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A cheap and dumb smartwatch is everything I need from a wearable

While I’m eagerly awaiting the launch of the Pixel Watch, I’m not entirely sure if it’s really for me. Don’t get me wrong; I’m happy to see Google working on a proper first-party watch after leaving its operating system languishing all this time, but I personally have long given up on Wear OS watches as a whole. To me, many Wear OS products have proven to be too expensive in light of sluggish performance, lagging interfaces, and limited capabilities (at least compared to phones). This has caused me to look the other way, browsing the non-Wear OS entry-level market instead, and I couldn’t be happier.

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My journey from Wear OS to entry-level smartwatches has been a long time in the making, and happened naturally over the course of a few years. My excitement for my first Wear OS Android Wear watch, the Asus ZenWatch 3, quickly faded away when I was confronted with its sluggish performance and poor battery life. Worse, almost anything I could do on the watch was much easier to do on my phone instead. The only thing I fondly remember is ticking off items from my shopping list on my wrist, but that was about the only thing I really routinely used an app for, with many other apps not cutting it due to bad processor performance. At some point, I just stopped using it, opting for my regular dumb watch instead.

Qualcomm and Samsung both have improved their wear processors substantially since then, but this bad impression has stuck, and I’m sure that this is something many people have gone through in the past, leaving a bad first impression on Google’s watch offerings. Google has to shake off all the mistakes from the past in order to be a truly compelling entry, but for me, it might already be too little, too late. Instead, I’ve long switched to an affordable Redmi Watch 2 Lite as my go-to wearable.

The Redmi Watch 2 Lite’s capabilities may pale in comparison to what Wear OS watches offer, but I couldn’t be happier with it, especially at the price of just €50 here in Germany (~$53). In essence, the Watch 2 Lite is a bigger fitness tracker in the shape of an Apple Watch, and its capabilities are more in line with what former devices offer. It gives me a rough overview of my health stats, the current time and date, and buzzes my wrist for notifications (when I allow it to). While I can’t use some of the fancier features from proper smartwatches on it, like an always-on display, the option to install apps, easy watch face customization, and making payments (at least with my European version), it does 90 % of what I could ever ask for and then some.

All these tradeoffs come with advantages, though. The Redmi Watch 2 Lite’s lightweight real-time operating system (RTOS) gives it a multi-week battery life and a fast-to-react interface, even though I often wish the animation were a little less sluggish. But the interface still does its job — it shows the time when I raise my wrist or tap its button, and it buzzes my wrist for notifications, which are the two most important things in a smartwatch for me (you can probably tell by now that I’m not very demanding). It’s really nothing special, but it has all the smarts I need all while looking more like a watch than a regular old fitness tracker would.

Another interesting option that I’ve been eyeing for a while is Withings’ ScanWatch lineup. Withings’ accessories look like regular watches on the surface, but they have a small PMOLED screen inside the watch face that serves as a rudimentary smartwatch screen. In it, you get to see fitness stats and notifications from chat apps, complete with vibration alarms. For anyone not sold on the utility of a proper smartwatch like me, this might just be the right premium product to look into over a Wear OS watch, as it pairs beautiful hardware with rudimentary smart features. Complete with 30-day battery life, water resistance, and a sapphire display, I think it might be the perfect premium alternative to any high-end Wear OS smartwatch for me.

Buy Redmi Watch 2 Lite

See at Amazon

Buy Withings ScanWatch

See at Amazon


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