At first glance it seems like the Apple Watch has a worthy competitor in the new OnePlus Watch. For starters, it has a sleek circular screen that looks more like a traditional wristwatch than the square Apple Watch. It also shares a lot of the same health features as the $400 Apple Watch Series 6 including SPO2 (or blood oxygen) tracking and high heart rate alerts but it costs $160. The OnePlus watch is even $40 cheaper than the entry-level Series 3 Apple Watch, which starts at $200.
But even with all these features and a cheaper price, the OnePlus Watch has one major shortcoming preventing it from competing in the same league as the Apple Watch. It's not yet compatible with the iPhone.
Read more: Apple Watch SE vs Series 6 vs. Series 3: How to choose?
iOS compatibility: Worth the wait?
OnePlus says iOS compatibility is coming to the Watch in the future, but we don't know exactly how it will work. Apple does support pairing non-Apple wearables to the iPhone, but the experience is not the same as using the Apple Watch.
Fitbit, Samsung and the One Plus watches for example allow you to respond to notifications and take calls on Android, but iPhone users can't so much as send a thumbs up emoji from their wrist, let alone take a quick call, unless they own an Apple Watch. One of the main benefits of having a smartwatch is being able to quickly glance and respond to notifications on your wrist, otherwise you might as well wear a simple fitness band.
You may also be limited when it comes to other connectivity options like LTE. The Apple Watch has a version with built-in LTE so you can use your watch independently of the phone, while the OnePlus Watch only has a WiFi model.
Anecdotally, I've also found that non-Apple watches don't sync as fast when connected to iOS compared to the Apple Watch.
If you're willing to overlook the compatibility shortcomings on iOS in favor of the cheaper price tag and longer battery life there are other things to consider.
In terms of design, it's a matter of preference. Do you like square-ish or circular watchfaces? They both have AMOLED screens, but screen brightness is just as important and we haven't seen the OnePlus in action yet so can't say if it's as bright as the newest Apple Watch.
The other design factor is size. While the Apple Watch offers a 40 and 44 mm option, the OnePlus Watch only comes in a 46 mm watch face option with a black frame, which may overwhelm smaller wrists. Both have interchangeable watch bands.
Accuracy on health and fitness tracking is TBD
Both watches track pace, distance and heart rate with built-in GPS and water resistance, so you can use them to track swims. The OnePlus Watch offers over 100 different workout options compared to over 40 on the Apple Watch. There's even a parkour option which you won't find on the Apple Watch.
Health features seem similar. They both have high heart rate alerts, monitor blood oxygen levels and track sleep. The OnePlus also uses heart rate to track stress which the Apple Watch doesn't, but lacks an electrocardiogram like what you'll find on the top of the line Series 6.
But Apple has a good track record in validating its health and fitness features, including FDA-clearance for the ECG app. The OnePlus Watch is completely new to the space and will require testing and validation, both from reviewers and medical associations alike.
Music is lacking on the OnePlus Watch
If music is a must on your smartwatch, then the Apple Watch takes the crown. You can stream Apple Music or Spotify on the LTE version of the Apple Watch, or store songs from your own library for offline listening, with storage capacity varying on the version. If you want to listen to music on the OnePlus watch you'll have to preload it yourself. It has 2GB worth of storage which is good for about 500 songs.
Unbeatable battery life on the OnePlus Watch
OnePlus is the clear winner when it comes to battery life, claiming two weeks of runtime before needing a charge. Obviously this must also be taken with a grain of salt until we can run our own tests, but even if the OnePlus Watch delivers just half of what it promises, it's still miles ahead of any Apple Watch which lasts a day and a half at best. The Apple Watch also takes anywhere between 1.5 to 2 hours to reach a full charge, while OnePlus says its watch can get a full week of charge in 20 minutes.
Jury's still out
Even with iOS compatibility, the OnePlus Watch has a lot to prove. On paper it seems like a worthy Apple Watch rival, but we won't know how well it executes on all of its promises until we test it out for ourselves. In the meantime, the $200 Apple Watch Series 3 continues to be the best budget option for iPhone users.