Congrats to OnePlus for Making Its Smartwatch Slightly Less Awful

Congrats to OnePlus for Making Its Smartwatch Slightly Less Awful
Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

The OnePlus Watch launch was catastrophic. Never had a flagship smartwatch since Will.i.am’s infamous Puls smartwatch failed in such spectacular fashion. I recently wrote 2,000 words about how it was the worst smartwatch I’ve ever used. Today OnePlus pushed out an over-the-air update that claims to fix some of the watch’s egregious omissions and cock-ups.

It’s better than nothing, but to be frank, the OnePlus Watch launched with next to nothing working properly so I’m not exactly impressed. According to a post on the OnePlus forum, the update includes:

  • Improved GPS performance
  • Improved accuracy of activity tracking (walking and running)
  • Optimised heart rate monitoring algorithm
  • Enabled notification app icons for the most frequently used apps
  • Improved raise-to-wake function
  • Optimised notification syncing algorithm
  • Fixed some known bugs
  • Improved system stability

Reader, look upon this list and cry-laugh with me. This is a damning list of everything OnePlus fucked up at launch. GPS performance, accurate activity-tracking, heart rate-monitoring, and notifications that sync properly are basic functions that you’d expect to work as advertised out of the box. The “fixed some known bugs” bullet point is also doing a lot of heavy lifting here. The problem is there were so many known bugs that I’m now left guessing which ones were addressed. The vagueness doesn’t instill confidence, but I’ve reached out to OnePlus to see if they’ll clarify what bugs they’re talking about here.

When I initially raised concerns to OnePlus, the company told me — and other reviewers — to expect a mid-April update. A spokesperson told me the mid-April update would finally sync sleep-tracking data and SpO2 history to the OnePlus Health app. That’s huge, because on top of being a marquee feature, sleep-tracking is only useful if you can view your trends over time. So here we are, a week after launch with what I assume is the update OnePlus was referring to.

I’ve updated the app and the OnePlus Watch. My sleep and SpO2 data are nowhere to be found. I’ve synced at least five times. I suppose my sleep history has disappeared into the ether. So either OnePlus told us the wrong thing and this widely reported bug remains unfixed or the watch itself doesn’t store more than a week’s worth of data. Neither option is good. (For the record, my smart scale can store 14 days’ worth of data for 8 different people, so the latter is simply ridiculous.) I’ve asked OnePlus about the sleep-tracking/SpO2 app syncing as well, but haven’t received a response.

Another thing that wasn’t fixed? My arm has been buzzing off and on the entire time I’ve been writing. I have at least 100 notifications for unread emails. But hey, at least my notifications have icons.

Granted, I’ve only had this update for a few hours and need more time to suss whether the really big bugs were fixed properly. But what baffles me is that you still can’t switch to a 12-hour time format from a 24-hour one. This, along with sleep history and SpO2 syncing problems, was a widely reported bug and yet it remains unfixed. OnePlus says that will come in a future update, along with an always-on display, remote camera control for Android smartphones, four new languages, the rest of the 110+ workout modes that were promised, and an AI watch face. Listen, OnePlus, considering how you apparently botched French translations and gave several reviewers (including me) watches that were initially stuck in Hindi, maybe prioritise getting this thing fully working as advertised before you hawk it to other markets.

In the best case scenario, these updates will fix some of the biggest problems I had with the OnePlus Watch. Which then leads me to ask: Why the hell could this launch not be delayed for one week if a week was all that was needed to fix this shit? Consumers are not beta testers.

Honestly, I’m mostly mad that this means I have to go back and relive the trauma of this testing experience. This fix-it-as-you-go approach is incredibly disrespectful to me, my fellow reviewers, and consumers. But, listen, OnePlus, I’m a professional. You said the running accuracy and GPS were fixed. If I run three miles in good faith and the fitness metrics are still broken, I cannot be held responsible for yeeting this thing into the East River.