After I recently wrote about Oppo’s “oddly familiar” new smartwatch, Oppo got in touch with me to ask whether I’d be interested in checking it out for myself, even though it’ll only be available in China until later this year. The company representative suggested that I might find it less familiar in person, so I was interested to try it.
How did that work out? Well, it’s true that the Oppo Watch looks a little less derivative on my wrist than in press shots. But come on, there is no universe in which this product looks like this without the Apple Watch coming before it. From the strap design to the shape of the screen to the visual style of the OS, this is plainly a product that’s been made in Apple’s shadow.
That doesn’t necessarily make it a bad watch, though, and given the sorry state of the Android smartwatch market, it’s worth looking into — particularly given that Oppo is now a very good smartphone maker. I’ve only been able to use the Chinese version of the watch, as I mentioned, so this isn’t a full review. All of the onboard services are geared toward the Chinese market. But I can tell you about the hardware and what Oppo is trying to do with the software.
First up, yep, this looks like an Apple Watch. The OLED screen, though, is an improvement. It’s a little larger than the 46mm Apple Watch at 1.91 inches across, but the watch keeps the same 46mm size; Oppo has shrunken the bezels and curved the edges of the screen itself along with the cover glass. I can’t tell whether it uses a Pentile subpixel layout or not — the Apple Watch is notable for using an RGB stripe — but if I can’t tell, it doesn’t really matter. The pixel density is the same as the Apple Watch at 326ppi. The colors are super vibrant, and it’s easy to see outside.
The chassis of the watch takes design cues from Oppo’s smartphones, with the screen curving into the thin edges in a similar way. There’s no crown-style control here, just two physical buttons on the right edge; everything else is handled by the touchscreen. Oppo’s watch straps are detachable in a similar way to the Apple Watch, with simple buttons for the release mechanism on the watch’s rear, but the straps pop directly in out rather than sliding from the side.
While the Oppo Watch I’m using is made of aluminum, it’s polished to a glossy blue-black finish to the point where it looks more like a steel Apple Watch at first glance. There is a steel variant of the Oppo Watch, too, but it only comes in “bright silver.” The included watch strap is black rubber and feels comfortable, if nothing special.
Overall I think this watch looks fine in a vacuum, but there’s no getting around it: people are either going to think you’re wearing an Apple Watch or realize you’re wearing something that just looks like an Apple Watch. It’s up to you whether that’s what you want out of your wristwear.
The Oppo Watch runs a customized version of Android 8.1 called ColorOS Watch. Like Samsung, Oppo has figured out that Apple was onto something in designing a predominantly white-on-black OS for small OLED screens; it saves power and is a lot more discreet. No prizes for originality — this software definitely looks more like watchOS than it needs to — but it’s the right direction.
Unlike Tizen and watchOS, though, ColorOS Watch is extremely simple. The top button brings up a scrolling app drawer or takes you back to the watch face, and the bottom button gets you to the settings menu. You can swipe left and right to change faces, there’s a quick settings screen accessible with a swipe down, and a swipe up takes you to the notifications shade. Everything is smooth and responsive. Notifications can display a lot of content, like full Facebook Messenger messages, though you can’t interact with them.
The most interesting thing about the Oppo Watch software is its selection of built-in apps, which are accessible through a scrolling grid that’s halfway between the Apple Watch’s weird honeycomb and list views. There are the usual apps for phone calls, fitness tracking, timers, and weather, as well as an on-watch app store and China-specific services like Alipay. It’s a pretty robust feature set, including things like sleep tracking that haven’t come to the Apple Watch yet. I particularly like the five-minute full-body workout app that includes video demonstrations and yells at you through the watch’s tiny speaker to help get you sweating, though it’s not always easy to actually see the watch mid-exercise.
The Oppo Watch’s battery life has not been great for me, even though the screen isn’t always on. This is a watch you will want to charge each and every night, and several times it’s died on me in the evening. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of it draining power by searching for compatible cell networks, since this is an LTE watch and I’m using it outside the market it was designed for sale in, but I’m not getting close to Oppo’s stated 40 hours of regular use.
The watch does fill up pretty quickly on its unusual magnetic charger, however — about 75 minutes for a full charge and 15 minutes to get to 50 percent — and its power-saving mode is much more functional than the Apple Watch’s. You can’t use apps, but it still tracks steps, delivers notifications, and turns the screen on when you raise your wrist.
Overall, using the Oppo Watch hasn’t exactly changed my mind that it’s familiar, but that might be what some people are after. Starting at around $215 in China, it could be an option worth considering if the battery life works better in practice. We’ll take a closer look once it comes to other markets, which is currently set to happen in the second half of 2020.
Photography by Sam Byford / The Verge
Arizona sues Google over claims it illegally tracked location of Android users
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has filed a lawsuit against Google over allegations the company illegally tracked Android users’ location without their consent and even when the location tracking features had been manually disabled, according to a report from The Washington Post.
The suit argues Google kept location tracking running in the background for certain features, like weather and for web searches using its search engine and Chrome browser, even after the user disabled app-specific location tracking. Only when a user dug further into the Android system settings and turned off broader system-level tracking did Google stop surreptitiously siphoning location data, the complaint argues.
Google has found itself in similar controversies in the past over location tracking of Android users. The company has responded to privacy concerns over the years with various stopgap measures like making it easier to auto-delete your location data, and cracking down on offending third-party apps that do so without consent. But its efforts to improve privacy protections and the various settings you need to monitor to ensure you’re not being overly tracked remain complex and confusing to average users, and it can often seem impossible to keep tabs on just how much Google knows about you and what sources of data it maintains.
Brnovich is asking a court force Google to pay back profits it may have earned from monetizing this data through ads served to Arizona residents. The Post says Arizona’s anti-fraud laws also might subject Google to $10,000 per fine violations. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“At some point, people or companies that have a lot of money think they can do whatever the hell they want to do, and feel like they are above the law,” Brnovich told The Post in an interview. “I wanted Google to get the message that Arizona has a state consumer fraud act. They may be the most innovative company in the world, but that doesn’t mean they’re above the law.”
Google and its YouTube subsidiary, as well as the other major tech companies, are facing a number of regulatory and legal quagmires right now, following antitrust and privacy enforcement in the European Union that resulted in multi-billion fines against Google over the last decade.
Now, US politicians and regulators are following suit and have begun engaging in a broad and coordinated effort across the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission, and state legislators to reign in Big Tech and enforce antitrust, privacy, and other laws. These are rules Silicon Valley has largely flouted over the last couple of decades as lawmakers failed to keep up with the pace of technological change and the scale of Big Tech’s ability to exploit loopholes and skirt regulation for monetary gain and market consolidation.
YouTube settled with the FTC last year for violations of Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), while Google is currently under investigation by all 50 state attorneys general and the subject of a broader antitrust probe led by the Justice Department.
Gmail’s latest update makes it easier to change the look of your inbox
Accessing the plethora of settings hidden in Gmail can be a pain, but it’s about to get a little easier. Google is rolling out a quick settings menu, which offers a sampling of options that let you adjust the look of your inbox without leaving the page. Once this new tweak arrives on your account, it will activate automatically, and you won’t have to leave the page to see the visual changes you make to your inbox.
The quick settings menu contains an option to change the density of information displayed (between default, comfortable, or compact). It also lets you choose which emails you want to have prioritized in your inbox. Another option lets you add a reading pane so you can see an email’s contents without actually opening it. Lastly, you can adjust your Gmail theme from the quick settings menu.
You’ll still need to drill into the full list of settings if you want to, say, make a vacation response for some out-of-office time. Google’s putting a link to all of those options right at the top of the quick settings menu, and it mentioned in a press release for this feature that no new features are being added to Gmail. This is simply a nip and tuck of previous features to make its email service a little easier to use.
The rollout has begun for personal Gmail accounts as well as G Suite users who work at corporations on Google’s rapid-release track. If you don’t notice the quick settings menu soon, your workplace might be on Google’s scheduled release track. If that’s the case, the quick settings menu won’t begin rolling out until June 22nd.
Google now lets businesses clarify what services they offer during the pandemic
Google will soon let businesses add additional descriptors to their listings that appear in Google Search and Maps results to better help potential customers understand what a business offers at a glance. The company is adding these new descriptors and announcing a number of other features today to help businesses better surface important information for customers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new descriptors, which Google calls “attributes,” are short notes that show up under other business information on a listing. A yoga studio that offers virtual lessons could add an “online classes” attribute, for example. Business owners can add one attribute, though their businesses will have to be verified by Google to use the feature. Here’s a screenshot from Google to give you an idea of what attributes may look like:
Google is also expanding a tool called Reserve with Google that lets people book appointments directly from a listing. Google previously offered integrations with more than 100 service-booking partners for in-person services, but now businesses can offer appointments for online services via those partners. Businesses will also be able to specify how to attend the online appointment or class right from the listing.
There are a few new features for restaurants, too. Restaurants will soon be able to specify their preferred delivery or takeout partner company in their business listing, and Google is now letting restaurants that are takeout- or delivery-only (sometimes called virtual or cloud kitchens) apply to become verified businesses.
Google is also letting more businesses across the globe add links to direct donations or buy a gift card right in their business listings. Google first said these links were available to businesses in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand on May 11th, but Google is rolling out the feature for businesses in 18 more countries, including Italy, Spain and Japan, starting today.
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