Oppo Watch review: Wear OS excellence

Having availed numerous smartphones in the Kenyan market and beyond over the years, Oppo has taken the next step.

That next step involves the switch that the world has witnessed over the last few months as many are being prompted to take action on what they’ve always known for a long time: it’s time to step up and shape up.

From where Oppo stands, it may be able to help with that with its wearable, the Oppo Watch, its first ever smartwatch.

How does it fare, though?

That is the subject of this review.

Design and display

Given that what I have had for review is the 41mm version of the Oppo Watch, the only one available in the Kenyan market, I have a 1.6-inch flat AMOLED panel to work with. I don’t know how it would’ve felt using the curved display on the 1.9-inch 46mm variant but, from my past experience using smartwatches that take a similar design from other brands, I guess I am not missing much.

A few things stood out for me when it comes to the Oppo Watch’s display: it is bright and vivid and you won’t struggle when you use it outdoors. As an AMOLED device, blacks are really black and the few available watch faces, which are very well-suited for it, really do take advantage of it. Unfortunately, as we will see later, that barely results in more savings in terms of battery longevity.

There’s a speaker on the left side of the watch which comes in handy when you need to bark commands to the Google Assistant which, fortunately (because, battery life) or unfortunately (because, duh, what’s the point?), isn’t always on. It’s off when the display is off/unlocked. The speaker also comes in handy when making or receiving calls, something that is possible on the Oppo Watch. On the right are two buttons where a crown, on other watches (traditional and smart), would be placed.

The elephant in the room when it comes to the Oppo Watch’s design is where it draws its inspiration from. Until you turn the watch on and interact with Google’s (and Oppo’s) smartwatch vision, it is unmistakable: from Apple and the Apple Watch. Probably, unapologetically so.

Style and comfort

An often overlooked aspect of wearables is the, well, wearing part. How comfortable are they to wear? Are they the type that, as envisioned by its makers in the case of the Oppo Watch, you’ll want to wear all the day or they will be like the face masks we all can’t wait to get home and do away with?

Having used the Oppo Watch for the last 3 or so weeks, I have found no reason why it can’t be a permanent fixture on my left hand’s wrist if we are to look at comfort alone.

It has an easy fit mechanism that, once you get the hang of it, takes a few seconds to get the watch on your wrist. The weight balance is such that it doesn’t become yet another load you have to carry with you everywhere you go on top of your already very many problems (some of which the watch is supposed to help with).

Health and fitness

While there is no shortage of dedicated smart bands and activity trackers that cost half (or less, like an eighth?) of what the Oppo Watch costs and which will gladly handle your fitness needs without much of a fuss, is it really a smartwatch if it doesn’t pair whatever smart features it has going for it with what we can find on Kshs 3,000 fitness trackers?

The main advantage that smartwatches have over these (mostly) basic bands are the various sensors needed to provide near-accurate readings that inform the progress that one is making towards getting that desired beach body.

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In the case of the Oppo Watch, there are various pre-built. exercise modes. Want a quick workout? You are about 3 taps away from having it timed properly. It even has short 5-minute workout routines it can take you through, tracking them while at the same time guiding you via well-detailed videos.

I haven’t encountered this (the short video guides) on the previous smartwatches I have used and found it to be a very nice touch. It’s one thing to know you need to do 3 squats to stay in shape. It’s quite another to see what you are supposed to do being demonstrated, step by step, on a small screen strapped on your wrist.

The sleep tracking feature is spot on. I benchmarked it with a number of other accessories I have with me and it matched them. My only gripe is, why is the sleep tracking on Wear OS this limited? It won’t kick in to track an afternoon nap. It’s off by 10 AM and won’t be ready to determine how deep you sleep until after dark. Huh?

Wear OS

Wear OS, which is what powers the Oppo Watch, with Oppo’s own customizations bringing ColorOS to the wearable from its smartphone lineup, plays a big part in determining the watch’s successes and failures.

Wear OS and the lightness that we have come to associate with products where device makers haven’t muddied the waters allows the Oppo Watch, alongside some further optimizations that have obviously been done, to fly (don’t get it wrong, Wear OS is quite the memory hog but Oppo anticipated that and the included 1GB of memory is quite sufficient to keep the monster well fed throughout). It’s fast, it’s highly responsive and you’ll, overall, have a great time interacting with it. A tap is registered as a tap and you can expect a response even before you blink. The same is true of a swipe gesture.

That, in some instances like high-intensity physical exercise, can mean a whole world of difference. Given that I never used the Oppo Watch for this particular reason (I’ll be doing this in coming days, long after this review has been published), I cannot speak to that more than I already have.

Wear OS is also to be hailed for the smooth interfacing of the watch and the devices it pairs with. In my case, during the review period, that happened to be the Oppo Reno4 smartphone that the Watch launched alongside.

Wear OS also means access to a platform that, surprisingly, in this case, I am not too excited about its inclusion and availability: the Google Play Store. It comes in handy when it comes to providing updates as well as finding what many of us are certain to be on the lookout for to refresh their watch experience: watch faces. There aren’t many quality ones but you can make do with the ones you can find through apps like Facer.

There are other applications that are available right out of the box like Google Translate and the Record app. They come in handy when one needs them for something quick.

Others

Given that the Wear OS experience, at least going with the accompanying mobile app, is pretty much barebones, Oppo built the HeyTap app, which taps into its previous MyOppo application and acts as a central place for all things health and fitness when it comes to Oppo users. It is this app that can be used to manage the Oppo Watch.

Through it, one can switch watch faces – heck, even create custom ones using the AI Fit feature that allows one to create watch faces based on what they are wearing – as well as manage notifications and view their data in the kind of beautiful visualizations that I am personally accustomed to seeing on similar apps from Huawei, Xiaomi and Samsung.

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The only problem? It doesn’t make it any easy to share those visualizations with the outside world unless, of course, you take a screenshot, something that isn’t the case in the above-mentioned peers. Also, Oppo doesn’t make it known, at least through the watch, that the HeyTap Health app exists.

This is unlike the experience one gets elsewhere where the maker’s own app is the front and centre of the entire user experience. I understand why this is so in the case of the Oppo Watch: the platform. One only needs the Wear OS app to get going. However, given how basic that app is – and the Google Fit app isn’t much help, either – for many ordinary users who might not know of HeyTap’s existence, this is such a wasted opportunity.

Pros

  • Sufficient storage.
  • Speedy. The performance is impressive.
  • Speaker. Given that the typing experience on a 1.6-inch panel obviously won’t be good, being able to take advantage of the presence of a speaker to use the Google Assistant is fantastic. As is picking a call on your wrist when you’re doing something and your phone isn’t near or you don’t have the space to reach for it from your pockets. The speaker isn’t loud, so you won’t be using it to pick calls in crowded/noisy surroundings but it does its job just fine.
  • Wi-Fi. The more connectivity options available, the better. This allows information like the weather to stay updated even when the watch isn’t connected to its paired device.
  • Superb notification management. On Wear OS, the notifications can easily overwhelm you. Using the Oppo app, one can turn off apps they don’t need alerts from so that the watch isn’t buzzing every second of the day, a sure way to kill an already less than average battery experience.
  • The fast-charging (VOOC) is great!

Cons

  • Wear OS feels limiting and there’s no way to shake off that feeling when using the Oppo Watch.
  • The battery life is regrettable. It’s average, at best. Less than average, if I am to be less kind. It’s the price one pays for the kind of performance that the Oppo Watch offers but still, it’s not asking for too much expecting that a watch won’t struggle to cover the better part of one’s day, is it?

The lowdown

The Oppo Watch offers the best introduction to Google’s wearables platform that one can find in Kenya at the moment. It’s priced well (at Kshs 24,000, we have seen competitors launch at higher prices so we get to appreciate this one for staying with the reach of a certain segment of the market) and does a good job holding up on its own and fulfilling its end of the bargain.

The only caveat is the need to charge it every day. In my case, that is something that I have done for a year now with my Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 and, totally don’t mind it at all. I just dread the watch dying on me while I am out and about.

Have something that you believe I need to have a look at? Hit me up: echenze [at] androidkenya.com