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OPPO Watch – embraces its Android Wear OS (review revisited)

OPPO Watch

OPPO Watch – embraces its Android Wear OS (review revisited)

Last year we reviewed the OPPO Watch, saying it has design cues suspiciously reminiscent of those from a fruity company. In part because its prime market loves knock-offs, and in part, it is quite a unique style in the Android world.

Well, this revisit is part of OPPO’s challenge that I use the OPPO Find X3 Pro for a month as my’ daily drive’ instead of the Samsung Galaxy S-series that I have used since the Samsung Galaxy S5 launch in 2015.

OPPO was right to challenge me. It’s Find X3 Pro is more than a match for the Galaxy S21-series (article to come), but there was one area that I had issues with. The Samsung Galaxy Active 2, Galaxy Gear drivers and Samsung Health were not fully compatible with the OPPO Find X3 Pro. It manifested in wildly inaccurate step counts and severe battery drain. I can’t explain why because the OPPO Find X3 Qualcomm SD888 has similar sensors to the Galaxy S21 Exynos 2100.

OPPO came to the rescue, and I have been using the Apple, err OPPO watch now for four weeks. Neither the learning curve nor and the transition from Samsung Health was steep. Which only shows that we tend to stick with the things we know.

I don’t want to repeat all the information in the original review here (8.6/10) but revisit it as a smartwatch after a few weeks of intensive use with the excellent OPPO Find X3 Pro. Spoiler alert: What a difference nine months makes in the maturity of Android Wear OS. This now rates 9+/10 to challenge the Samsung Galaxy Active 3 and Watch 3.

You can read other GadgetGuy OPPO news and reviews here.

OPPO Watch – brief specs (46mm Wi-Fi tested) Model OW19W8

  • Website here
  • Price: 41/46mm $449/549 but Bing Lee  has genuine Australian stock with OPPO warranty for $341/444
  • Warranty: 2 years
  • Android Wear OS
  • 3ATM/5ATM (41/46) Water resistance (not a diver’s watch)
  • Wi-Fi B, Bluetooth 4.2LE, NFC, GPS

Apple Watch has the lions share of the smartwatch market, yet it has major issues with Android phones – it does not work. So, it comes down to what do 60% of Aussie Android users buy? The answer is that if you own a Samsung device, a Samsung Watch.

But for Android users, you have lots of choices. OPPO Watch comes close to perfection with its 41/46mm beautiful OLED ‘Apple-like’ rectangular screen. This gives by far the greatest usable real estate.

Most other brands have gone for the traditional round designs. But that is OPPOs main weakness – the round analogue watch faces don’t entirely use the huge rectangular space. In all, OPPO has a limited watch face collection.

What do you want a smartwatch to do?

  • OK Google
  • Via BT or Wi-Fi, answer linked phone calls
  • Vivid, clear, daylight readable display
  • Clock, world clock, timer, stopwatch, alarm
  • Email, SMS, Calendar, and reminders
  • Payment (Google Pay) and Wallet
  • Heart rate monitor
  • Sleep monitor
  • Auto Exercise tracker
  • Weather
  • Decent battery life
  • Options like a remote camera shutter, voice recorder
  • Link to Wear apps like Google Maps – this alone is a deal maker
  • Link to fitness apps including Google Fit, Adidas Running, Strava
  • Spotify, Pandora, iHeart Radio and download to watch

The OPPO Watch does all the above and more. Very few others do!

How is the call quality?

I have always been a bit ‘iffy’ about taking calls on a watch, but this is quite good. It has a single mic with no noise cancelling, so you need to hold it close to your mouth.

The speaker is perfect for voice, meaning a very narrow frequency response. Music – use BT earphones.

Battery life – as expected from a fully-featured smartwatch

OPPO crow about up to 21-day battery life, but that uses a secondary Ambiq Micro Apollo Wireless 3 SoC for battery saver mode. That retains pedometer, clock and heart rate, so it is useful if you are away from the charger. But it also requires a reboot to swap to the normal mode. We tested the mode for ten days, and it still had 50% battery left.

But we want to get back to the smartwatch experience that runs the Qualcomm 3100 Wear OS system-on-a-chip.

I have everything turned on – Wi-Fi, BT, GPS, NFC, and screen at 70% – a day is about right (20+% left at 10 PM). If I turn off the always-on-screen, Wi-Fi and GPS, then that stretches to up to three days. Considering I get only one day from the Galaxy, that is pretty good.

The watch uses a charging cradle – something I am not enamoured with. The USB-A connector requires 5V/1.5A/7W, and a full charge is about 1 hour and 15 minutes. At 15 minutes, it is about 45% (fast charge).

At least you can charge it off any USB charger, including most USB 2.0 PC/laptop ports – it just takes longer.

I hate the band

The fluoro-rubber band may be durable, but it’s a bugger to put on. It is a hole and post job that has the post on the underside. The bands do not use a standard fitting (you can get the adapter to fix that). Fortunately, there are lots of low-cost options online.

There is no dispute over durability, wearability, or comfort – 40g is about right, and it sits flat against my wrist so that you can wear it day or night. It can get a bit sweaty during exercise – wash it off with impunity.

Interacting

I love the Samsung Galaxy round rotating bezel for its intuitiveness. But this larger screen rectangular watch allows for more information, larger fonts and icons. That screen size alone makes it more usable.

It is straightforward to use. There are two buttons – the top right is for apps/home, and the bottom right is a shortcut to customisable health routines. The screen has swipe up/down/left/right and little indicator bars to show which ways to go. While Apple has a physical rotating crown and Samsung its rotating bezel (software, not hardware on the Active series), OPPO has done an excellent job with its extra screen real estate. I love its tap to wake – it is a fast as its tilt to wake.

Sensors

Our last review could not find an e-Compass. Well, it is there – it just requires an app download. Otherwise, it has a 3-axis accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer, GPS, NFC, capacitance, ambient light and always-on heartbeat sensors. It does not have ECG as that takes too long to get TGA approval.

GPS gets fast satellite positioning from a connected smartphone. But should you go out without the phone, it will get placement after a few minutes.

And its sensors support SOS fall detection apps, including seizure alert, RightMinder fall detection, Wearsafe and Carelife.

Wear OS – Version 2.41 14 July 2021, Security Patch 1/6/21 based on Android 9 H MR2

A new version 3.0 (based on Android 11) is coming later this year (OPPO should be upgradable). The strength of Wear OS is that it has an app store. This is one of the reasons Samsung is moving to Wear OS. It is also why Android TV, a.k.a. Google TV, is picking up a huge market share. Here are a few app categories.

  • Music: Pandoro, iHeartRadio, Pandora, Podcast Republic, Metronome
  • Sport: Hole 19 Golf GPS, Equilab Equestrian Insights, FotMbo football, ViewRange Hiking, Sports tracking
  • Health: Google Fit, Adidas Running. Stava, Pill reminder, Lifesum Food diary,
  • General tools: AccuWeather, Citymapper, Compass, GPS, Calculator, Sound Metre, SOS, Wi-FI manager
  • Games: 26 games including Snake, puzzles, flip a coin
  • Watch faces: round and rectangle  – round faces will work on this watch
  • OPPO has a HeyTap app that we did not use. It requires too much information and a registration process, but it has added ‘cool’ features like watch faces that match what you are wearing – cool.

I was impressed with the speed of update between the phone and watch – it is instant. PS – Don’t try Android Wear OS devices with iPhone Wear app – a disaster.

Health/Activity tracking

You may recall that I revisited the OPPO Watch after swapping from the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and Galaxy and Active watches, getting very odd results with Samsung Gear on the OPPO.

Both devices (Samsung and OPPO) are within 100 steps on a 5k walk; the heartbeat is the same, and GPS is accurate. I can only surmise that when I used the ‘switch’ option to transfer from Samsung to OPPO, Samsung-specific apps may not work.

While it records steps and more in Google Fit, you can select one five OPPO pre-sets

  • Fitness run (with or without GPS) and covers goals and stages
  • Fat burn run links to the heartbeat for cardio feedback
  • Outdoor walk – goals include distance, duration, calories
  • Outdoor cycle – ditto but also records speeds
  • Swimming – pool length 25/50m, and it records pace and lengths. There is a touch lock to prevent false water touches
  • There are also a range of five-minute workouts
  • Sleep tracker works between 20:00 and 10:00

GadgetGuy’s take

The OPPO Watch is almost unique in the Android world with its very Applesque look. But that is its strength because it packs so much more into the rectangular screen (Fitbit and Garmin have square screens but are more fitness trackers). That screen is superb – OLED with excellent daylight readability.

Android Wear OSW 2.23 has come a very long way since it was reviewed with V2.17. It is faster, pairing is foolproof, has better battery life, and Google Fit has been substantially upgraded.

The battery life is average for a fully-fledged smartwatch, and the 21-day mode is more of a gimmick.

Hardware-wise – excellent, and OPPO build quality is superb.

We have to disclose that there is an OPPO Watch 2.0 coming later this year, but it is only an incremental update.

Rating

Our first rating of 8.6/10 was fair, especially as we were using the Samsung Galaxy Active 2 9.4/10 as a base on a Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 9.6/10. And the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 9.7/10, which we called “The refinement of an almost perfect smartwatch.”

I have looked closely at our review notes for the OPPO Watch and realise that I was subconsciously comparing it with the Galaxy Active 2 and Samsung Health – old friends of mine, like a comfortable pair of slippers.

Now I could regrade the Samsung (to compare to the OPPO) or use more generic Android Wear OS parameters. We will do the latter.

Since the last review, Android Wear OS has improved – a few more points

Value for money – Its closest Samsung rival is the Active 2 44mm (smaller screen) that starts at $549 (Wi-Fi aluminium back) to $799 (LTE stainless steel back). Apple’s 44mm Series 6 starts from $649. For the build, materials used, screen its better value than the Samsung.

Performance – Android Wear is 20% faster than the review build, and it shows smooth transitions and instant app access.

Ease of use – if you put the rotating bezel aside, the OPPO Watch icon and swipe system are excellent and intuitive.

Design – I still hate the band, but it is easy to get others, so I won’t penalise it.

And as it uses Android Wear OS with a better app range instead of Tizen.

Base specifications OPPO Watch (41mm model is first)

  • 41.45 x 36.37 x 11.4 x 30.1g or 46 x 39 x 11.35mm x 40g
  • 1.6” 360 x 320, 301ppi flat AMOLED or 1.91” 4767 x 402 326 ppi curved edge AMOLED – both 100% DCI_P3 colour gamut
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 (28 nm) and Adreno 304 GPU
  • Second chipset for power-saving mode Ambiq Micro Apollo3 Wireless SoC
  • 300/430mAh battery
  • Magnetic charger with USB-A male cable – 5V/1A (41mm) and 5V/1.5A (46mm)
  • 3/5 ATM water resistance
  • 1GB RAM and 8GB eMMC 4.5 storage
  • Wi-Fi N, BT 4.2, and A-GPS
  • Android Wear OS
  • 41mm Gorilla Glass, 6000-series aluminium frame, plastic back or 46mm Schott Glass, aluminium frame, and ceramic/sapphire crystal back
  • Colours: 41mm – Black, Glossy Gold, Pink Gold, Silver Mist and 46mm Black and Glossy Gold
  • Fluro-rubber band and proprietary band/case connector
  • Speaker, Microphone, 3-axis accelerometer, gyro, optical heart rate, compass, barometer, geomagnetic sensor, capacitance sensor, ambient light sensor, NFC.

The OPPO Watch is by far the easiest to use, fully-featured Android Wear OS watch with a beautiful OLED screen.

Positives

OPPOs superb quality and build

Daylight readabel OLED screen and 100% DCI-P3 gamut

5ATM water-resistant (46mm)

Battery life commensurate with use

Loving Wear OS app variety

Negatives

That band!

I would have loved a Qi charger – that would have made it perfect

Not sure if I want HeyTap enabled – more exploration needed

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