A great smartwatch, but held back by Google’s shortcomings

OnePlus Watch 2 shows off watch faces on shelf

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Competition breeds innovation, but to say the Android smartwatch market has stalled would be an understatement. With Fossil out of the market and companies like Mobvoi having limited options, the Android smartwatch market is generally a two-horse race between Samsung and Google. So I’m particularly excited about the arrival of the OnePlus Watch 2, a potential contender for the best Wear OS watch crown.

Despite its limitations, this watch sets new benchmarks in terms of battery life, innovative dual-OS technology, and design. What’s more, the wide availability of this watch is very attractive.

However, despite its many strengths, the OnePlus Watch 2 isn’t perfect. I switched from the Apple Watch Ultra about a month ago, and while my experience has been largely positive, I believe the OnePlus Watch 2 is a phenomenal piece of hardware that’s been held back by Google’s noncommittal attitude toward Wear OS. Here’s why.

OnePlus Watch 2: Big size, bigger ambitions

OnePlus Watch 2 side profile

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

I’m not going to summarize everything I love about this smartwatch; you can refer to my colleague Kaitlyn’s excellent OnePlus Watch 2 review. However, it wouldn’t be fair to say that OnePlus has made a complete transformation with this new watch. While the company’s first appearance nailed the design, it lacked practical smarts. The Watch 2 stands out for its excellent build quality, although the crown is aesthetically pleasing but non-functional. It also comes with a huge battery that really lasted me two days of active use, including an hour or two a day of workout tracking and GPS-enabled outdoor running. Elsewhere, the fitness metrics aren’t perfect, but they’re good enough for casual use, and sleep tracking is spot on.

The OnePlus Watch 2 stands out for its incredible dual-OS functionality and excellent battery life.

Best of all, the OnePlus Watch 2 comes with Wear OS 4 out of the box. At a time when there are surprisingly few options for running Google’s latest wearable operating system, this is a huge win for OnePlus. It brings compatibility with a wide range of apps and services, better watch faces, integration with Google Calendar and Mail apps, and more. If you prefer voice-based interaction, this is covered as well.

Stagnant software overshadows great hardware

OnePlus Watch 2 for wrist exercises

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The OnePlus Watch 2’s most notable strength, though, is its crutches. I’ll be honest: I’ve never been a big fan of Wear OS. My last long-term experience with the operating system was on the 2020 OPPO Watch. Since then, a lot has changed. However, the experience of using a Wear OS watch is completely disjointed.

Health and fitness are crucial to me, but over the years Wear OS still hasn’t had a standardized way of handling fitness tracking. On the OnePlus Watch 2, the OHealth app is the primary way to track fitness. Unfortunately, as we explored in our review, the app is too simplistic and lacks what I’d expect from an Apple Watch Ultra or Garmin.

To add insult to injury, health tracking isn’t perfect either. Step counts tend to be inconsistent and I don’t trust the calorie burn information. Google could solve this problem by providing a standardized health API that other apps can use to customize the interface experience, but that’s not the case here. Apple Watch does it; why can’t Google?

When it comes to health tracking, getting data from a watch isn’t easy. Yes, I know about Health Connect, but the whole process is very haphazard and rarely transfers all the data to Google Fit. I also use Strava as my running data aggregator of choice. Since neither Health Connect nor OHealth are hooked into Strava, I relied on Strava’s integration with Google Fit to pull the data. The problem here is that not all metrics transfer across the board. Compared to my Apple Watch Ultra, every time I complete a workout, the data transfers to Strava seamlessly. I don’t really need three different health apps on my phone to access my workout data.

I shouldn’t have three interdependent apps on my phone just to get better fitness metrics.

In fact, I would have liked Google to take advantage of Fitbit’s excellent data algorithms to create a standardized fitness API that any app could leverage and fetch reliable data seamlessly. This will not only improve the fitness capabilities of smartwatches across the board, but also establish a unified benchmark for various smartwatch brands. As it stands, if I switch from a Galaxy Watch to a OnePlus Watch or Pixel Watch, the fitness data algorithm has no relevance at all.

Another big issue I observed was the quality of the app. Coming back to Wear OS after a few years, it’s frustrating to see that the quality of apps and services on the Play Store hasn’t improved much. For example, my favorite intermittent fasting app, Zero, still isn’t available on Wear OS, even though there is a fully functional version for the Apple Watch. Likewise, I’m partial to Shelly’s smart home devices. The company has released an Apple Watch app, but there is no such alternative for Wear OS. Of course, Wear OS’s limited user base provides little incentive for brands to invest in apps for the platform. But the chicken-and-egg problem is also entirely Google’s fault.

This is entirely Google’s fault

Users review some of the Google apps available on their OnePlus Watch 2.

Kaitlyn Cimino/Android Authority

Whether it’s Google’s never-ending rebranding cycle, the snail’s pace at which updates are released, or Samsung’s choice-limiting software exclusivity – which is what makes Android products so exciting – Google clearly sees Wear OS as Second-class citizens. The fact that basic features like public transit navigation are only now coming to Wear OS, while basic features like offline maps are still missing, is mind-boggling.

Google’s second-class treatment of Wear OS, slow updates, and software exclusivity have created an ecosystem with limited hardware options and lackluster software.

There’s no doubt in my mind that OnePlus has created one of the best examples of a Wear OS smartwatch. Yes, it’s big, but I can learn to live with the huge size because it offers super long battery life. But all of these hardware efforts are overshadowed by the mediocre software that powers the show. While there are signs that Google is finally starting to turn things around with its recent releases of Wear OS, like the hybrid interface debuting on the OnePlus Watch 2, it’s clear that more needs to be done to make Wear OS a capable Apple Watch More options for change.

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