Wearables like the OnePlus Watch misunderstand what makes a good smartwatch experience

Smartwatch Group Lifestyle
Smartwatch Group Lifestyle (Image credit: Chris Wedel / Android Central)

Wearables is an extensive term when it comes to tech, with options from excellent fitness trackers to things like the Razer Anzu Smart Glasses and so many in between. Along with fitness trackers, smartwatches are the most commonly thought of devices when it comes to wearables, but — what makes a good smartwatch?

Well, for one, it should be well-built so that it can endure what life may throw at it, but that's less of an issue these days. Like the best cheap Android phones, finding a smartwatch with good build quality is becoming much more common. So that leads to the other characteristic that imbues a good smartwatch, and that's experience.

OnePlus Watch review

Source: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

Two of the quintessential traits for a good smartwatch experience are the excellent handling of notifications and app support. Unfortunately, OnePlus, the company that has been making some of the best Android phones for years now, is learning the lesson of how difficult it can be to create an overall good smartwatch. With the release of its first smartwatch in the OnePlus Watch, OnePlus has seemingly nailed requirement number one and has a very well-designed and built piece of hardware. Where the OnePlus Watch fell short at launch was in the overall experience.

Consumer brands of all kinds need to spend some time talking to and listening to their consumers.

The experience of using a smartwatch is driven largely by the software on the device itself. This means that so long as the company that is in control of the smartwatch has the desire to improve it, that experience can improve. In the case of the OnePlus Watch, not only did OnePlus design the watch, but it also created custom software. The benefit to this is that OnePlus has the power to make those changes — and already has to an extent with the first update since launch.

The downside, however, is that unless there is a major overhaul of the software on the OnePlus watch, it's likely to still fail at a key aspect of a good smartwatch experience. I only say this because the software platform OnePlus is using for its smartwatch operating system doesn't do the two most essential traits of a smartwatch well — or at all, in the case of app support.

Amazfit Trex Pro Lifestyle

Source: Chris Wedel/Android Central (Image credit: Source: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

This doesn't mean that the OnePlus Watch and others like the Amazfit T-Rex Pro that use the same base operating system to run its smartwatches on are bad. If you didn't know better, you might just think that experience is what to expect from a smartwatch. Those watches offer excellent battery life, which can be important to a smartwatch experience.

Smartwatches like the TicWatch Pro 3 that runs Google's Wear OS and the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 running Samsung's Tizen software can offer 3-45 days and 2-3 days respectively per charge. While that doesn't match the 7-10 days that something like the OnePlus Watch can give, both of these watches have far superior notification and app support. Although Wear OS even beats out Tizen in these areas.

If you only want to count steps and track health, get a fitness tracker over a smartwatch.

A smartwatch offers many, if not all, of what a fitness tracker does, plus a lot more. It's very much the case of anything you can do, I can do better when it comes to smartwatches vs. fitness trackers. However, battery life is one area that most fitness trackers will win nearly every time over a smartwatch. What tips the scale for smartwatch wearers is the overall experience offered by them.

Fossil Gen 5E and Samsung Galaxy Watch Active

Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

Smartwatches allow you the opportunity to leave your phone in your pocket, heck, even leave it at home in some cases like the best smartwatches with LTE. Whether your smartwatch has LTE or not, you have the ability to fully handle the notifications that are on your phone, all from your wrist. This means you know what app it's from, can read all the information in the notification, and respond if you want.

In the case of third-party apps, while the Samsung Galaxy Store lacks both quantity and some key options, these apps allow you to continue some of the functions your phone has onto your wrist. Some of the best Wear OS apps and best Samsung Galaxy smartwatch apps bring apps like your favorite fitness, music, mapping, messaging, and more in a compact version to your smartwatch.

Ticwatch Pro 3 Play Store Lifestyle

Source: Chris Wedel/Android Central (Image credit: Source: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

Many factors contribute to a good smartwatch experience. What one person enjoys in a smartwatch may not be the same for another, but once you have had a taste of what a good experience can feel like and how it can benefit you — you may never want to try anything else.

Chris Wedel
Smart Home Writer
Chris Wedel is a fan of all things tech and gadgets. Living in rural Kansas with his wife and two young boys makes finding ways to get and stay online tricky. By utilizing his years of experience with the tech and mobile communications industries — success is assured. When not conquering connectivity challenges and testing new gadgets, he enjoys cruising a gravel road in his UTV with some good tunes.
  • this what happens when OnePlus starts shifting to be more hardware focused. We don't need anymore cheap chinese hardware companies, we need companies that care about software and most oxygenOS features proposed very saw light and CEO leaves
  • Did this article refer to Wear OS as a good experience? Seriously, has the author used Wear OS? It's garbage. Its literally the worst thing Google has ever barfed up, and I'm including multiple 20 second ads on YouTube in that... Googles plan to tackle Apple Watch with a host of hardware partners and a sleek operating system has fallen hard on its backside, and that's not the fault of the hardware partners. Some of them have tried very hard to eclipse the awful OS experience with high calibre hardware, but its hard to create a fine device with a crap OS. I don't even know why Google still bother with Wear OS
  • No, he stated good with the TicWatchPro 3 GPS. Have you used that watch? Yeah I didn't think so. The new 4100 chip it seems is what Wear OS needed. Since they are the only watch with that set up Wear OS does have a ways to go. But once other watching using it come out with the needed chip that will change the tide. I'm getting ready to pull the trigger on the TicWatch because I want a watch that I can use it's full potential with any android phone. Not a watch that I will need a Samsung phone to go with.
  • Amen to the 4100 & the TicWatchPro 3. Coming from a TicWatch E, the 3 GPS is amazing along with the battery life...totally different beast.
  • Its genuinely a good experience with the Ticwatch 3. I came from an original Galaxy Watch 46mm and this has never dropped a bluetooth connection and the apps all work...... Google Assistant still a bit hit or miss but its still better than Bixby.
  • I haven't used a TicWatch. I picked up a Falster 3 a year ago. I wasn't immediately blown away by it (the software was massively buggy out of the box) but after a couple of system updates it started to improve. A few weeks in and I started to think, "hey, this isn't so bad. Maybe it'll actually be useful." And then a friend went out and bought himself an Apple Watch Series 5. I hate Apple. I hate what they stand for and just how much they rip their customers off, although Microsoft and Google have bridged the gap in high prices and treating customers like retards in recent years. But it's absolutely undeniable...Apple have knocked it out of the park with the Watch. The Apple watch is vastly, vastly superior in every single way. Hardware, app selection, operation system, interface, user experience and feature richness. The frustration here is that Google, Qualcomm and every Wear OS app developer has had years to refine the wearable experience, and yet they can't come close to creating an Apple Watch experience. Why? Wear OS is like Windows Phone....great idea, poorly executed, delivers a tragically bad experience when held up against competitors