Have We Reached Peak Smartwatch?

OnePlus CEO Carl Pei has teased a smartwatch in the past, and could probably tell us what a OnePlus watch would be like. You can always email me, Carl.
OnePlus CEO Carl Pei has teased a smartwatch in the past, and could probably tell us what a OnePlus watch would be like. You can always email me, Carl.
Photo: Manjunath Kiran/AFP (Getty Images)

It seems like damn near every tech company is trying to launch a smartwatch, but if you had asked me to predict which would be next, I probably wouldn’t have guessed OnePlus. According to 91Mobiles, the smartphone maker has filed for IMDA certification for a watch with the model number W301GB.

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This wouldn’t be the first time OnePlus has considered creating its own smartwatch. Back in 2016, OnePlus CEO Carl Pei shared sketches of a smartwatch the company had been tinkering around with. However, Pei posted the sketches with the caption, “What could have been but will never be,” signaling that, at least at that time, OnePlus had no immediate plans to get into wearables.

That’s not surprising when you take into consideration the state of smartwatches back in 2015 and 2016. Apple had just released the Apple Watch, Fitbit still hadn’t figured out how to make a smartwatch that wasn’t fugly, and Google’s Android Wear (now Wear OS) was starting to falter because of cruddy hardware. By spring 2017, several companies had quietly abandoned their wearables ambitions, to the point where tech media began eulogizing the category entirely.

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My, how things change! While covid-19 will likely lead to lower smartwatch sales this year, in general, companies have pushed hard to either create affordable fitness bands and watches (Xiaomi, Huami, Fitbit) or incorporate advanced health features like atrial fibrillation diagnoses into their devices (Apple, Samsung, also Fitbit). Google, which was widely derided for letting Wear OS waste away, has recently signaled a renewed interest in the category. But in the case of OnePlus, it also probably has something to do with the fact that its rival, Oppo, has also launched its first Wear OS smartwatch this year.

TechRadar cites an unnamed former OnePlus employee as saying the company had “actively been looking into a smartwatch for the last year.” The filing for the OnePlus smartwatch doesn’t give much besides the model number away, however, so it’s hard to say what it’ll look like, when it’ll come out, and what platform it will run on.

If it’s anything like the Oppo Watch, we’re probably looking at a Wear OS watch with some advanced capabilities. Or, given OnePlus’s foray into more affordable options when it comes to smartphones, maybe we’ll see a mid-range Wear OS smartwatch. It’s not likely that OnePlus has developed its own OS, but then again, you never know—Huawei did it. In any case, it’s all speculation until OnePlus spills the beans.

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Consumer tech reporter by day, danger noodle by night. No, I'm not the K-Pop star.

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DISCUSSION

I have a bachelor’s in computer science. I used to code. Then I went to law school. Of course, I now am an intellectual property lawyer.

I see friends with smart watches.  Yet, I fully do not understand the use case.  You can peek at your watch at a meeting?  The text is so tiny.  The interface is so tiny.  They just don’t seem convenient to me.