OnePlus Band Review: A solid first attempt at fitness tracking
Over the years, OnePlus has carefully cultivated its brand reputation to rise from a niche smartphone maker offering value-for-money flagships, to a premium brand with a far-reaching mass appeal. So it was only about time that the company would look for ways to leverage its brand value and expand beyond the smartphone market. Having set its foot in the audio and TV segments, the company is now entering the wearables space. The OnePlus Band is OnePlus’s first attempt at wearables and it sets the stage for future smartwatch endeavors. It’s basically a rebadged Oppo Band with the OnePlus logo on it. But since the Oppo Band never launched outside China, it shouldn’t make any difference to potential buyers.
With a price set at ₹2,499, the OnePlus Band locks horns with the current segment leader Mi Band 5 and aims to shake up the entry-level fitness band market. But how does it hold up to the competition? I’ve spent 14 days with the OnePlus Band and here’s what I think about the product.
OnePlus Band: Specifications
|Dimensions & weight|
|Battery & Charging|
About this review: The OnePlus Band review unit was loaned to me by OnePlus India. This review is written after 14 days of use. OnePlus did not have any input in the content of this article.
Design & Display
As far as the design is concerned, the OnePlus Band doesn’t try to deviate too much from other fitness bands on the market. It features a removable tracker module lodged into a cavity between the silicone strap which can be popped out for charging or cleaning purposes. The front of the module is protected with scratch-resistant glass and beneath it is a 1.1-inch AMOLED color display with a discreet OnePlus logo printed below it. There’s no button and the entire surface of the front is flush, making your finger smoothly glide over the display without any resistance.
The silicone strap is made of good material and I didn’t find it uncomfortable or irritating my skin. The band is remarkably lightweight; you can wear it all day long and to sleep without even feeling it’s there on your wrist.
The display is bright and colorful, offering dark contrasts and saturated colors – just like you would expect from an AMOLED. The brightness can be adjusted manually at thresholds of 20%. At 100%, it’s bright enough to be readable under direct sunlight. The display is prone to pick up fingerprints and smudges but they’re easy to get rid of with a simple wipe of a cloth or a splash of water.
The OnePlus Band offers a very polished user interface. It’s a breeze to navigate around the UI and everything seems very well thought out and intuitive. Bright, colorful icons and clean typography make it easier to glance over content without having to squint. You swipe up or down to scroll through the preloaded apps. Swiping right takes you back to the previous screen. Meanwhile tapping on the watch face reveals indicators for Bluetooth connection, DND mode, and the battery level. Finally, you can switch between watch faces by swiping right or left.
The band lets you store up to 5 watch faces. Additional watch faces can be accessed from the OnePlus Health app but the process of syncing new faces is so painfully slow, you won’t wish to go through this very often. There are 37 watch faces to choose from and you can also use a photo from your gallery to create your own watch face.
OnePlus Health App
The OnePlus Band needs to be connected to the companion OnePlus Health app. The app is available on the Google Play Store and can be downloaded on any Android phone running 6.0 and above.
OnePlus did promise to release the app on iOS post the official launch, but so far it hasn’t been listed on the App Store. The app requires you to log in using your mobile or email. It lacks support for Google account login which is rather amusing for an app in 2021. To make matters worse, the app doesn’t save your data to the cloud and you’ll lose everything if you uninstall the app. I learned this the hard way when I switched to a new phone and logged into the app only to find I had to start afresh and my 4 days’ worth of data was lost. How OnePlus missed such a rudimentary thing is beyond me but I wish the company would address this with priority. Having an option for cloud sync would have been a nice touch.
Coming to the user experience, the OnePlus Health app stands in contrast to Xiaomi Mi Fit with its clean and minimal user experience. It cuts straight to the point without bombarding you with a myriad of settings and menus, presenting important stats and data on rounded cards. In the Health tab, you can check out your daily activity including steps and calories burned, heart rate over a period of time, sleep quality analysis, SpO2 levels as well as workout logs. The fitness tab lets you record a walking or running session while the Manage tab is where you will find watch faces and additional settings.
Tracking & Monitoring
Heart rate monitoring
Heart rate monitoring is a staple feature of pretty much every fitness tracker and quite predictably it’s available on the OnePlus Band as well. The band uses an optical sensor that beams green lightwaves through your skin and detects changes in blood flow as blood is pumped through the vessels. Optical sensors (PPG) are considered less sophisticated compared to electrocardiogram (ECG) sensors but they’re cheap and get the job done relatively well, making them a good fit for a cheap fitness tracker like the OnePlus Band. You can initiate the manual heart rate reading from the band or have it taken at intervals of 6 minutes, 2 minutes, and per second.
My initial experience with heart rate monitoring was irksome. The sensor repeatedly failed to obtain reading despite multiple adjustments and fastening the belt ever so tightly. But this was fixed after I discovered that it was my hairy skin that was getting in the way, and once I shaved a small patch of skin around my wrist the sensor started to return reliable readings.
The Blood oxygen sensor, commonly known as oximeter or pulse oximeter, is one of the main highlights of the OnePlus Band. The sensor uses a red LED and infrared light to measure the level of oxygen in your blood. A normal SpO2 level ranges between 95% to 100%. Repeated readings below 90% along with symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, and lightheadedness can be a sign of mild to moderate hypoxemia, a condition indicating oxygen deficiency in arterial blood. Generally, children and young healthy adults don’t need to monitor their SpO2 levels. However, if you’re suffering from lung disease or a heart condition, monitoring your blood oxygen levels can be helpful.
I didn’t have access to a medical-grade pulse oximeter so I wasn’t able to assess the accuracy of the sensor but it did seem to work reliably, with data captured in quick succession showing no unusual readings or wild variations. SpO2 reading can be initiated right from the band. The measurement takes up to 30 seconds to complete and you must keep your hand still throughout the process. You can also have your SpO2 level being monitored during your sleep. There are two options: periodic tracking, in which a reading is taken every 6 minutes, and continuous monitoring which tracks your SpO2 level in real-time. Automatic SpO2 monitoring kicks in only when the band detects you have fallen asleep.
Just like other fitness trackers, the OnePlus Band can also track your sleep and provide analysis and insights about the quality of sleep. On the first night, I wore the band to sleep, it didn’t register any sleep data at all. On the next two nights, it did record some data but only registered the first couple of phases even though I did have a sound sleep. It was only on the fourth night that it managed to record my entire sleep session. And from there on forward, it has been consistent at doing its job with accurate detection of when I fell asleep, awake period between sleep, and when I got up in the morning. On a couple of days when I took a nap to make up for lost sleep hours, it was also able to record it pretty accurately. Overall, I feel the OnePlus Band represents a big step up over my Mi Band 3 which often fails to tell apart idling in bed from the actual sleep.
In addition to tracking your steps and calories burned, the OnePlus Band has a wide range of fitness tracking features. It offers 13 dedicated exercise modes including Outdoor Run, Indoor Run, Fat Burn Run, Outdoor Walk, Outdoor Cycling, Indoor Cycling, Elliptical Trainer, Rowing Machine, Cricket, Badminton, Pool Swimming, Yoga, and Free Training. Since the OnePlus Band doesn’t have built-in GPS, it relies on your phone’s GPS and location service to estimate data about speed and distance covered. If you’re someone who doesn’t like to carry their phone while running or cycling, you’re better off with something like the Amazift GTS Mini 2 which comes with a built-in GPS.
Exercise modes can be accessed from the Workout app on your band and you can also set goals like distance, duration, and calories. Heart rate is continuously monitored during the workout and is displayed in real-time on the band’s display along with other stats. There’s a feature called Auto Pause which automatically pauses your on-going workout while you are at rest and resumes it when it detects your movement. After the completion of the activity, collected data is then sent to the Health app and from which a detailed graph along with other statistics is generated which you can find under the Workout logs. Similar to the Mi Band, the OnePlus Band also reminds you to get up and move around if it detects no physical activity for an hour, this is quite helpful for those who spend a great deal of time sitting at their desks.
Aside from the fitness-oriented functionalities, the OnePlus Band offers several other nifty features. You get alarm, stopwatch, music playback controls, and the camera shutter button – all of which can be accessed right from the band. Notification support is also present and you can control which apps you want to receive notifications from. Breathe is another useful addition which guides you through breathing exercise with on-screen instructions and gentle vibration. At the end of the exercise, it shows your average heart rate and the number of breaths. The band can also preview and reject incoming calls. Finally, Find My phone helps you relocate your misplaced smartphone by playing a high pitched sound.
However, the OnePlus Band does miss out on two important features: Stress Monitoring and Period tracking. Both of these features are available on the Mi Band 5. Implementing them doesn’t require any special hardware so this is something that can be easily added via an update.
Battery Life & Charging Speed
The OnePlus Band packs a 100mAh battery and claims to provide up to 14 days of battery life on a single charge. In my testing, however, that claim seemed a little far-fetched. In the first run, the band lasted only three days, — mainly because I was using everything to its fullest capacity: brightness set to 80%, heart rate tracking frequency set to every 2 minutes, notifications enabled for every messaging and work app, and SpO2 tracking during sleep set to real-time.
In the second run, I dialed down things a notch: brightness between 40-60%, night mode enabled, heart rate monitoring every 6 minutes, notifications disabled, and SpO2 tracking at a 6-minute interval during sleep. But even with these concessions, the band barely made it to the seventh day. OnePlus did roll out an update a few days ago addressing the unusual power draw during sleep and standby which has improved the situation to some extent. However, the numbers I’m getting still remains a far cry from what the company is advertising, with the average daily power draw coming in at between 12% to 15% with the same usage pattern.
The band charges via a plastic cradle which feels cheap and finicky and is simply no match for Mi Band 5’s super convenient magnetic charger.
For charging, you’ll need to eject the capsule from the strap and put it into the charging cradle. But I found that snapping the cradle onto the back of the band works just as well and is more convenient than having to pop out the capsule every single time. As for the charging speed, the band takes a little over an hour to reach 100% from an empty state. For reference, the Mi Band 5 takes anywhere between 1.5-2 hours to fully charge.
OnePlus’ first attempt at a fitness tracker is a solid one but not enough to unseat the Mi Band 5 from its position. A bright colorful display, intuitive UI, robust set of fitness features, accurate sleep tracking, and SpO2 monitoring are strongholds of the OnePlus Band. It’s also the only fitness band on the market to offer SpO2 monitoring at this price. But being a first-gen product, it does fall short in a few areas. The lack of cloud sync and missing features such as stress monitoring and period tracking puts the fitness band at disadvantage to the Mi Band 5. The battery-life, although good, is nowhere near to the company claim. But for what it’s worth, most of the shortcomings of the OnePlus Band appear to be fixable with software updates. Should you consider the OnePlus Band over the Mi Band 5? For now, the Mi Band 5 appears a more mature and polished product, offering more customizations and seemingly better battery life. However, the OnePlus Band does have an edge with its SpO2 sensor which is missing on the Mi Band 5’s global variant.