The new addition to its range is not a smartphone but a smart watch, with a squarish screen and a bright, low-resolution display that monitors your heart rate, alerts you to incoming messages and of course tells you the time.
It is based, like Oppo’s range of phones, on Google’s Android system but it looks nothing like any other Android watch. It does, however, look a lot like the Apple Watch. And though the Oppo version is not on sale yet, it’s beyond doubt that it will cost a fraction of the price.
Android watches have until now tended to be made by watchmakers rather than electronics companies, and have been sold as pieces of jewellery, reliant on their traditional, circular-faced looks as much as their new-age functionality. Oppo has taken a different approach, gambling that the unconventional appearance of the Apple Watch is what attracts prospective buyers to it but that Apple’s price tag puts them off. The equation is basically the same one that compels people to buy fake Rolexes.
But there’s nothing fake about the Oppo Watch’s credentials. Its screen of nearly two inches diameter is as bright as any in its class, and Oppo claims it will run for up to 40 hours on a single charge. All the same, charging it all night, every night, is pretty much inevitable.
The main attraction of devices like this is the ability to completely change the watch face to suit your mood. Everything is generated electronically, so if you want analogue fingers you can have them, in an almost limitless variety of styles. Digital faces are also an option, of course, as are Mickey Mouse hands, and you can while away many hours customising the display.
There is little point in buying an Android watch unless you also have an Android phone because the two work in tandem. The same is true for Apple watches and iPhones, although both systems allow for some cross-functionality. Once connected, calls, messages and alarms from your phone can be displayed on your wrist, and you can also remotely control music playback. When you flick your arm in order to do so, people around you will think you have bought an Apple watch.
The date of Oppo’s launch in the UK has yet to be announced, but its imminent arrival has caused rival brands to become suddenly more affordable. Fossil’s third-generation Explorist men’s watch in stainless steel used to be £270 but has been reduced by its manufacturer to just £99. The unisex Sport watch from the same label, with a silicon strap, is even cheaper at £90 – down from £220.
Both are likely to remain less expensive than the Oppo alternative; indeed, they’re cheaper even than most hybrid watches, which combine physical faces with electronic innards. But while their looks could not be more different, their functionality is almost identical. All three are based on Google’s Wear OS system, formerly known as Android Wear, and while Oppo has extensively customised its implementation of it, it’s the same under the bonnet.
On paper, the reduced Fossil watches are the tech bargains of the year, but only if you like the way they look, and if you’re prepared to overlook the somewhat mixed reviews from those who presumably bought them at full price. They will be probably be heavier than your existing timepiece, so insist on trying one on before buying, to see how comfortably it sits on your wrist. You’ll never impress people with a piece of jewellery that hurts your arm when you wave it in their faces.
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