It’s been three months since the OnePlus watch went on sale for the first time. Unfortunately for OnePlus, the watch was released with widespread critical disapproval; our own review found that it was a mediocre smartwatch, a mediocre fitness tracker, and a dull timepiece for the asking price.
Today, the company launches the Cobalt Limited Edition. This variant includes a cobalt alloy body, a sapphire crystal and a vegan leather strap, all for an even higher price than the standard model. However, OnePlus has also been working hard over the past three months, adding many features for which it has been criticized. So we thought it was a good opportunity to discover the new sophisticated finish and see the progress made by the watch since our last overhaul.
Unlike the long and thin box of the standard edition, the Cobalt limited edition comes in a slightly more sophisticated package. You get this pretty square box with a soft-touch material coating on the outside. The lid opens onto a hinge as one would expect from a high-end watch or jewelry package.
Inside, the watch is set around a cushion in the center. Leaving aside for a moment, the box reveals a second compartment underneath for accessories. Unfortunately, they don’t have anything particularly special, as they include the same USB magnetic charging washer (the same black color) as the standard edition, as well as the fluoroelastomer strap you get in addition to the pre-installed vegan leather strap. The bracelet is also the same black color as the Midnight Black variant that we reviewed before and whose color does not match the Cobalt edition.
Now, the Cobalt Edition isn’t supposed to be a super premium variant of the OnePlus watch like the Apple Watch Edition in 18-carat gold. That said, some color-matched accessories aren’t too much of a demand. You don’t even have a charger in the box.
Going back to the watch, the current design of the Cobalt edition is identical to the standard edition. However, instead of the polished stainless steel center frame, the Cobalt Edition uses a cobalt alloy, which OnePlus says is the first smartwatch in the world to do so.
The cobalt alloy has a very inconspicuous gold color, which is much more subtle in the real world than what might appear on the images. It is closer to rose gold but is browner with just a touch of red.
I think it’s pretty nice and if like me you also hate gold watches, then you can also prefer that to traditional gold finishes.
OnePlus also claims that cobalt alloy is twice as hard as stainless steel, but unless you constantly hit your watch, it won’t be particularly important.
The cobalt alloy frame is complemented by a sapphire crystal for the screen. Visually, it looks identical to the traditional glass used on the standard model even in terms of thickness. Of course, the advantage of sapphire crystal is the quite ridiculous rigidity of the material, just behind the diamonds. It’s a bit more convenient than the 2x stiffness of the cobalt alloy body, as you’re much more likely to scratch the watch dial than the body, but with such a solid glass, the only thing you have to worry about is breaking other people’s watches if you accidentally hit them with it.
The bottom of the watch is always made of plastic, as on the standard edition. It’s not particularly offensive since no one will ever see it, but as with the standard model, you miss the cold touch of the metal on your wrist, which makes the deal much less premium.
Finally, there is the new leather strap, which has a deep emerald color with turquoise seams that blend well with the color of the watch. It has a butterfly buckle that opens and closes quite easily and is also quite easy to adjust to the size of your wrist. The metal buckle has the same color and finish as the watch, although it is not clear if it is the same cobalt alloy material as the watch.
As mentioned earlier, the Cobalt Edition also comes with the standard black fluoroelastomer strap in the box, so if you plan to swim with your watch, you don’t have to worry about ruining the leather belt.
Given the tedious process of removing the bracelet, I don’t see anyone doing it regularly, which means that most people who train regularly will probably use the fluoroelastomer bracelet and switch to the leather strap on special occasions.
The leather in our case was vegan leather. Made from synthetic or vegetable sources, this material has been made for years and known by different names, but adding vegan to everything now earns you extra points, not to mention the fact that vegan leather is not necessarily good for the environment. That aside, it still looks like real leather and even has a similar smell, which I found interesting.
It is not clear whether this material will also age like real leather, but it will probably not have the same patina. On the rise, this means that it may seem new longer.
Overall, I think the new Cobalt edition is an attractive and top quality watch. The color scheme here is subtle enough to be used on a daily basis and the materials are comfortable for all-day use.
My only problem here – just like the original version of the OnePlus smartwatch – is its size. At 46mm, the dial may seem a bit overwhelming and on smaller wrists it looks like you have a frying pan attached.
I appreciate the slightly more delicate appearance and width of the leather strap compared to the fluoroelastomer strap, but it only makes the watch look even bigger.
Shortly after the OnePlus watch was released, OnePlus released a series of software updates, one of which brought the permanent display mode that was sorely lacking. If this had been shipped on the first day, the OnePlus watch could have avoided being pushed into the ground by the media, but we wouldn’t all have learned a valuable lesson about never releasing half-cooked products.
Permanent display clocks can sometimes be difficult to see
The permanent display works as you would expect, that is, the screen stays on so that you can do cool things with your watch, like seeing the time.
The mode always on the OnePlus watch has its own set of watch dials, four to be exact (two analog and two digital). They all use very thin fonts for digital faces and thin hands for analog faces. This can sometimes make them difficult to see; one of the analog faces is basically useless due to the low light of the hands.
The AOD mode is also not affected by ambient light, so it does not become brighter under intense lighting.
Finally, AOD mode only works for the clock; you cannot, for example, start the stopwatch and make it appear on the AOD so that you can see it passively without waking up the watch.
All of this makes the OnePlus watch’s AOD mode far from ideal. Don’t get me wrong, I’d always take over, but it’s clear that OnePlus was hyper-paranoid about battery life and nerved the AOD mode to the point of being almost useless.
The other thing OnePlus added was a metric ton of drive modes. One of my complaints in my initial review was the lack of gym workout modes in the launch firmware. Since then, OnePlus has added so many training options that it should be considered a workout just to go through the whole list. I’m not even going to bother to list them all here as it would take the whole day. Watch this video instead.
At this point, unless you invent your own workout, it’s clear that the OnePlus watch will cover you.
Finally, OnePlus has also added a bunch of watch dials through its OnePlus Health app. There are now 54 in total, which should be enough for most people. Unfortunately, you still depend on OnePlus to add more dials as there is no way to create and distribute custom dials for the OnePlus watch.
OnePlus Watch Dials
And that remains one of the problems with the watch, which is part of the overall problem that it’s really not a proper smartwatch, even though this distinction alludes to OnePlus.
In addition to not being able to download the watch’s dials, you also can’t download apps to the watch. There is no voice assistant on board to answer your queries. The watch has NFC but for now there is no way to use it for anything. The lack of cellular connectivity means that the watch can only be used with a phone for voice calls. As such, it remains a glorified fitness tracker.
The problem, I guess, is with marketing. The OnePlus watch could have been the smartest stupid watch, and that would have been nice. Instead, it ended up being the dumbest smartwatch, which is disappointing.
The Limited Edition OnePlus Watch Cobalt is priced at INR 19,999 ($268) in India, which is a little more than the standard edition priced at INR 14,999 ($201). Although the price difference is not significant given the difference in materials, the standard edition itself is expensive, which makes the Cobalt edition more difficult to justify. OnePlus wants to position itself as the premium option in this category but I’m not sure it’s fully justified.
Unfortunately for OnePlus, there are far too many alternatives on the market today that are cheaper and in some ways better than the OnePlus watch. It is by no means a bad watch and it is certainly much better now than when we first looked at it. If you were to buy one today, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed unless you’re expecting a real smartwatch.
But no matter what OnePlus tells you, the OnePlus watch is not a smartwatch but rather a very good fitness tracker. You can get equally good fitness trackers for less money or buy a suitable smartwatch for a little more. This leaves the OnePlus watch in a no man’s land and I think OnePlus should intensify and own this distinction to its advantage rather than trying to pass this device off as something it isn’t.