The OnePlus Nord Watch is the company’s second smartwatch and the first to be branded under the affordable Nord line. A rebranded version of another Chinese smartwatch — the Haylou RS4 Plus — the Nord Watch is meant to be an entry-level product for the Indian market, coming in at just INR 4,999.
Visually, the Nord Watch is nearly identical to the RS4 Plus, save for a different ‘crown’ and strap design. The design seems to be inspired by the Apple Watch, which isn’t uncommon for entry-level Chinese smartwatches.
The watch case is made out of zinc alloy but the back is plastic. The display glass is scratch-resistant and has gently curved edges. The straps are attached to the protruding lugs with easy-to-remove sliding spring bars. The watch bands look similar to those on the more expensive OnePlus Watch but with a traditional buckle design. The watch comes in two colors, Deep Blue and Midnight Black (pictured here).
The design of the Nord Watch is rather pedestrian. While it isn’t necessarily bad, it is wholly unremarkable and boring to look at, especially in black.
The display on the watch is a 1.78-inch, 368×448 resolution AMOLED panel with a 60Hz refresh rate. It’s a good-looking screen with sufficient resolution and adequate brightness outdoors. However, the display lacks automatic brightness adjustment, so you will have to do it manually. You also can’t just place your palm on the screen to turn it off as you can on most other wearables and instead have to wait for it to turn off on its own.
Another missing feature is an always-on display, at least the sort you normally find on other devices. The watch lets you keep the display on for as long as 30 minutes, though. This is not the same low-power version you find on other devices but rather just the normal watch face being on at whatever brightness you set. It somewhat achieves the purpose but in an incredibly clumsy way.
This is probably a good time to delve into the software. On the watch itself, the device is running something called RTOS. It’s the same sort of glorified fitness device UI we find on other budget ‘smartwatches’ but with some heavy watchOS inspiration. Regardless, it is easy enough to navigate and the watch has good UI performance.
Since this is rebranded Haylou watch, the companion phone app is also a rebranded Haylou app called N Health. This would be frustrating for existing OnePlus wearable users as the OnePlus Health app used for the OnePlus Watch and OnePlus Band cannot be used for the Nord Watch. The N Health app also forces you to create an account, which, as far as I can tell, has no reason to. The setup process is also frustrating with a dozen different permissions that you need to enable before the app is usable.
Once setup the app is easy enough to use. There are also a good number of the usual fitness features, including heart rate, sleep, SpO2, and steps tracking, although the SpO2 tracking only works automatically when you sleep and not throughout the day. There’s also an option to track women’s health, something that was missing on the other OnePlus wearables.
The app also comes with a ton of watch faces, some of which are also animated. There is a good bit of variety here and more are added through updates but there’s no way to customize any part of a watch face.
All of the inspirations and idiosyncrasies would have been tolerable if the software at least worked well but the Nord Watch has been extremely buggy during testing. Aside from the raise to wake feature not working, the heart rate sensor also stopped working at one point and the solution for both was to reset and re-setup the watch. In the early days of testing, the map view in the Exercise section of the N Health app was also broken. The workout detection also never seemed to detect anything.
But by far the worst issue was that the Nord Watch would not track time correctly, something you’d assume a thing with watch in its name would be capable of. It was consistently 30 minutes behind the current time and no matter how much the time was changed from the paired phone (because there is no way to change the time on the watch itself or through its app), the time difference was maintained.
Fortunately, I got a second review unit, which didn’t have this issue and the first watch was eventually fixed with a software update. Still, the first time I experienced it, it really threw me off because I thought I was somehow losing track of time.
The watch even has hardware issues. You can see in the video above that pressing the crown often does nothing as the button is seemingly broken on one of the watches. The watch also initially had trouble re-pairing with the phone if one of them went out of range. Eventually, it just stopped pairing with the phone entirely, and the app would just show an error that stated ‘The network connection is abnormal, please check and try again.’
After a while, I lost all interest in testing the product. I’m not sure of how accurate the fitness features are since apparently, you can’t even rely on this watch to show the time correctly. And while the battery life seemed quite good, it doesn’t matter how long it lasts when it often doesn’t seem to work very well. I even have two of them but they both take turns to mess up and at no point is either working correctly.
In the end, the Nord Watch is a strong rebuttal to the adage “There are no bad products, only bad prices.” Some products are bad regardless of their price, and the Nord Watch is one of them.