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OnePlus Watch Review: Your Money Is Better Spent Elsewhere

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For years OnePlus has lived the words of its "Never Settle" motto, but the day it started making this smartwatch is the day it decided to settle. Big time.

OnePlus Watch
$159
Rating
star star star star_empty star_empty
Pros
  • Excellent battery life
  • Charges quickly
  • Premium, modern design
  • Big, bright, round display
Cons
  • Step counter and other features were consistently inaccurate
  • The band is uncomfortable and a big pain to fasten
  • Very basic set of features
  • Somewhat sluggish software and user experience
  • No Always On Display
  • Almost no interaction with notifications
  • No Spotify integration

When OnePlus set out to make the OnePlus Watch, its very first smartwatch, fans were delighted. Rightfully so, too. For a while OnePlus has been making some pretty premium devices, and it stood to reason that the OnePlus Watch would deliver the same kind of experience. A Never Settle watch from the Never Settle smartphone brand for the Never Settle user. Except, the OnePlus Watch does settle. It settles a lot, on just about every single level.

To call the OnePlus Watch a complete disappointment would be a lie. There are definitely some positives to the device that, honestly other companies could take note from. Battery life is one such area where OnePlus really knocked it out of the park. And if I’m being completely honest the design is fairly premium.

While I wasn’t fond of it at first, the more time I spent with it the more I grew to appreciate the subtleties of its sleek and minimal build. That’s where the appreciation really ends though. Which isn’t a good first impression.

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The OnePlus Watch excels in exactly one area – the battery life

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I want to start by talking about the good parts of this watch. Where it excels, and where it really outperforms other options. That happens to be with the battery life. Where you might get one day (two days if you’re lucky) out of really any Wear OS option, the OnePlus Watch is rated for over a week.

And, honestly OnePlus kind of nailed it here. On average I was getting about a week of regular use. I don’t use the GPS features that much on any smartwatch I’ve ever had. So the advertised week+ battery life of this watch was right on the money for me.

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I was able to receive notifications, check the time, start activities and work with every other feature for days on end. Most pleasing though, is that I didn’t have to put this on the charger every night. As I do with any other smartwatch.

If I did use GPS features I could get about a day or two from the battery. Which is still better than a lot of watches out there. Most will die before the day is out. But not the OnePlus Watch. For consumers that want longevity over EVERYTHING else, the OnePlus Watch delivers. You’ll rarely if ever have to worry about battery life.

And when it does finally need a charge, it only takes about 30 minutes to get back up to 100%. Which means you can use it for a week, charge it up in half an hour, then use it for another week. And that’s a pretty good offering in my book. If only the OnePlus Watch was this good across the board.

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The design looks and feels premium, save for the watch strap

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When you unbox the OnePlus Watch for the first time, the first impression is a premium smartwatch. It looks premium by design. Something which OnePlus has definitely become accustomed to when styling its products.

If you don’t absolutely abhor large screen smartwatches, you’ll probably love the design too. The glossy metal watch case does pick up fingerprints and smudges easily, but you can just as easily wipe them off. So, not the end of the world. Especially since it’s not too noticeable.

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And if you were a fan of the design for the buttons on the Galaxy Watch Active 2, then you’ll be pleased with the buttons on the OnePlus Watch. Because they carry the same design. In fact they’re almost perfect. Unfortunately, OnePlus slapped its logo on one of them which detracts from the overall style. OnePlus could have placed the logo on the back of the watch.

Out of sight where it doesn’t have to be looked at. In fact I’m not really sure why the logo is there in the first place. It can’t be for other people other than the wearer. Because it’s too small to see from any distance. If you can see it, you’re close enough to the person wearing it to ask them what kind of watch it is. In which case you’d get a response of the person telling you.

So again, the branding here feels pointless and does nothing but take away from the premium design that OnePlus achieved. Still this is a minor thing. And it probably won’t bother everyone. It just feels tacky to have the logo staring you in the face in such an unnecessary location. Like Verizon did with the logo on the Galaxy Note 3. Hopefully on the next watch, OnePlus chooses to avoid this.

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Don’t expect this accurately measure your steps, or anything else for that matter

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I’d heard the rumors. That people were having issues with the OnePlus Watch measuring their steps accurately. I thought things had to be a one-off. That perhaps, it couldn’t be that bad.

Maybe some users just got bad devices with malfunctioning sensors. But, the more time I spent with the watch myself, the more I started to see where the complaints were coming from. The OnePlus Watch doesn’t just miss a few steps here and there.

It inaccurately measured my step count every time compared to other watches. We’re not talking just a few steps. But a few hundred or more steps. Every time I walked anywhere. Over time, that’s going to add up. And could throw people off who rely more heavily on step count data to keep them on track for wellness goals.

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The step counter is one of the few apps on a smartwatch that I actually do use. So finding out that it didn’t work properly was a big letdown. This is probably something that OnePlus can fix with software updates. But in its current state, it doesn’t do its intended job very well.

And more to the point, the inaccuracy of the step counter didn’t leave me with much confidence in the measurements of other features. Like the heart rate monitor or the sleep tracking. Forget the fact that the OnePlus Watch is a little bulky and isn’t very comfortable to wear when you go to sleep. Is it even capable of tracking your sleep properly? That’s the better question.

And the answer is a resounding no. No it can’t. So if you were hoping to get a decent sleep tracker out of this in addition to other features, be prepared for disappointment. Even if the sleep tracking did work well, it doesn’t seem to sync to the companion app. So what’s the point of using it?

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There’s a surprising lack of features

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For some users one of the bigger negatives is going to be that there are no third-party apps available. What comes on the watch out of the box is what you get. And what you’ll always get. No more, no less. That is unless OnePlus either opens up third-party app support or, adds more apps.

That being said, for me personally apps were never a huge thing on the smartwatch anyway. I use the weather app, the step counter, sometimes the sleep tracking, and music controls. If you’re someone who also doesn’t use smartwatch apps a lot, then this won’t be a negative for either.

Where the lack of third-party apps does become an issue with things like Spotify. There’s no support for Spotify. And on runs or walks, a Spotify controller on the watch display is how I interact with the playback of music. It’s just easier. I don’t have to stop and pull the phone out of my pocket.

On the OnePlus Watch though, you can listen to music through Bluetooth headphones only if you use the OnePlus Music app. Which only plays music from the watch locally if you’re smartphone isn’t nearby.

You also can’t really interact with the notifications that come in. As most of them only give you brief snippets of the message or email with no possibility to expand them. Inside the OnePlus Health app the running and walking screens don’t display maps like they should.

There’s just a lot of things missing from the user experience that you wouldn’t expect to be missing. Which is a pretty good indicator that the OnePlus Watch was a rushed product. A half baked smartwatch offering that leaves you feeling sad and unsatisfied.

This watch strap is abysmal, shame on OnePlus for using it

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I hate this watch strap. I really, truly, hate it and wish OnePlus would have used any other strap option. It’s an abysmal design and I wish I could hurl it so far into the sky that it exits the stratosphere and drifts off into the endless void of space. Never to be seen again.

On a more serious note, the strap is just a pain to use. It’s not easy to clasp and lock into place. So every time I go to put the watch on I find myself fighting with the strap for at least a minute straight. This is not enjoyable.

And I for the life of me don’t understand why OnePlus just didn’t use a normal watch strap clasp like every other brand on the planet. One that uses a tang buckle you can easily fasten. Instead, the company chose to use this weird design that is actually annoying enough to make the user experience worse.

The one good thing is that the OnePlus Watch supports third-party straps. So you can simply remove the one that comes with the watch and find a much better one. Which won’t be hard to do because this thing is absolutely awful. Still, the user shouldn’t have to resort to buying a new strap to make putting this watch on less terrible.

But I guess with the money you save on the cost of this watch, you can spend that savings on a strap you do like. So I suppose that’s a bonus?

The strap seems to be pretty low quality

As for the strap, the style of the clasp makes it more of an annoying task to put the watch on. Instead of what should be a simple everyday thing. Once fastened, the strap itself doesn’t really feel too irritating. At least not anymore than any other straps made from the same material. But I did notice that over the course of a few weeks of use, some sort of coating started peeling off the strap. So, not great in terms of quality.

If you like everything else about this watch, replace the strap as soon as possible.

Watch updates take FOREVER

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In the time it takes to update the OnePlus Watch I can cook all my meals for the day, learn some new skills, read a few book chapters, and complete a few chores around the house, and still have time left to spare.

The updates on this watch takes so long I had time to get tired again and fall asleep. Then wake up and find that the update was still not finished. This might seem like it isn’t a big deal. But that will change the moment you get a notification the watch has a new update and you need to head out the door in a few minutes.

The watch will 100%, without a doubt not complete in time. So you’re then left with two choices. One – Be late for whatever you’re headed out to do. Or two – leave the watch at home. Neither of those are ideal situations. In fact, as I write this section of the review, the watch is actually going through one of those updates. It’s been updating for 10 minutes and it still isn’t finished…..

Should you buy the OnePlus Watch?

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OnePlus has a few things going for it with this watch that earn it some level of praise. The battery life is truly, very good. And I wish other smartwatches, namely those running on Wear OS, would have even a shred of the battery life this watch offers.

Alas, they do not. And that’s where OnePlus was able to shine brightly. The watch will last for a long time and then it charges up fast. Perhaps even faster than it takes to update. Jokes aside, the battery life is excellent.

And OnePlus deserves to be recognized for that. The design is also pretty good. It looks and feels premium, save for the brash OnePlus logo on one of the buttons. But that’s where the positives end really. With a huge lack of app support, inaccurate measurements, a terrible strap, no Spotify integration, and a number of other features that aren’t there, the watch is as basic as basic gets.

Make no mistake, OnePlus settled with this watch. It was rushed out. Having said that, should you buy the OnePlus Watch? If you are looking for a basic smartwatch, and you love the OnePlus brand, then you’ll get a smartwatch that has really long battery life, looks good, and won’t cost you a lot.

But if you want an overall superior functionality to your smartwatch, then go with almost anything else. As your money would be better spent elsewhere.

OnePlus Watch