Update: January 22, 2021 (01:22 PM ET): A regulatory filing in India suggests there could be two versions of the OnePlus Watch. The filing also suggests India could be the first market to see the watch. Read on for more!
Original article: September 27, 2020 (4 AM ET): OnePlus has long aspired to create an ecosystem of devices that stretches beyond smartphones. The company’s efforts towards achieving this goal started with the OnePlus Bullets Wireless neckband earphones back in 2018. Since then, OnePlus has expanded its lineup with TWS earphones, wireless chargers, and even televisions. However, the fitness wearables space is one that the manufacturer has left untouched till now. This is about to change.
From Oppo to Realme, to Vivo — all of OnePlus’ sister companies under the BBK Electronics umbrella have announced or launched a fitness wearable. The Oppo and Vivo smartwatches are the latest in this onslaught, and by the looks of it, OnePlus isn’t trailing far behind. Enter the OnePlus Watch.
So far, little is known about OnePlus’ debut endeavor in the smartwatch category, but we’ll round up all the rumors in this article. We’ll also list out some expectations we have from the OnePlus Watch, given the crowded market it’s about to enter.
OnePlus Watch: Name and release date
It’s not surprising that OnePlus is making a smartwatch. Creating accessories to go alongside smartphones has been a practice in the tech industry since kingdom come. Samsung has done it, Apple has done it, Xiaomi’s in the thick of it, and nearly every major smartphone brand you can name is expanding its wearables portfolio.
Also read: The best smartwatches you can buy right now
OnePlus first dabbled with the idea of a smartwatch in 2016 but ultimately shelved the idea. In fact, the brand had a completed smartwatch back then but decided against bringing it to the market for whatever reason.
However, company CEO Pete Lau confirmed in an interview that the OnePlus Watch is back in the pipeline. Later, he confirmed on Twitter that the watch will land early in 2021:
Many of you said you wanted a watch, and as you might have heard over the weekend—we’re making one, to be released early next year. Wishes do come true. https://t.co/H1Fqv9srXj
— Pete Lau (@PeteLau) December 22, 2020
Lau’s “early next year” statement makes us think the watch will land alongside the OnePlus 9 series. However, it is possible the company could launch a watch at a separate event.
As far as the name goes, everyone is referring to it as the OnePlus Watch. There’s been no confirmation from the company that that’s the name, but we wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what ends up happening.
OnePlus Watch rumored design and specs
There isn’t a single leak out there about the specs of the so-called OnePlus Watch. The only info so far comes from tipster Max J on Twitter, who posted a cryptic teaser about the smartwatch having a round dial instead of a square face.
The tipster doesn’t even mention the name of the smartwatch. He only alludes to its possible circular design, which immediately distinguishes it from the Apple Watch-esque Oppo Watch. However, it does open up the possibility of the OnePlus Watch resembling the round Vivo Watch or the Realme Watch S Pro.
If that’s the case, OnePlus might not have to build a smartwatch chassis from scratch. It could just borrow Vivo or Realme’s design and slap its preferred hardware on it. Then again, OnePlus might adopt a completely fresh approach for its first timepiece.
A regulatory filing with India’s BIS (similar to the FCC here in the US) suggests there could be two variants of the watch. We don’t know what the differences would be between them, but it’s possible there could be two case sizes.
When it does launch, the OnePlus Watch may also include a Cyberpunk 2077-inspired special edition. Straps with Cyberpunk insignia and bright yellow inserts have leaked.
Will the watch run on Wear OS?
According to Pete Lau, OnePlus is working closely with Google to develop the software for the watch. Now, he didn’t specifically say that the OnePlus Watch will run on Wear OS, but the company working with Google leaves little to the imagination.
Interestingly, Lau freely admitted that Wear OS “definitely has room to improve.” He went on to discuss how his company is making suggestions to Google on what can be done to make the user experience better for the upcoming watch. According to Lau, this co-working effort “has been something looked at very positively from Google’s side.” Take that as you will.
OnePlus Watch: What we want to see
While we don’t have any clue about the specs and software of the OnePlus Watch, there are a few things we would like to see on it. Whether OnePlus has already thought of these or not is anyone’s guess, but here’s what a OnePlus Watch looks like in our minds.
Bright AMOLED always-on display
An OLED or AMOLED display is the gold standard for smartwatches right now. We would love to see the OnePlus Watch bring a bright and crisp always-on AMOLED screen like the one on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 or even the Oppo Watch. Sure, that means you won’t get battery life that lasts weeks, but no full-fledged smartwatch can promise you that these days. The Galaxy Watch 3 tops out at around three days with AOD turned off, while the Oppo Watch easily lasts 24 hours with the feature turned on.
Not many AMOLED-touting watches can last for a week or more, though some Fitbit and Garmin devices do. I would be happy if the OnePlus Watch could take phone calls, get notifications, run apps, track workouts, and basically do everything a smartwatch is expected to do. Of course, with an always-on AMOLED screen that doesn’t kill the watch by mid-day and makes it tick for at least 24 hours.
Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100 Plus
OnePlus and Qualcomm have had a great partnership when it comes to smartphones, and we expect to see the same for when the company launches smartwatches. Unlike the Oppo Watch that houses the two-year-old Snapdragon Wear 3100 chipset, we hope the OnePlus Watch upgrades to the Snapdragon Wear 4100 Plus.
The new 12nm chip promises the fastest clock speed (1.7GHz) on any Snapdragon Wear platform by Qualcomm to date. Compared to the 1.1GHz clock speed on the Wear 3100, this should feel like a significant boost. The new-generation chip also improves upon memory, GPU, and camera performance, and comes with a co-processor that promises great improvements to battery life. Pair this with 1GB RAM and 8GB storage, and you’ll have quite the powerful watch on your wrist.
Wear OS with some tweaks
Let’s be honest, Google’s Wear OS platform hasn’t really managed to dominate the smartwatch ecosystem. It’s mostly relied on Qualcomm’s hardware, and that door was shut for the past two years. With the new Wear 4100 chipset, there’s renewed hope for the future of Wear OS watches. There’s also a new version of Wear OS that’s based on Android 11 and supports the latest Snapdragon Wear chips. It promises faster app starts, quicker access to info, a simplified pairing process, improved support for LTE, and more. For best-in-class smartwatch performance, we would have liked to see the OnePlus Watch pair the Snapdragon Wear 4100 Plus with the latest Wear OS software out-of-the-box.
Also read: The best Wear OS apps for Android
We also wouldn’t mind seeing some smart software tweaks such as a reimagined ZenMode for watches or custom battery modes like the Fossil Gen 5. It’s also entirely possible that the OnePlus Watch will be a basic fitness watch, sans any third-party apps, like what we’ve seen from Huami’s Amazfit.
Match rivals’ features
We don’t want OnePlus to hide behind an eye-watering number of fitness/sports modes like some watches out there while compromising on the accuracy of core sensors (read Amazfit Stratos 3). What we want to see is an accurate heart rate and GPS sensor, NFC for remote payments, wireless charging, OnePlus’ signature Warp Charging, as well as blood oxygen monitoring. Stuff like Google Assistant support will automatically come if the watch sports the Wear OS platform. All this will ensure the OnePlus Watch stands on equal footing with other recent smartwatches like the Apple Watch 6 or the Galaxy Watch 3.
A measured price
What we’ve described above may sound like the perfect Wear OS smartwatch, and you might say that all this can’t possibly come cheap. You would be right. We don’t expect the OnePlus Watch to be under $200 with all these features and the latest Qualcomm chipsets. If the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 price is any indicator, then the OnePlus Watch could cost around $300.
There’s also the Apple Watch SE that comes in at $279, and that’s the one OnePlus would probably have to beat. Both Apple and Samsung are ecosystem leaders for smartwatches, and OnePlus has its work cut out for it. Maybe a $250-$300 price point could make the OnePlus Watch the best Wear OS watch to buy. I guess we’ll have to wait and watch.