There’s been talk of a OnePlus Watch for years now, and in just a few short days, OnePlus is expected to finally unveil it and take on the Apple Watch. The company dipped its toes into wearables for the very first time earlier this year with the OnePlus Band, but given its limited features and exclusivity to India, it isn’t exactly the smart wearable people have been waiting for. With the OnePlus Watch, that’s going to change.
As OnePlus prepares to enter the smartwatch market, it has its work cut out for it. Apple continues to dominate with its unstoppable Apple Watch, with competitors from Fitbit, Samsung, and others failing to capture the same mass appeal and success that Apple has seen. Counterpoint Research reported in August 2020 that Apple was responsible for more than half of the global smartwatch market in 2020 — followed by Fossil and Garmin accounting for 11.8% and 9.4% of the market, respectively.
Following OnePlus CEO Pete Lau’s confirmation a OnePlus smartwatch is happening in early 2021 — and with OnePlus holding a press event on March 8 to unveil its latest products — all eyes are now on the company to see what it can do to make its smart wearable stand out. Dethroning the Apple Watch as the leading smartwatch is likely too tall of an order for OnePlus’s first go around, but by making sure the OnePlus Watch does a few key things, it can at least have a shot at making some sort of dent in the market.
When the first Apple Watch was released in 2015, it was initially mocked for its design. It didn’t look like any normal watch anyone had ever seen, instead fully embracing the fact it was a sleek, minimalistic piece of tech. It’s a design Apple has stuck with six years later, and compared to other smartwatches that often try to mimic traditional wristwatches with bulkier cases and distinct dials, it’s more appealing to a broader group of people. Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 3 is one of the most capable smartwatches available in 2021, but thanks to its huge case and overly masculine aesthetic, it’s not something a lot of people can comfortably wear.
With the OnePlus Watch, OnePlus would be smart to take a page out of Apple’s playbook and give users a similarly minimal and accessible design. Keep it as thin and lightweight as possible, don’t add any distinctly masculine or feminine aesthetic flairs, and create something that looks like it belongs on the user’s wrist whether they’re at the gym or out to dinner. It’s not a particularly easy goal to accomplish, but it’s one that OnePlus needs to strive for. Even if the company goes the route of the Oppo Watch and takes heavy inspiration from the Apple Watch design, that’ll be better than a lot of the hardware for other Android smartwatches.
In recent years, Apple has made health tracking one of the primary focuses of the Apple Watch. It’s continued to expand the Fitness app, launched Fitness+ for users who want to take their exercise to the next level, and added blood oxygen sensing on the most recent Apple Watch Series 6. The Apple Watch certainly has a lot more going for it than just health/fitness features, but it’s become incredibly evident this is an area where Apple is continually growing.
If OnePlus wants the OnePlus Watch to be seen as a serious competitor to the Apple Watch, it needs to make fitness tracking a highlight feature of it. And, given the company’s previous OnePlus Band mentioned above, it certainly seems like this is an area OnePlus knows it has to tackle. For some context, the OnePlus Band offered 13 modes for exercise tracking, sleep tracking, heart-rate monitoring, and an SpO2 sensor. If OnePlus was able to cram all of that into a small band, one can only assume all of that tech will also make its way over to the OnePlus Watch.
There’s more to it than ample sensors and robust exercise tracking modes, though. Similar to the Apple Watch and its Fitness companion app on the iPhone, the OnePlus Watch has to do meaningful things with this data — whether that be showing users trends in their daily activity, allowing them to compete in challenges with friends, or anything else to make the health features feel as robust and complete as possible.
The OnePlus Watch is expected to ship with Google’s Wear OS operating system. It’s the same software that powers devices like the Fossil Gen 5 and Skagen Falster 3, and while there’s a lot that Wear OS does well, a lingering issue the platform has had for years is one that could be the death of the OnePlus Watch — inconsistent connectivity.
With those Wear OS watches mentioned above and with plenty of others, it’s not uncommon to run into a plethora of connectivity woes. Whether it be delayed notifications, Bluetooth randomly disconnecting, or Wear OS refusing to see the phone it’s trying to connect to during the set up process, these are all things that ultimately push people away from the platform and make them lose faith in it. Compared to the Apple Watch which is about as reliable as smartwatches get, OnePlus has to find some way to address this. Thankfully, OnePlus has confirmed it’s working on exactly that. In an interview with Input late last year, Lau said:
Wear OS definitely has room to improve. What we’re trying to do is work with Google to try to improve the connectivity between the Wear OS ecosystem, Android TV, and Android smartphones to create this ability for better device interoperability across the ecosystems.
Assuming these improvements are ready to use by the time the OnePlus Watch launches, that could be absolutely massive. Reliable connectivity may not be one of the most exciting things to talk about, but it’s absolutely critical in day-to-day use. Here, OnePlus has an opportunity to succeed where other Wear OS watches have failed.
Last but certainly not least, there’s the factor of price. OnePlus used to be known for creating some of the best value Android phones around, but with its past couple of releases, the company has shifted further and further towards the flagship-level pricing that’s seen from all of the other big names in the mobile space. For the OnePlus Watch to appeal to the largest audience possible, competitive pricing is a must.
It’s difficult to speculate on an exact price for the OnePlus Watch given how little is still known about it, but if OnePlus is hoping to make the OnePlus Watch an attractive alternative to the Apple Watch, it’s obvious what has to be done. The $279 Apple Watch SE is one of the best smartwatch values available in 2021, and if OnePlus can undercut that, it’ll have a winner on its hands. $250 would be a more than reasonable number to target, but if the OnePlus Watch is able to come in as low as $200, it’ll be set up for success.