Should you buy the OnePlus Watch? Read this first

Should you buy the OnePlus Watch? Read this first
(Image credit: Future)

My OnePlus Watch review looked a lot different from those written by fellow smartwatch-testing folks. While I wholly embrace having one’s own opinions, it genuinely surprised me to see the first generation smartwatch garner such harsh criticism.

ICYMI, the majority of technology reviewers who received pre-release units had not-so-nice things to say about the $159 OnePlus Watch, which became available for anyone to purchase this week.

A majority of complaints had to do with the OnePlus Watch’s software, referred to as a real-time operating system or RTOS. The RTOS is basically a Google Wear OS clone with fewer abilities, trading off support for third-party apps and certain connectivity features for faster performance and battery efficiency.

OnePlus promised those benefits of its RTOS without the caveats of a no-frills software, because marketing teams don’t get paid to draw attention to short-comings. That’s the check that reviewers like myself provide for potential customers. In this case, the ‘check’ docked the OnePlus Watch for buggy notifications, inconsistent power drainage and an under-utilized interface. People missed the favored fitness, productivity and entertainment apps they had to abandon temporarily for testing, too.

I’m not sure why people had high expectations for a $159 smartwatch. Most of us who review wearables use $400 flagships on a daily basis, which means sacrifices are expected, but should be put in context. I would compare the OnePlus Watch to the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 or Apple Watch Series 6 only to emphasize what a shopper will exchange for their financial savings.

When I tested the OnePlus Watch, I looked to gauge it against other recently released smartwatches in the $150-$200 price range. The issue is that there haven’t been many smartwatches of this variety launched in the last year, or at least not ones from a company as well-known as OnePlus.

Some of the best cheap smartwatches right now are the Apple Watch Series 3, Samsung Galaxy Watch Active and Fitbit Versa 2. All of these are still good options and supported by software updates from their respective companies, but they’re also all previous-generation models that received discounts once replaced by newer versions.

Amazfit is perhaps the most notable company launching affordable smartwatches with any sort of regularity. I’ve used a few of them, and while they’re very capable, none compare to the pricier models I return to when I’ve wrapped up my review. The company’s own RTOS has it’s flaws, sure, but what you get for under $200 (and often less) is fair.

Now, I will say Amazfit has mastered the art of catering its watch models to specific user needs. The Amazfit T-Rex Pro, for example, is pitched as the outdoor adventurer’s best friend. The Amazfit GTR 2 is a fashion-forward wearable for professionals. 

OnePlus could have done a better job at figuring out what the OnePlus Watch should be. To me, the design and large display made it a suitable lifestyle smartwatch. But the company leaned into fitness features, and I’ll admit, the OnePlus Watch is never the one I’d reach for when I workout. Although I didn’t suffer as severe step and calorie burn miscalculations as other reviewers, I pointed out blatant blood oxygen reading inaccuracies.

OnePlus Watch review

(Image credit: Future)

If you’re serious about staying or getting in shape, the OnePlus Watch probably isn’t for you, even if you use a OnePlus smartphone. For the price, any of the best Fitbits are better choices. If you want something that’s a true smartwatch rather than a fitness tracker, the Galaxy Watch Active or the Apple Watch Series 3 are also still state-of-the-art health devices. 

But if you’re not fitness-minded, or at least understand that a $159 smartwatch won’t perform as well as pricier alternatives, don’t feel deterred by the negative reviews. In no way do I say that to discredit the experiences of my peers — the feedback is valid and absolutely essential to OnePlus improving the OnePlus Watch going forward.

And, if anything, the harsh commentary gives the company a reason to hustle through developing software updates. Those, coupled with the planned updates OnePlus has already announced, could make for an awesome, affordable smartwatch in a couple of months. 

So should you buy the OnePlus Watch? Yes, so long as you’re a fan of OnePlus’s other products and you know you’ll be getting what you pay for. That means less than you’d get from an Apple, Samsung or Fitbit flagship, which is reasonable considering the price differences. 

I’d also suggest waiting for the aforementioned updates to go live, that way when you unbox your OnePlus Watch you’ll hopefully be met with the latest software version and improvements compared to what reviewers experienced in the smartwatch’s earliest days. 

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.