any information about the recommended charging specifications. However, an adapter from a first-generation Asus Zenwatch was used (5V/2A) and seemed to work just fine. The user manual also contains a QR-code to scan in order to get the appropriate smartphone application - which is called FunDo.
Hardware & Aesthetics
Aesthetically speaking, No.1’s F6 has the appearance similar to the standard round-faced sports watches from the 1990's through now. That means that it’s a bit on the bulky side and not really suited for any formal occasions but its stainless steel and silicone construction won't necessarily look too out of place in that setting - even if it does look a bit old school. Although its weight only comes in at 1.3 ounces (around 37.6 grams), the F6 measures 53mm and 50mm from edge to edge. Unfortunately, since it is also around 20mm thick, it feels substantially larger than more expensive smartwatches and is going to moderately uncomfortable for some users. Meanwhile, the watchband is held on via embedded Phillips-head screws and is composed of silicone. That measures 230mm by 22mm wide. The entire watch is also covered with various markings to indicate that it is, indeed, a sports watch with features such as water-resistance and Bluetooth connectivity. That includes labeling for each of its buttons which are soft to press but feel very responsive. The heart rate sensor is pressed directly onto the user's wrist, so there's no fiddling with the device to take a reading. Those markings may eventually wear off, but the No.1 F6 itself feels solid and durable. In fact, it's rated to IP68 for dust and water resistance. No.1 claims that it can be safely taken to depths of up to 50 meters without causing damage. Moreover, the company says it can handle temperatures up to 70° C - approximately 158° F - to negative 40° C.
As mentioned above, the screen here is OLED but is not high-resolution. The display only works in one color, white, and there isn't much by way of customization. It is touch-enabled but only allows for swipes, rather than inputs. So navigation is effectively limited to only the buttons. However, there are 4 dials to choose from and only one of those feels completely useless. If No.1 had opted to resize the first option, an analog dial, to fill the entire display, it could have been one of the nicer watch faces included here. Unfortunately, it only fills around half of the available screen real estate, leaving it looking awkward and out of place. The final three options are, while not really stylish, at least informative and useful. Each shows the time, date, battery, and connectivity status, while the final option also includes step-counter and heart rate information. Notifications are provided via on-screen animated icons and users can choose to enable a beep or vibrations.
On the software side of the equation is where this wearable shines. With consideration for its price tag and setting aside its somewhat out-of-date aesthetics and display, the No.1 F6 does have quite a bit of functionality. Anybody looking for an Android Wear watch or Android wearable is not going to find what they're looking for here but as a fitness wearable, it checks nearly all of the boxes. Aside from acting as a timepiece, scrolling through the menus reveals step counting features, message or app notifications, health functionality, workout modes, a stopwatch, and phone finder. Each of those works as expected and the associated Android or iOS application helps to bring the features into the modern age. Under step counting, the wearer can see how many steps they've taken, an approximation of calories burned, and distance traveled. Goals for those can be set via the application, although those can't be accessed on the watch itself. App notifications are also customizable via the applications, with users being able to use which apps to receive push notifications from. Unfortunately, there are some quirks to the feature since SMS is automatically selected but choosing an alternate SMS application will result in doubled notifications on the watch. Moreover, some apps, such as Allo, only show that a message has arrived rather than displaying even a part of the message.
Moving on to health functionality, the No.1 F6 features both a heart rate monitor and a sleep tracker. The former appears to work consistently but can be somewhat slow to perform due to the sensor's placement on the top of the wrist. The sensor is not always facing the same part of the wearer's wrist, so the software appears to need to reconfigure itself with each reading. However, that shouldn't be too much of a problem for users who take readings regularly since readings can be scheduled via the application. There are also schedule settings for sedentary reminders, water drinking reminders, alarms, call reminders, and sleep tracking. For workout modes, users can choose between badminton, basketball, mountaineering, cycling, running, and swimming. Finally, there is also a built-in phone finder function and a stopwatch mode. Images can also be snapped with the user's smartphone through a dedicated remote camera function found in the application.
Setting those aside, navigation is also another area where the F6 will take some getting used to since navigation is not as intuitive as it could be. Instead of allowing users to navigate up or down through the sub-menus via the watches buttons, No.1's proprietary software only allows navigation in a single direction once a user has selected a menu option. For example, entering the main step counter feature and beginning to navigate via the up button means that hitting the down button backs the user out of that part of the U.I. rather than scrolling in the opposite direction. On the other hand, in the main menu itself, users can scroll normally either way. That results in a not unusable and the interface is actually very quick and responsive. However, it's also a very inconsistent experience that is going to be a serious headache for users who just want something that's easy to navigate.
Aside from performing the majority of functions users have come to expect from a fitness wearable, the battery life of No.1's F6 smartwatch is probably the most prominent feature. While some other wearables may last one or two days at the most, this watch has a claimed standby time of 120 days. What's more, the company says it will last 50 days with normal use and it only takes a couple of hours to charge up. While we weren't able to test that claim to its conclusion, we did not notice any discernible drop in battery level over the course of three days of use - while also exploring the devices features and settings. So it isn't difficult to believe that a user could go for several weeks without charging the device. That's a remarkable level of energy efficiency that probably ultimately comes back to the F6's low-resolution OLED screen, lack of customization, and stark U.I. Since charging is performed via magnetic pins, it can be relatively convenient to keep No.1's F6 powered but there are also a couple of issues here. The magnets used in the charging cable are not very strong and the cable's materials are not premium quality. That results in a cable that can be difficult to keep in a stable position, causing the charging process to be tedious.
The Good & The Bad
As a pure fitness wearable, there is actually quite a lot to love about No.1's F6 smartwatch. The battery life is exceptional, as is its durability. Features are comparatively abundant, with plenty of modes and functionality for users that are both heavily into fitness and training and for those who are just trying to be a bit more active and healthy. Meanwhile, a very low entry cost and compatibility with both Android and iOS means that its accessible to pretty much anybody who wants to check it out.
On the other hand, in the era of Android Wear and more well-known fitness wearables manufacturers, the No.1 F6 feels very nearly obsolete in terms of bulkiness and style. It isn't the most comfortable device on the market and there is nothing about the watch that really allows the wearer to express themselves.
For those who are into or looking to get into fitness with the assistance of a fitness wearable, No.1's F6 is certainly not something that should be taken off of the table outright. That's particularly true since it can often be found on sale far below its retail $40 cost. However, it is not a device that puts form forward in any sense of the word. Instead, it takes itself seriously in that it avoids any and all unnecessary attention to beauty or style in favor of simply delivering fitness and health information for weeks without being plugged in. That, of course, means it likely won't be appealing to the average user but it may be perfect for any fitness enthusiast who doesn't want to break the bank buying a new, top-of-the-line wearable.