OnePlus has earned a reputation for making top-notch phones that hold their own against more expensive flagships, so it's no surprise that its first smartwatch, the $159 OnePlus Watch, costs less than half the price of the Apple Watch Series 6 and the Samsung Galaxy Watch3. Unlike the original OnePlus phone, however, the OnePlus Watch feels very much like a first-generation product. On the design front, it has a beautiful and responsive color touch screen, but its bulky, black-on-black design limits its appeal. And while the watch has the ability to measure your blood oxygen saturation and stress, its built-in GPS failed to accurately track distance during bike rides and runs in testing. The watch lets you make calls over Bluetooth and offers onboard music storage, but it lacks support for mobile payments and voice assistants. And without downloadable third-party apps, what you see is what you get. For a more reliable and well-rounded alternative, we recommend the $229.95 Fitbit Versa 3 as the most feature-rich Android-compatible smartwatch in this price range.

A Big Statement

The OnePlus Watch is only available in the US in one size (46.4mm) and color (midnight black). Featuring a stainless steel case and black strap, it has a decidedly masculine look.

As I mentioned at length when I first got my hands on the device, the OnePlus Watch is simply too big for my wrist. With a 46.4mm case, it's one of the largest smartwatches I've tested. To give you some context, the biggest watch in Apple's lineup has a 44mm case. My favorite wearable of late is the Garmin Lily, which has a 34mm case and a stylish, feminine design.

Some smartwatch makers, such as Apple and Garmin, release small and large models of their products with several different case and strap colors and materials to appeal to a wide range of users. The only other watch model OnePlus has announced is a Cobalt Limited Edition version, which features a more durable case and glass face, but that won't be available in the US.

Despite not being my personal style, the OnePlus Watch is attractive enough if it fits your wrist. Its minimalist design will transition well from work, to the gym, to a night out.

The watch's 1.39-inch, 454-by-454-pixel AMOLED display is bright, attractive, and exceptionally responsive. Adding to its appeal is a 2.5D curved glass face with a series of subtle rings around the bezel, which OnePlus aptly describes as a "CD pattern."

As for other specs, the OnePlus Watch measures less than half an inch thick (0.43 inches) and weighs 2.6 ounces with its fluoroelastomer (synthetic rubber) strap, or 1.5 ounces without it. It has a 5ATM water-resistance rating, so it's safe to swim with. Overall, it feels secure, comfortable, and fairly light on my wrist; I've worn it to bed and in the shower several times without issue.

OnePlus doesn't plan to sell accessory bands, but the watch is compatible with standard 22mm quick-release straps, so you can customize it that way. I have a fairly small wrist and the included strap is tight enough for me on the two smallest settings. OnePlus says to contact its customer service team if the included strap is too big for your wrist.

The watch features a 402mAh battery, which OnePlus says offers enough juice for "two weeks of sustainable use, as well as up to a week of power for the most active users." I couldn't replicate those numbers in testing, but it still lasted for a full five days, which is a lot longer than the Apple Watch, which only lasts for about one full day of use.

The OnePlus Watch does not offer an always-on display option, so the screen automatically shuts off after a short period of time. In the watch's Display and Brightness settings, you can set the screen-off time from three to eight seconds. By default it's set to turn off after three seconds of inactivity, which I found to be way too short in testing. I switched it to eight seconds, which is better but still on the short sode. A OnePlus spokesperson says the company plans to add an always-on display option in the future, but keep in mind this will result in shorter battery life.

Setting Up the OnePlus Watch

Considering OnePlus uses Android as the basis for its phones, you might think the OnePlus Watch runs Wear OS, Google's smartwatch operating system. Instead, it's powered by the company's own OnePlus Watch OS, which is based on an open source real-time operating system (RTOS). It's compatible with Android devices, but not iPhones.

I tested the OnePlus Watch with the OnePlus 9 and a pair of OnePlus Buds. To get started, you need to download the OnePlus Health app. When you first open it, the app asks for your gender (with options for male and female only), birth date, height, and weight. After that, just power the watch on, select your preferred language, and it will show a pairing code on the screen. Open the OnePlus Health app, press the plus sign to add a device, wait for the app to find your watch, and confirm that the pairing code shown in the app is the same as the one on the watch screen.

As part of the setup process, the app asks for permission to access your location "all the time" to ensure it can record your workout routes. It also asks for various permissions so you can make phone calls, receive notifications, and reply to text messages from the watch itself.

The app gives you the option to link your account with Google Fit to sync your steps, calories, heart rate, and sleep data. Finally, for accurate step and workout tracking, it asks which wrist you plan to wear the watch on, a standard question when setting up most wearables.

During the initial setup process, the watch wouldn't let me select English as my language and kept defaulting to Hindi. After multiple attempts, I somehow successfully set it to English, but after installing an update it switched back Hindi. I can't read Hindi, but the main menu fortunately has icons in addition to text, so I used context clues to locate Settings (the gear icon), and from there it only took two guesses to find the reset button. After resetting the watch, I was able to select English as my language and didn't encounter this problem again.

Finding Your Way Around

The watch's interface is colorful, well organized, and easy to navigate using the touch screen and two physical buttons on the right side of the case. After wearing the watch for just one day, I already felt comfortable navigating it.

Many other wearables, even more expensive ones like the $329.95 Fitbit Sense, can sometimes feel a bit laggy because they don't respond to touch inputs on the first try. I didn't have that problem with the OnePlus Watch. In testing, its screen responsiveness is on par with the Apple Watch, which is a good thing.

You can change the watch face two ways: from the watch itself (simply hold down on the watch face to edit it), or via the OnePlus Health app. OnePlus offers a selection of analog and digital faces to choose from in a range of colors and styles. It only displays in military time right now, though OnePlus says an update will enable you to view the time in a 12-hour format.

To navigate the watch, swipe left to view tiles (currently there are just three: heart rate, sleep metrics, and music controls). Swipe up for notifications and down for quick settings. Call, text, and app notifications come through in real time, and the watch's large screen offers ample room to read the subject line of emails. From the quick settings menu, you can access Alarms, Do No Disturb, Find Phone, Screen Brightness, and Flashlight (which illuminates the screen white). To go back at any point, simply swipe right.

The bottom button is a function/power key you can customize to quickly open the app of your choice (by default it's set to the Workout app). The top button opens the app list, which includes Activities, Workout, Workout Record, Heart Rate, Blood Oxygen, Sleep, Stress, Breathing, Phone, Music, Weather, Alarm Clock, Stopwatch, Timer, Flashlight, Barometer, Compass, TV Connect, Settings, and Find Phone.

In the Activities app, the watch shows your daily step count, workout time, calories burned, and number of tracked sessions. In Workout, you can start tracking a session. In Workout Record, it shows a list of all your tracked sessions, and you can click into each one to view your metrics. The Heart Rate app shows your current and resting beats per minute, a graph of your heart rate that day, and a graph showing how much time you've spent in each heart rate zone.

In the Phone app, you can dial one of your contacts, view your recent calls, or use a dial pad to ring someone up. Just keep in mind that the watch doesn't feature a cellular radio, so you can't make calls without your phone nearby. In testing, I've been able to make and receive phone calls from the watch without issue. Call quality sounds good; audio comes through clearly and sufficiently loud. In the OnePlus Health app, you can add up to 30 contacts from your phone to the watch.

The TV Connect app lets you use the watch as a remote to control the OnePlus TV (I don't have one, so I was unable to test this feature). I'll go over the Blood Oxygen, Sleep, Stress, Breathing, and Music apps in detail later; all of the rest of the apps are pretty self-explanatory.

OnePlus Watch

As you can see from the list, the OnePlus Watch offers some useful stock apps, but unlike the Apple Watch, the Fitbit Versa, or the Samsung Galaxy Watch, it doesn't support third-party apps. This means the apps listed above are the only ones you get.

Other limitations worth noting include the lack of mobile payment and voice assistant support. Many other smartwatches and even some fitness trackers, including the $149.95 Fitbit Charge 4, let you make payments from your wrist, a convenient feature that is especially helpful in light of COVID-19. The Versa 3 works with Amazon Alexa, letting you use your voice to set reminders, start a timer, start tracking a run, control compatible smart home devices, check the weather, and get answers to questions. You can't do any of those things here.

Music Support

The OnePlus Watch features a built-in GPS and onboard music storage, so you can track your workouts and listen to music without bringing your phone along. I'll go over the music features in this section and workout tracking in the next.

I had no problem connecting a pair of OnePlus Buds with the watch. To pair them, simply navigate to Settings > BT Headset on the watch, then open the Buds case and press and hold the button on the back for two seconds until the indicator light flashes white, and the watch should find them right away.

Putting music on the watch takes a few steps. It only accepts MP3 and AAC files, and they have to be saved on your phone to transfer them. I've used Spotify for many years now, so all the MP3s I once had are long gone.

After tracking down some files to test with, I added them to my phone. After that, you have to navigate to Device settings > Music > Add Songs, and you should see the MP3 files there. If you don't see the files in the OnePlus Health app right away, you might need to restart the phone. Note that the watch won't accept M4A files, another common music format.

As an easier alternative, the watch also lets you control music playing on your phone, and in testing, this feature worked with Spotify. The obvious limitation is that you need to have your phone with you, but if you're like me and rarely go anywhere without it, that shouldn't be a problem.

Either way, the Music app on the OnePlus Watch lets you play and pause tracks, skip forward or back, and adjust the volume.

Working Out With the OnePlus Watch

By default, the Workout app offers the following modes: running, fat burn run, outdoor cycling, indoor cycling, outdoor walk, swimming, elliptical trainer, rowing machine, badminton, mountaineering, cross-country, cricket, yoga, and freestyle training. OnePlus says it will support more than 110 workout types, but most of them aren't yet available.

As a nice perk, the watch can detect when you're running and walking and send you a reminder to start recording your workout. When tracking a run or walk, it will automatically pause tracking when you stop.

On the downside, I experienced a number of issues with the GPS in my review unit. I first noticed a problem during an outdoor ride on an electric bike I'm currently testing for a future review. Before setting out, I started tracking my ride using the outdoor cycling option. About 30 minutes in, I checked the watch and my distance still said 0.0 (in reality, I had already biked about 3 miles), so I ended tracking and tried again, but the same thing happened. The watch wouldn't save my data because it said my cycling distance was too short, so any other metrics tracked during those sessions also disappeared.

Its failure to track my cycling distance was perplexing, given that I had already used the watch to track several outdoor walks without issue. To further investigate, I went on a run with the OnePlus Watch on one wrist and the Apple Watch Series 6 on the other, and got wildly different results for my distance and pace. For that 16-minute run, the Series 6 said I traveled 1.5 miles at an average pace of 10 minutes and 34 seconds per mile, which seemed accurate. The OnePlus Watch said I only ran 1.09 miles at an average pace of 14 minutes and 14 seconds per mile.

During outdoor runs, the OnePlus Watch also tracks your average cadence, average heart rate, total calories burned, elevation gain, total steps, and VO2 Max. Afterwards, you can view all of your metrics, along with a graph of how long you spent in each heart rate zone, on the watch and in the app. For my walks, the app shows a map of my route, but for my run, it says "no routes found."

A OnePlus spokesperson says the company plans to release an update in mid-May that will "include GPS optimization," so hopefully that will address these issues. The update also promises to include all 110 workout modes.

SpO2, Sleep, and Stress Tracking

The OnePlus Watch makes it easy to check your blood oxygen saturation (SpO2) level at any time. Some wearables, including the Fitbit Sense and Versa 3, only track your SpO2 while you're sleeping, so it's nice that the OnePlus Watch offers on-demand readings, a feature you also get on the Apple Watch Series 6 and the Galaxy Watch3.

To take a reading on the OnePlus Watch, just navigate to the Blood Oxygen app and keep still. About 30 seconds later, the watch will display your SpO2 level. The Apple Watch Series 6 takes half the time to give you a reading, but the good news is that both watches offered similar results. I took a reading on each, one right after the other, and the OnePlus said I had an SpO2 level of 98% while the Series 6 said it was 99%.

As discussed in the Series 6 review, this metric indicates how well your circulatory and respiratory systems are delivering oxygenated blood to your body. Your SpO2 reading alone can't diagnose COVID-19, but as the Yale School of Medicine advises, a reading below 90% may warrant a trip to the emergency room.

The OnePlus Watch also accurately clocked the duration of my sleep. I tested its sleep tracking against the Google Nest Hub, which said I slept for 5 hours, 59 minutes, while the OnePlus Watch said I slept for 6 hours.

In addition to your total duration of sleep, the OnePlus watch tells you the time you fell asleep and woke up, and how much time you spent in light sleep, deep sleep, and awake. The Nest Hub doesn't offer information about your sleep stages, but tracks your nightly coughing, respiration rate (the number of breaths you take per minute), and snoring, and offers weekly reports with insights and recommendations to help improve your sleep, based on guidance from organizations like the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

The OnePlus Watch can also track your SpO2 during sleep, and provide an assessment of your breathing quality. To enable this feature, head to Device Settings > Health Settings in the app, then toggle on Track SpO2 during sleep. OnePlus warns that turning it on will drain battery life faster.

Aside from your SpO2 and sleep, the OnePlus Watch can monitor your stress levels. Like many other wearables that offer this feature, including the Garmin Lily, the OnePlus Watch uses a metric called heart rate variability (HRV, or the variation in time between heartbeats) to determine your stress.

To take a stress test on the OnePlus Watch, navigate to the Stress app, stay still for around 20 seconds, and you'll get a reading from zero to 100. A score of 1 to 29 indicates that your stress level is low, 30 to 59 is normal, 60 to 79 is medium, and 80 to 100 is high. In the OnePlus Health app, you can view a graph of your stress scores over the past day, week, month, and year.

When you're stressed, you can try a guided breathing exercise. Navigate to the Breathing app, set the duration for one to five minutes, and follow the soothing on-screen visuals as they guide your breaths.

The OnePlus Health App

The OnePlus Health app is fairly basic, with tabs on the bottom for Health, Fitness, and Manage.

In Health, you can view your activity, heart rate, sleep, SpO2, and stress data, along with your workout logs. In Fitness, you can track a run or walk from your phone. In Manage, you can change the watch face, select which notifications appear on your device, add music, and more.

In testing, the watch has always quickly connected to the app. Strangely, in the sleep and SpO2 sections of the app, it says "no data," so I can only view these metrics on the watch. All of my other health metrics synced to the app, so I'm not sure what the issue is there. OnePlus says it plans to release an update in mid-April that will add sleep tracking and an outdoor cycling workout feature to the OnePlus Health app, so hopefully that corrects the problem.

When you tap into the various health metrics, the app offers graphs showing your data over the past day, week, month, and year. You can tap the information icon to learn more about each metric and how the OnePlus Watch tracks it.

At this point, OnePlus Health isn't nearly as robust as the Fitbit or Garmin Connect apps, both of which offer community features and challenges to help you find friends and connect with others to stay accountable. Fitbit Premium ($9.99 per month or $79.99 per year after a 90-day free trial) also includes personalized wellness reports, guided workout programs, and meditations with Deepak Chopra.

Hopefully OnePlus continues to build the app experience over time, but right now, it has a way to go to catch up to the competition.

This First-Gen Model Leaves Room for Improvement

If you're looking for a more affordable alternative to expensive smartwatches like the Apple Watch or the Samsung Galaxy Watch3, the $159 OnePlus offers a lot to like, including an excellent touch screen, Bluetooth calling support, and onboard music storage. On the health front, it can track your sleep, monitor your stress, help you relax with guided breathing exercises, and measure your blood oxygen saturation level, a feature typically reserved for more expensive wearables.

That said, it's not quite a true smartwatch due to its lack of third-party app support, and it falls short on the fitness front due to GPS issues. OnePlus says updates are coming to improve the GPS, so we'll test the watch again when that happens and update this review accordingly.

For now, if you're looking for an affordable fitness tracker or smartwatch, we highly recommend the Fitbit Versa 3, our Editors' Choice award winner. It features a large, always-on color touch screen, downloadable apps, robust fitness and sleep tracking abilities, Amazon Alexa, and Fitbit Pay mobile payment support for $229.95. The Apple Watch Series 6 and Samsung Galaxy Watch3 are also excellent alternatives if you're willing to spend at least $400, though iPhone users can also look to the more affordable Apple Watch SE and Apple Watch Series 3. The OnePlus Watch is a promising start, but there's plenty of room for improvement.