One thing never fails to fascinate me: the amount of product innovation that China produces. While China is also guilty of imitating many patented designs from around the world, it has often evolved the copied designs into its own. Such is the spirit of innovation, where a creator gets inspired by another’s work and evolves into its own.
Wearable is one of those product segments that China companies see potential. Over the years, thanks to my collaboration with GearBest, I have sampled many of such products, that interestingly, no other international brand has replicated. Perhaps they felt these are cheap rip-offs with buggy software, but the fact remains that there is a sizable market on the globe that yearns for such affordable products.
The smartwatch runs on a custom-skin Android 4.4 OS. In terms of hardware, it uses dual-core MTK6572, with 4GB ROM and 512MB RAM. It has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and a mobile network (2G: 850/900/1800/1900, 3G: 850/2100). Its screen resolution is 360×360, 1.3-inch round face, 450mAh battery. It also has a heart-rate sensor, pedometer and barometer. The watch face selections are fixed but are good enough. I love the one with weather indicators around the clock (see above first pic). Tap to enter Android menu, slide left and right to access pages like on an Android home screen. Swipe up to access the network options (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth) and battery level.
And just like any Android device, you can make calls, send messages, browse Internet, check your location via GPS, install Android apps via Google Play store. You can connect to Wi-Fi, Bluetooh, create a Wi-Fi hotspot, just like any Android 4.4 device. You can listen to music and the speaker is clear enough, you can use Google Now to command the watch. You can connect to any Bluetooth device like headset or keyboard, the latter is rather important for initial setup instead of typing on the tiny on-screen keyboard.
To put things simply, the NO.1 D5 is a wearable round-display Android device, and with it comes usage limitations. As much as it is empowering to be able to install almost any Android apps on the watch, some apps just cannot be interacted due to the small-resolution round-face. If there are action buttons near the 4 corners, they cannot be selected on the NO.1 D5. Some apps seem to display to fit with a square border, like Gmail and Google Maps, while Google Play store continues to display in full screen.
Starting up the apps may take a while too, but once it’s up, it works. I installed Runkeeper (Runtastic is not supported according to Google Play) and with that I could use the built-in GPS and wear it for a run. I can upload audio files and connect a Bluetooth headset to listen to music – all from the NO.1 D5. The heart rate sensor does not work with the fitness apps, though.
With so much capabilities, the battery capacity is insufficient to sustain throughout the day. When running several apps in the background, the watch could get hot. I seem to be getting at most 4 hours with mobile network activated. And don’t expect apps to run fast: the processor is just too slow to keep up with the demanding apps. Also, not all apps can work with the outdated Android 4.4.
The antennae for Wi-Fi, GPS and mobile network are actually embedded in the leather strap, hence the strap should not be replaced. There are a few sites online that describes how to overcome this limitation, so if you are a skilled handyman, you can attempt to make some modifications. I accidentally broke the wire that connected to the mobile network antenna and so the device doesn’t connect to 3G network that well unless the signal is very strong.
If you do not want to use it with a SIM card or Wi-Fi, you can pair it to you Android or iOS device with Watch Helper app installed on your smartphone. With that, any notification from your smartphone will be pushed to the watch. You can also receive notifications, SMS messages,
make missed calls , just like the rest of the Bluetooth smartwatches I reviewed. The notification via Watch Helper is very static, displaying in monochrome and is not interactive.
The idea of a full-fledged Android smartwatch has not been explored by any major smartphone manufacturer yet. After reviewing the NO.1 D5, I can understand why. The Android OS is so powerful and empowering that it requires substantial hardware to make it work competently. The NO.1 D5 is so useful and yet unable to reach the full potential.
But all is not lost. The NO.1 D5 should be used with fixed purposes. For instance, use it for a run, install selective apps for important access of information yet works fine on small screen. For me, I installed Gmail, Maps, Telegram, Twitter, YouTube, and Runkeeper. I use the NO.1 D5 to check my mail, track my running route, access information over Internet. Instagram can’t display properly, while Facebook is just too cluttered and uses too much resources.
If you like the idea of a full Android OS on your wrist and use it within the limited hardware power, then get the NO.1 D5 from GearBest at US$114.99, available in black (this review unit) and silver.
Edit 10 Oct 2016: It was correctly pointed out that the Watch Helper app only displays notification on messages and missed calls. Without SIM, the watch is unable to make or receive phone calls. We apologise for the error.