- Good look and screen
- Nice collection of watch faces
- Easy to use software
- Some connectivity issues
- Heart rate tracking not brilliant
- Battery life with all features on
The Oppo Watch Free is part of a new breed of fitness tracker and smartwatch hybrid – which blurs the lines between the look and functionality of these popular lines.
It also joins the Oppo Watch and the Oppo Band, sitting in between those two wearables when it comes to price.
We've been living with the Oppo Watch Free for a few weeks to deliver our in-depth review.
Read the reviews: Best smartwatches tested
Price and competition
No US release date or price has been revealed, but it has launched in the UK for £89. When you do convert that into dollars that put it just above the $100 mark. That means it sits with the likes of the impressive, form-factor-sharing Huawei Watch Fit 2, but does come in less than a Fitbit Charge 5.
In terms of alternatives, the Huawei Watch Fit 2, Amazfit Band 7 and Xiaomi Mi Band 7 Pro, and even the Fitbit Charge 5, also offer a mix of a large AMOLED screen, fitness features, and a comfortable build.
On paper, the Oppo Watch Free offers good value for the price, but does it deliver the goods? We've been putting it to the test to find out. Here's our comprehensive take.
Top picks: The best fitness trackers for your lifestyle
Design and screen
The Oppo Watch Free follows the new trend of adopting a design that looks like a mix between a fitness tracker and a smartwatch.
From that point of view, we'd say Oppo does a good job of creating something that looks nice and feels comfortable to wear day and night.
Given the price, it's not surprising that we're dealing with something that's predominantly plastic, but it doesn't feel cheap or tacky in any way. You can pick it up in either a vanilla or black case looks and measures 46mm and goes 29.7mm wide.
There are no physical buttons on the case, so you're relying on the raise to wake gesture or tapping on the touchscreen to wake the screen up.
Thankfully, the raise-to-wake support is nicely responsive, though does still have its moments during workout tracking mode where isn't so quick to respond to that swift wrist raise.
Out front you've got a 1.64-inch, 280 x 456 AMOLED screen, which is bright, colorful, and nicely responsive to the touch.
Oppo is using 2.5D glass here as well, which gives the screen a nice gloss, and viewing angles in general have been strong.
The band that comes with the Free is a silicone one, though it has a finish to give it the appearance of a more expensive leather one.
It does succeed in achieving that and helping make it look less of an all-plastic affair. Those straps are removable too and it's easy to do, with a pin mechanism you need to slide to release them from the case.
The way the strap is secured in place is a bit awkward. There's a pretty standard classic watch buckle but it's having to place the strap underneath the rest of the strap that's the annoying part of the setup.
Other smartwatches have taken this approach before (Samsung immediately springs to mind) and don't feel like a better solution to a standard watch strap setup.
As a package, you're getting something that weighs 33g, so it's pleasingly light.
Oppo applies the same water resistance rating as it does for its smartwatches, so you're getting something fit to be submerged in water up to 50 meters in depth.
The Watch Free doesn't run on Wear OS like the Oppo Watch, but it does still offer elements to make sure it performs as a competent smartwatch.
It plays nice with Android phones and iPhones and our time was spent pairing it up with an Android phone. You need the not-so-pretty Hey Tap Health app on your phone to get things all set up, and while that setup was largely stress-free we did suffer a lot of Bluetooth disconnections in our time with this watch.
On the watch, it's a case of swiping up, down, left, or right to navigate your way around the proprietary operating system, which looks very much like Oppo's Color OS platform. The software looks great, it's nice and easy to get around and it's a short learning curve getting to grips with what it can do.
Holding down the main watch face gets you to pick your watch face of which there's a good array to pick from. Oppo says there are over 40 with a handful able to live on the watch at any one time.
You can upload pictures as watch faces, and get watch faces matched up to your outfit there's a light watch face here too, letting you create your light watch faces inside of the companion app before syncing them over to the device.
They're nice additions to an already good collection of faces available, though those faces are slow to save and sync over to the Free.
Outside of watch faces, you're getting the key smartwatch staples delivered here. You can view notifications that inevitably feel a bit cramped and the text can feel too small to absorb on longer messages. It works a bit better for the incoming call notifications and was amusing to see the word 'stranger' come up from unknown numbers.
The music controls are well optimized to the widescreen and the same can be said about the weather updates as well. You've also got features like finding your phone, the ability to set timers and alarms, and remotely take smartphone pictures and those all work relatively straightforwardly.
It is a passable smartwatch without really breaking the mold for what you can expect at this price. The depth of watch face support will appeal to anyone who loves to switch things up regularly.
Fitness and health tracking
When it comes to tracking your fitness and health, there's a focus on elements such as sleep, heart rate, and continuous blood oxygen tracking.
Like the Huawei Band 7, the latter needs to be enabled out of the box – and there's a good reason it's not switched on by default. Continuous SpO2 eats up the battery, so if you don't plan to use it then you might want to leave it off.
For daily activity tracking, you're getting pretty standard sensors here. A six-axis accelerometer and gyroscope sensor monitor steps, and there's no altimeter to track your elevation.
Step tracking compared: Oppo Watch Free (left) and Oura Ring 3 (right)
In terms of accuracy and experience, everything checked out during our testing period and against Garmin and Oura devices.
Oppo provides a nice Activity widget on the watch to track steps, calorie burn, exercise time, and the number of activities you're tracking. You'll also get buzzed with inactivity alerts to remind you to keep moving as well.
We found daily step counts and distance covered fell nicely in line with step tracking on the Oura Ring 3 with a breakdown of steps, workout time, calories burned and activity sessions cleanly displayed inside the HeyTap Health app.
Sleep tracking compared: Oppo Watch Free (left) and Garmin Forerunner 955 (right)
For sleep, you're getting a breakdown of sleep stages including REM sleep along with breathing quality and average SpO2 data also captured. There's also the ability to track snoring and sleep disturbances.
Accuracy-wise, we found sleep duration, sleep/awake times, and sleep stage breakdowns were similar to Garmin's fast-improving sleep tracking support.
Against the Oura, we tested that in the basic sleep tracking mode without REM sleep tracking, and found there could be an over-reporting of 30 minutes to 1 hour. So it's useful as a gauge of sleep and to keep an eye on trends, but this isn't the best sleep-tracking wearable out there.
There also isn't much in the way of actionable insights or advice to go with that data.
Daily heart rate tracking compared: Garmin Forerunner 955 (left) and Oppo Watch Free (right)
Turning attention to heart rate and daily heart rate ranges were on most days similar to the ranges delivered by heart rate monitoring on a Garmin watch in comparison.
Resting heart rate readings, however, tended to be noticeably higher. Oppo says the case on the Free's design has been raised at the point that the sensors meet the wrist to improve monitoring accuracy we assume. We're not sure it's completely paid off based on our testing.
SpO2 data accuracy in general felt okay for us. You can take manual measurements and turn on continuous monitoring to generate average and lowest readings.
Like heart rate, you can set up high and low SpO2 alerts. The SpO2 data comparison to a pulse oximeter was similar, but beyond monitoring, you're not getting any useful insights to go with it.
Oppo Watch Free: Sports tracking
Flipping things over to sports tracking and Oppo says it's got you covered for 100 workout modes, offers automatic exercise recognition for walking, running, rowing, and elliptical workouts, and does offer some nice extras you won't find on other watches.
Jump into the exercise menu on the Free and those core workout modes you'd expect to see are there. Oppo also includes some modes it's included on its full-fat smartwatches. So you have the Get Moving mode, which offers a series of exercises to perform when you've been sitting at your desk all day.
You also have running courses, which offer guides to a series of different running sessions. There is an easy runs, fat burning runs, endurance runs and interval runs.
These courses are broken down into beginner, intermediate and expert sessions as well, which serve as nice introductions to the variety of runs you can do if you don't just want to head out and do the same 30-minute run around the park.
There isn't onboard GPS to use to put those running modes to good use, but you do have the connected kind, which means relying on your phone to deliver that accurate distance tracking.
We put it up against the very accurate Garmin Epix 2 with its multiband tracking mode in play and the Watch Free came up a little short on distance and clocked us at a slower pace too. Of course, it all depends on your phone, and its positioning, which is why we never advocate for connected GPS for those that care about accuracy.
Without a connected GPS, you'll end up with a run like the one below – 2.5km short over a 13km distance.
Run tracking (without GPS): Oppo Watch Free (left) and Garmin Epix 2 (right)
Heart rate accuracy
Heart rate performance during exercise was passable. During runs (indoor and outdoor) the sensor matched up against an external heart rate monitor chest strap fairly well. But HIIT was a different story.
A steady run below saw a close average HR against a chest strap (158 bpm vs 159 bpm) for the session.
Running heart rate tracking compared: Oppo Watch Free (left) and Garmin HRM Pro Plus chest strap (right)
As the screens from a HIIT class show, both the average and maximum readings were pretty far off readings from a chest strap.
HR tracking compared: Oppo Watch Free (left) and Garmin HRM Pro Plus chest strap (right)
We also took the Free for some pool swimming, which beyond letting you choose pool size will then lock the screen until you've completed your swim.
In the app, you can see your distance covered, calorie burn, and average pace. We put it up against Garmin's reliable swim tracking and it captured 100 meters more in our swim and recorded a slower average pace as well.
Pool swim tracking compared: Oppo Watch Free (left) and Garmin Epix 2 (right)
All of your data lives in the HeyTap Health app, which is a pretty clean-looking app that stores tracked activities in the workout records section. You can also track workouts from the Fitness section of the app and there's support to sync data over to Google Fit. If you're hoping for more extensive third-party app syncing, you won't find it here.
Unlike Oppo's full-fat smartwatches, the Watch Free promises to go a lot longer in between charges. Oppo says it can last up to 14 days in typical usage. That drops to 10 days in moderate usage and 5 days in heavy usage. We'd say those numbers reflect our testing time with it.
If you don't turn on SpO2 monitoring, have continuous heart rate monitoring set to the smallest interval measurement, or enable the richest sleep-tracking support, then you can get double-digit levels of battery life. As soon as we enabled those features, the battery dropped to 4-5 days with a daily drop-off of around 15-20%.
if you're a bit more selective about the features in use, like disabling SpO2 monitoring, which doesn't feel hugely insightful, and increasing the interval measurement, then the Free will comfortably get you a week. That's basically what you'd get from a similarly priced device like the Huawei Watch Fit, but does offer more battery than the pricier Fitbit Charge 5.
How we test