OnePlus Watch 2 review: learning from mistakes

OnePlus’ first smartwatch, the OnePlus Watch, released in March 2021. The reception the wearable received was lukewarm at best, mostly due to constant software glitches, very basic fitness features, limited app support, inconsistent notifications and more.

Three years later, the company is back with the OnePlus Watch 2 and aims not to make the same mistakes with its first-gen smartwatch.

The wearable features dual-chip architecture, complete with one chip for efficiency and easy tasks and the other for performance and intensive tasks.

Performance aside, the wearable is a treat to look at, with its stainless steel body sapphire crystal display, making the watch a suitable accessory for casual and formal wear.

The watch is clearly a solid upgrade over its predecessor, but it lacks some key features that other watches offer, and that’s where it loses some points.

Premium look with a great display

The OnePlus Watch 2 features a large 1.43-inch circular AMOLED display encased in a stainless steel frame. The watch looks and feels premium, and despite its large size, it doesn’t weigh much.

Wrist fatigue is real and something I often encounter with my Apple Watch Ultra. I’m not sure if it’s something related to the Watch Ultra’s rectangular shape, or because of its added weight, or maybe it just pinches my wrist’s nerves. Although the Watch 2 is huge, I haven’t really felt the need to take it out often, and when I take it out occasionally for charging, my wrist doesn’t feel weird. Plus, the battery life on the Watch 2 is amazing, but more on that later.

The display is smooth and bright with vibrant colors and optimal viewing angles, making the watch easy to look at for quick information. However, the large display pops, and I don’t mean that in a good way. I’d say I have an ‘average’ sized wrist, and the watch display looks huge on me. I’m not necessarily saying this is a bad thing, but the 46mm round size is not my style, and I would have preferred a more subtle design. OnePlus, however, only sells the Watch 2 in one size.

Now, before I get blasted for saying that I prefer “a more subtle design” and simultaneously exposed for using an Apple Watch Ultra as my daily driver, I’d just like to say that there is something about the rectangular design of the Ultra. Not making it pop as much, despite its bigger size. And I know there are many others who echo this view.

So, TL;DR, round watch great. Round watch dazzling. But that’s okay if that’s what you prefer.

On the right, the watch features two buttons, both of which are customizable. At the top is a digital crown-like button that opens your app list or takes you back to your home screen. A double press takes you back to the last app you used, while a long press opens Google Assistant. All the functions can be customized to your liking.

What I don’t like about the Digital Crown-like button is that it doesn’t scroll through your apps or menus when you turn it. A fake digital crown is not nice.

Below that sits a multifunction button that defaults to opening workouts with one tap and opening your Google Wallet with two taps. This is also customizable.

The left side of the watch has no buttons, and that’s great. The straight stainless steel on the left gives the watch its premium look and actually makes it look more like a regular watch.

The watch is IP68-rated and can be submerged in water up to 50 meters, so it can check the durability boxes.

WearOS and dual-chip power

First, the OnePlus Watch 2 only works with Android devices. So no, iPhone users cannot connect it with their iOS device. This is the same as the 1st-Gen OnePlus Watch.

The OnePlus Watch 2 runs on Google and Samsung WearOS 4, which solves one of the main problems that haunted the Watch 1 – limited app support. Access to WearOS allows the OnePlus Watch 2 to get its hands on almost all applications available to Google and Samsung’s wearables.

WearOS wouldn’t be justified if it wasn’t snappy. That’s why OnePlus deployed the Watch 2 with two processors. A Qualcomm Snapdragon W5 Gen 1 chip takes the burden of running the Wear OS software and performance-related tasks, while a secondary BES 2700 chip tackles the burden of background activities and efficiency-related tasks.

Essentially, the chip with Google WearOS runs intensive features like maps and music while the BES 2700 chipset takes on roles like running always-on display, background apps, display notifications and more.

In use, tasks switch seamlessly between the two chipsets, and you, as the user, would not notice it. This makes the overall experience of using the watch smooth and snappy.

Battery Champ

The battery life is arguably the best thing about the Watch 2, right behind the WearOS 4 support.

On paper, the wearable boasts a 500mAh battery, which is in line with the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, Apple Watch Ultra and the Apple Watch Ultra 2. It’s also much larger than the batteries in the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6, Galaxy Watch 6 Classic , and the Pixel Watch 2.

The difference in battery life, however, is evident when using the watch. I can confidently say that the OnePlus Watch 2 has among the best battery life in the wearable market right now, with some of Garmin’s beasts.

The watch has two main modes – “Smart Mode” and “Power Saver” mode.

Smart Mode is on by default, and this is the mode you’ll use most of the time. OnePlus says Smart Mode offers up to 100 hours of battery life, and that’s partly true. It normally took me three-and-a-half days to see the battery go from 100 percent to 20 percent, all while using it during workouts and sleep tracking. Once the watch reaches 20 percent, it automatically switches to power saver mode, which allows the watch to run for an additional 18 hours.

It is worth noting that the Smart mode is not always enabled by default on the display, and the use of this feature will reduce the battery life by approximately half.

Using the power saver mode, the watch limits a lot of features, but this allows it to last approximately 10-12 days if you only use this mode instead of smart mode.

You can still have the watch connected to your phone via Bluetooth and track fitness in Power Saver mode. You can also use lift to wake up, check your notifications on the watch, take incoming calls and more.

This makes the Watch 2 a viable companion for trips where access to power may be sparse.

You can also switch between the two modes on the fly to get the most out of the watch. For example, I normally put the watch in power saver mode when I’m in a vehicle. I get motion sickness if I look at screens in vehicles, so I know I won’t be looking at my watch for extended periods when I travel. The same goes for when I’m riding the subway.

The power saver mode is also great for times when you wake up in the morning and realize you forgot to put the watch on its pack the night before, and the watch is on the last 10 percent.

However, if you prefer not to use the toned-down mode, a bonus is that charging does not take long. The watch goes from 10 percent battery to 50 percent in about 20 minutes, and even with Smart Mode and heavy use, 50 percent will easily get you through the day.

Tracking through the OHealth app

The OnePlus Watch 2 is easily one of the best watches under $400 for walkers and runners. Besides the regular heart rate and step counter, the watch also calculates your average walking cadence, pace, heart rate zones, pace for each km, total ascent, and more. If you are a metric watcher, the OnePlus Watch 2 can give you a lot of insights about your walking and running workouts.

What is also noteworthy is that if you are into resistance or strength training, the watch will allow you to select individual body parts to work. For reference, the watch has specific workout tracking modes for chest exercises, back exercises, upper and lower limb exercises, shoulder exercises, core exercises, and more. In comparison, the Apple Watch Ultra only offers two strength training modes, even though both watches offer roughly the same metrics.

It also offers several sports tracking modes, from badminton, which counts your swing speed, shots, total backhands, overhands and underhands, to golf, swimming, skiing and more.

Although fitness tracking is top notch, the watch leaves some features to be desired on the health tracking side. All the regular features, like sleep, stress tracking and SpO2 tracking, are available, although more advanced features, such as ECG, temperature sensing and fall detection, are not available. And if you’re looking for a watch to track menstrual cycles, you’ll want to look elsewhere.

A summary of all the health and fitness tracking data can be viewed directly on the watch, although the OHealth app provides a more detailed view of the metrics in a clear and easy-to-understand format.

Overall, health and fitness tracking on the OnePlus Watch 2 paired with the OHealth app offers a well-rounded experience, although the final decision depends on your individual needs.

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