NO.1 stepped out of its apparent comfort zone to deliver a watch that looks and performs above the usual ‘throwaway’ level seen in its bracket.
NO.1 may be a more well-known brand for releasing super rugged and somewhat bulky sports watches. One of its most recent offerings, the NO.1 G12 Smart Watch, takes things in an entirely different direction, however. A fair amount of ruggedization is still in place and the design materials chosen should last for some time but the focus here leans in a more fashion-forward direction. The software and display are better this time around as well as the overall performance. Although there is still plenty in play to remind users that the G12 only costs around $30, the new wearable was a genuine joy to wear around. Barring one or two caveats that will certainly put it outside of the realm of usability for a number of consumers, this fitness wearable proves that the company is learning from its past devices.
The NO.1 G12 Smart Watch is not comprised of TPU, rubber, or plastics with the exception of the magnetic charging apparatus other sensors at the back. Aside from the 1.3-Gorilla Glass 3 touchscreen at the front, the entire thing is comprised of 316L steel. That’s been machined and polished to a high shine silver. Bands are available in either a standard nylon style or a woven stainless steel bracelet style in either black or silver configurations. The latter of those doesn’t have a clasp, depending on a magnet instead and measures 265mm while the former measures 245mm. Both are 22mm wide bands with quick release buttons. That can be worn on a wrist measuring 40 to 70mm and the display is set at 240 x 240 resolution in a 40mm square and the watch portion is 10mm thick. Weight for the IP67-rated G12 falls in at 58g.
For connectivity, the NO.1 G12 is compatible with both Apple and Android via Bluetooth 4.2. A proprietary Nordic NRF52832QFAA chip is used to drive a proprietary operating system that allows between four and seven days of use between charges. Charging the 110mAh battery takes around 2 hours, accomplished via magnetic pins. Interactions with the watch take place via a single touch point on the display with either long or short presses, while the side hardware button is used to ‘go back’ or turn the display on or off. A heart rate sensor, G-sensor, step counting, and other sensors expected in a smartwatch can be found here too.
In The Box
The box the NO.1 G12 is sold in is fairly spartan in terms of inclusions. Users get the watch itself, with the band already attached. There’s a user manual that outlines the basic functionality and the built-in software, in addition to directing users to the HPlus application required to use the watch. That only takes up a dozen pages or so and there are more than three languages in the somewhat thick manual so that just about anybody can get started easily. Aside from that, a USB to magnetic pin charging cable is included. There’s no wall adapter so this will need to be charged at a PC-based USB port, portable charger, or spare wall adapter.
Hardware & Aesthetics
As mentioned above, the entire build here is steel and that adds a very premium feel but not nearly as much as the magnetic band and overall size of this watch. Our test unit was the bracelet style in silver so we can’t comment on the nylon style bands. With that caveat out of the way, many other devices in this category, usually taking the band, bracelet, or full watch style -- but in a bulky form factor. So this watch looks exceptional, relatively speaking, and is much more a ‘fashion’ wearable than other NO.1 devices. In fact, it looks good even compared to some much more expensive devices. The magnetic band makes putting this on or taking it off a no-effort experience and allows a firm fit on any wrist where a clasp with holes is often too loose or tight. The silver band and edges are reflective at the edges and don’t feel cheap, making this arguably the nicest looking watch made by NO.1.
With regard to the build quality of that hardware and starting at the display, the touchscreen is responsive and the side button pushes through with a satisfying but silent clickiness that speaks volumes to the efforts of the company here. The magnetic clasp is firm enough that it isn’t going to even begin to loosen without deliberate intention. The sensors and the resulting data synced to the application appear to be completely accurate.
On the software front, there’s not much to set this NO.1 watch apart from previous entries from the company. That’s unfortunate because it means that the UI is somewhat clunky compared to the experience that can be had with an Android-based wearable or one of Samsung’s offerings. It also means that everything is relatively low-resolution. At the same time, that interface does look much better than on previous NO.1 smartwatches and is much easier to navigate thanks to its dependence on a single touchscreen button and a physical hardware button. Moreover, the UI is super responsive compared to other NO.1 devices and doesn’t seem to lag at all on the watch side. The optimization of the proprietary OS is well done, overall.
On the smartphone side of things, the same HPlus application used with previous NO.1 watches is still in use and that takes away from the overall experience. Syncing data between the watch and the phone can take several minutes and, where a lot of data has been recorded over an extended period of time, hours. Interestingly, some metrics take longer to sync than others. It’s also not as intuitive as might be desirable. On the other hand, using the app in conjunction with the watch does provide a substantial amount of fitness and activity data. It also has plenty of options for adjusting how metrics are taken and what messages, notifications, or other information are sent to the watch and what units of measure will be used. We’ll cover a bit more on the special features of the software on both watch and phone momentarily. Although the application has come a long way, it is still a weak point compared to the rest of the experience with the NO.1 G12. It isn’t terrible for the price of the watch but it isn’t at all perfect.
Special features of the watch itself don’t differ too much from previous offerings from NO.1 but are numerous enough to provide significant insight into the wearer’s habits and health. Of course, each data point is also sent to the smartphone app and can be measured in either imperial or metric units. The app lays those out as charts and detailed information cards. Step counting, calories burned, distance traveled, and heart rate can all be recorded on a regular basis without any additional actions required once the features are turned on. The same is true of notifications and other sync-based features. Sleep tracking is accurate and details whether a given period was spent in a deep sleep state or not as well as when a user was awake. On the watch itself, there are actually dedicated screens for accessing those via simply tapping through the screens with the single on-screen software button. Long-pressing brings up deeper menus and the physical button acts as a back button. Those menus are also where users can view settings, notifications, and change the watch dial between two digital faces and an analog clock.
Under the ‘Exercise’ menu, users will find activities that can be started and stopped in a similar fashion to the above-mentioned controls. Each sub-menu for those activities records its own data set depending on the activity chosen. Long-pressing on Walking, Running, Climbing, or Treadmill shows that records for time, heart rate, steps, calories, distance traveled, and more are measured. Laps can also be logged and users are free to check their current burn rate, in addition to switching over to a more minimalist time screen to keep tabs on their activity. For the Cycling activity, the app only records calories, heart rate, and laps - and the burn rate and time screens. Swimming, Basketball, Badminton, and Football (soccer) only record calories and heart rate as well as time spent in the activity. In each case, users also have the option to save or discard data upon exiting the activity.
The battery life here is exceptional with consideration for the features on offer and the quick charging time but not unlike other fitness-specific wearables. Our measurements appeared to line up accurately with the advertised rating and charging the watch every few days will keep it going indefinitely -- or at least until the battery gives out entirely at the end of its life. It could, of course, go for quite a bit longer with some features turned off but this isn’t necessarily a watch for long treks into the backwoods. As described above, it’s really more of a fashionable accessory that can also defend well enough against splashes, rain, or sweat and will measure health metrics as well as tracking time and other features. So putting it on the magnetic charging cable for an hour or two, once or twice a week is really all that’s going to be needed.
Sleep tracking, heart metrics, step and calorie counting, and smartphone notifications
Relatively high-quality design and build
Extremely inexpensive to buy
The magnetic band makes the G12 exceedingly easy to put on and take off
Gorilla Glass 3 color TFT display
Long battery life
Push button band removal makes customization easy.
UI still needs some polish
The application needs optimizations and is slightly buggy
No GPS or Compass
Obviously, there are going to be some issues with this wearable for those who may be looking for something more customizable on the UI front or who were hoping for something closer to Android or iOS-based. That’s understandable since that’s not what the NO.1 G12 is trying to be. Instead, it’s more of a digital fashion watch for the modern world, informing users about health metrics and keeping tabs on time and workouts. This is also one of the most nice-looking devices NO.1 has ever released in spite of its sub-$30 price tag. For what it is, the G12 Smart Watch is easy to recommend for those whose needs it will meet.