Sheldon PintoAug 26, 2020 10:56:56 IST
Less than a month ago, Oppo launched the global variant of the Oppo Watch. The original Oppo Watch was meant solely for the Chinese market and ran ColorOS-like software without the Android bits inside. It was powered by an older Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 chipset.
Someone at Oppo took the right decisions, retaining the good Oppo bits of the watch like that slick-looking curved edge OLED display, super-light design, and the super-fast VOOC Flash Charging speeds. Then they decided to fuse it with Google’s Wear OS ecosystem that integrates better with Android-powered smartphones (and also works with iPhones).
Good is not always better. But in this “case”, some of the good bits do add and enhance the overall appeal of the Oppo Watch, even as it is obviously derivative of the Apple Watch from a (short) distance.
But there are other characteristics that don’t work as well. So, two weeks later I’m left with very few reasons as to why I would recommend it over something else.
An interesting design, but flawed execution
Most of us are familiar with the Apple Watch and the Oppo Watch looks quite similar with its overall boxy, yet rectangular design. But that’s where the similarities end.
Having used the recently launched Galaxy Watch LTE and the Apple Watch, it’s quite clear that the mechanical element is missing on the Oppo Watch. For reasons best known to Oppo, there's no rotating crown or bezel to scroll through long chats and notifications.
There are two buttons on the right side, one of which opens up the apps. There’s a second customisable button that has a limited set of options to choose from if you want to assign anything to it. It’s customisable, but not really useful.
The vibration motor is adequate, but doesn’t come close to the precise Taptic Engine of the Apple Watch models.
Smartwatch displays are usually just meant to show you simplified morsels of information. This usually involves text messages, text notifications and the occasional photo that pops up along with them. This is why I usually don't bother dissecting a smartwatch’s display, unless it’s really bad. But Oppo did things a bit differently, and that allows the Oppo Watch to stand out from the crowd.
It threw in a large 1.91-inch (402x476 pixels) OLED display which is curved along the left and right sides. While it’s marketed as a curved edge display, it’s not like some of the ‘waterfall displays’ that literally run halfway till into the sides of a smartphone (or watch in this case).
The curved edge display does make sense by giving you more display and less bezel. But again, at a software level, Oppo has not added any special software (or swipe gesture) feature to take advantage of the edges. They’re purely cosmetic.
The tall display is quite nice for reading long messages and notifications. Things are well spaced out, unlike the circular display on most Wear OS smartwatches available these days. But it also has its downsides.
Third-party watch faces don’t play nice, and you will notice black bars at the top and the bottom as most Wear OS watch faces have been designed for circular displays. Thankfully, there’s enough built-in watch faces to fiddle with and customise.
What I did like was the barely-there 39-gram case weight. Combined with the comfortable fluoro-rubber straps, this meant that I often forgot that I was wearing it until I got a notification.
The straps are easy to snap on, but seem to have a proprietary clip-on system. This is a bit of a problem, as you won’t be able to fit regular watch straps onto it. Oppo does not sell any in India either, so you best bet is Gearbest, where I managed to find some leather options.
ColourOS, Wear OS and a complicated mix of mobile apps
The Oppo Watch interface is a fusion of Wear OS and ColorOS.
The app menu layout has a nice springy animation to it. All the apps are laid out nicely with tiny icon indicators at the top and bottom to give you an idea of what’s above and what lies below your current viewing area. That, along with ColorOS apps, pretty much make up for the visual software customisation. The rest of it is the usual barebones Wear OS.
But this fusion has a downside. There’s a case of duplicate apps (two breathing apps, two heart rate monitoring apps) now… on a smartwatch!
The fitness tracking apps, including the heart rate monitor, work just fine. The step counter was occasionally slow to detect the steps while they were happening, but then added them up nicely when you were done with a run.
The 5-minute workout app is a really nice touch, and is good for people who never get off their chair (whether at home or at work). These are short 5-minute workout routines and help you stretch your limbs and get you up and going.
There are about 8 sessions in one workout and these are just 30 seconds long. There are built-in videos that show you the more complicated exercises. It’s an easy way to get off your arse for those who complain about not having the time to work out in their daily routine.
The sleep tracking is quite nice, and detailed as well. Strangely, the watch will only track your sleep between 20:00 till 10:00 hrs.
There are two mobile apps that you will need to run this watch.
Oppo has its own HeyTap Health mobile app that gathers data from its native ColorOS apps on the watch. Then, there's Google's Wear OS mobile app that you will need to install to access data from the pre-installed Wear OS apps on the watch.
After setting up the watch using both mobile apps, I found switching between the two mobile apps quite annoying. And you will need to have both of them on your smartphone.
This is because Oppo's HeyTap lets you control the ColorOS watch features that have trickled down from the Chinese model. These will showcase and sync data that includes the native heart rate monitoring app, the Oppo fitness apps, the sleep monitoring apps and even the custom watch face modifications like AI Outfit. The custom watch face-maker picks up colours from your clothes or objects and turns them in a cool-looking watch face. But it can only be customised using the HeyTap Health app.
Need to check how the battery’s doing? Switch to the Wear OS mobile app. Here, you will have access to your Google accounts, watch battery life statistics, storage consumption and watch app data usage. Indeed, there’s no escaping this mobile app either.
While the mobile app switching between HeyTap and Wear OS bugged me for a few days, I soon learnt that I needed a third mobile app.
I found the regular fat burner, swimming and gym workouts in Oppo’s apps but did not find simpler options for calisthenics.
This is available in Google’s built-in Fit app, which meant I had to download the Google Fit mobile app on my smartphone to view the data properly.
So that’s three mobile apps for one smartwatch, which is a bit much. Two weeks later, it’s still annoying to switch between three of them.
The first thing you need to do after you install the HeyTap Health and Wear OS mobile apps is to go to your phone’s Settings and allow these apps to run in the background. If you don’t, your watch will get disconnected from time to time, depending on your phone's battery saving optimisations.
The Bluetooth range of the watch is surprisingly not that great, given that I paired it with the ultra-premium Find X2 Pro (that's not released in India). This meant that the watch would disconnect quickly, and I often found the watch disconnected from the phone (cancelled cloud icon) every time I was on my balcony or away from my phone.
Indeed, this could be down to the construction of your house. Mine has solid wood doors which could have been the problem when it comes to Bluetooth connectivity, as I have faced issues when using wireless earphones as well. But even they don't cut off completely when in use.
The lack of a 4G SIM is a bit of downer, as you will miss notifications. But given its price, I would not expect that feature. When indoors, the solution is to connect the phone to Wi-Fi network; that keeps the watch connected as long as you are in Wi-Fi range.
As for the software, things work quite fast, whether it’s launching apps or swiping out notifications. There isn’t a hint of stutter anywhere, and that’s probably down to the gig of RAM that’s paired to the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 chipset.
That speaker is not loud enough to take a Bluetooth call, so it makes sense to pair your TWS with it, both while answering calls and working out. Else, get ready to hold it up near your face to hear whatever your watch is trying to tell you.
Charges up mighty fast!
You will get a day and half of casual use if you avoid the fitness features. If you use a lot of fitness tracking – whether it's a workout or a morning jog – and place a couple of calls, you can get just about a work day of use. This is pretty much the Wear OS standard.
If you don’t want to use the smart Wear OS part of the watch, simply switch it to power saver mode where the watch turns into a basic fitness band. It uses the second Ambiq Micro (energy-efficient) Apollo3 SoC that can run the smartwatch with a full charge for a good 21 days.
The power saver mode sounds great on paper, but it cuts you out from literally every other feature. You only get access to the step counter and the heart rate monitor. You do receive notifications, but can only see bits of them and you cannot reply to them either.
Battery life is a bit of a sore spot when compared to the Galaxy Watches and the Amazfits out there, but Oppo does give you fast charging to soften the blow. You can juice up this watch using the in-box magnetic charger from 0-46 percent in just 15 minutes, and to 100 percent in 75 minutes (a little over an hour). Impressive!
Should you buy an Oppo Watch?
At Rs 19,990 you get a killer OLED display in a lightweight design along with a great set of fitness-friendly features. Battery life is your usual Wear OS standard, but Oppo has made things a bit sweeter by providing faster charging. But that’s about it!
The tall display does show more information in one go, but it has its downsides (lack of watch faces) and the curved edges are purely cosmetic.
The constant juggling between mobile apps is annoying, and the power saver mode is very limited.
At this price, you’re basically getting extra value in the faster-charging speed. This makes the Oppo Watch tough to recommend, as there are better smartwatches out there that are priced slightly higher (for better features) or a lot lower (again, for better features) and are easier to deal with when it comes to mobile apps.
● If you want a “proper” smartwatch that pairs perfectly with a smartphone, then the Apple Watch Series 3 (review) (Rs 23,900 for 42mm case) or Series 5 (review) (Rs 40,000) is still the one to reach out for. But you will need an iPhone to go with that.
● Get a Fossil Gen 5 (Rs 22,995) Wear OS-powered smartwatch, if you want a more traditional-looking watch design with the same level of performance. A Fossil watch is also good if you want to mix and match watch straps with your clothing.
● Get a Galaxy Watch (Rs 19,990) if you don’t need any apps but want a fitness-tracking watch that you won't need to charge every day.
● Get a Honor Magic Watch 2 (Rs 11,999) if you want the best fitness tracking features on a budget.
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