OnePlus Band fitness tracker: a work in progress

OnePlus’ first fitness wearable is a solid device, but comes with an app that still needs some shaping up

February 16, 2021 11:42 am | Updated 11:43 am IST - Bengaluru

The OnePlus Band fitness tracker

The OnePlus Band fitness tracker

The timing of OnePlus Band’s release was well-judged — just 10 days into January. It is that time of the year when resolutions, especially fitness-related ones, blossom. It had been over three months since Xiaomi launched Mi Smart Band 5, which, like OnePlus Band, falls under the ₹2500-₹3000 price range. There were no major releases in between. And, OnePlus, especially in India, are highly regarded for their smartphones.

The band was OnePlus’ first wearable device. And, going by their lofty standards, it was a slightly disappointing début.

OnePlus talk a lot about their products’ aesthetics. Most of them, are, indeed elegant. The ribbed black and grey strap (also available in orange-grey and Navy blue colours) and the rounded rectangular display were pleasing at first sight.

As with most fitness bands, there aren’t any physical buttons for navigation. You can tap and swipe on the 1.1-inch AMOLED display. The display also comes alive when you twist the wrist towards your face. You can turn on/off the screen by covering and uncovering the screen with your palm — this, however, did not work all the time. I also wished for more user interfaces with numbers of calories burnt, steps covered, etcetera.

One of the LED biosignal sensors on the OnePlus Band

One of the LED biosignal sensors on the OnePlus Band

Otherwise, there is not much to complain about the device per se. It offers to track 13 different activities, including cricket and badminton (clearly aimed at the Indian market). Apart from steps and distance, it also measures your heart rate, sleep and SpO2 (oxygen saturation level). There is also a feature for deep-breathing prompts. Unlike most other fitness trackers in its price range, the device uses red and green flashing LED lights for measurements.

My problem was with the accuracy of the measurements and the OnePlus Health app, which needs refinement.

I tested the band on two of the 13 workouts it offers to track: outdoor run and free training. Without the GPS signal from the phone, a 10-kilometre run comprised 10,000-plus steps and was completed in just over an hour. According to the app, I burnt about 560 kilocalories during the exercise. With the GPS, the same distance had over 12,000 steps, took 10 more minutes and helped me burn 670 kilocalories. In the free training mode, the device stopped tracking at random intervals.

The OnePlus Band fitness tracker

The OnePlus Band fitness tracker

The sleep tracker is harder to assess, but the amount of sleep is almost correct. You get a breakdown of your sleeping pattern as well — the duration of deep sleep, light sleep and being awake. It is tough to test this. I noticed, however, the tracker missing at least a couple of times I woke up in the middle of the night to get a glass of water. Sleep interruptions showed zero.

Still ahead

The band requires the OnePlus Health app, compatible with only Android phones with Android 6.0 Marshmallow and up, to function. Minimalism has been a trademark of OnePlus design. But the interface looks unfinished — like a building that has not been painted. My main grouse with the app, shared by users on Google Play and OnePlus forum, is you cannot sync it with Google Fit and other health apps, like HealthifyMe.

The battery, if you switch on all the features, lasts for about nine to 10 days. Unlike the Mi Band 5, which comes with a magnetic charger, you need to remove the tracker from its strap and fix it to the charger. As OnePlus Band came after the Mi Band 5, one expected it to have more features. The Mi band, for instance, had exclusive features for women like a period tracker, which were missing in OnePlus Band. One hopes the second iteration of the Band is a much-improved one.

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