Review: Oaxis Timepiece semi-smart analog wristwatch with fitness and heart rate tracking
This very tidy-looking semi-smartwatch is designed to roll the functionality of a fitness tracker in with a stylish analog dress watch you can wear anywhere. It's a great concept – let's see how this Singaporean company has executed it!
First things first: the chief purpose of a watch these days is to look good, and I think Oaxis has done a terrific job with this minimalist design. In the few days I've been wearing it around I've had more than a few compliments, it's a nicely neutral design that works with a suit or casual wear. It is by a factor of 10 the nicest looking watch I've ever worn.
Having said that, maybe it's a bit thick, and as soon as you hit the side button (and it is just a button, don't go trying to adjust the time with it) and the tiny 0.42-inch OLED screen comes on, it does get a touch of the old digital calculator about it; the rectangular screen sits inside a circular window looking a bit awkward.
It ships with a small wireless charging dock that fully tops up the watch in an hour and a half, which will last you around 30 days of wear – a refreshing change from most smartwatches. Thanks to the lack of charging ports, it's waterproof down to 30 meters (100 ft).
It syncs to my Google Pixel 3 XL Android phone quickly and easily, with no fuss, and the Oaxis Timepiece app lets you quickly synchronize the time with whatever your phone's saying.
Here too, you can decide how "smart" you want the Oaxis to be. Do you want it to vibrate and tell you who's calling? Read you text messages and emails? Calendar reminders? Social media alerts? After a couple of days running all of these, I ended up deciding the answer was: no. The tiny screen on this thing means that sometimes single words can't completely fit on a page. Scrolling through to read anything of substance is a pain. I'm out.
The app itself isn't particularly impressive, it's basic at best. The back button doesn't work, which is odd, and there's no obvious way to force a data sync.
On to the fitness tracking side of things, then. The Oaxis carries a built-in pedometer, which works well if you're into that sort of thing. It does rudimentary sleep analysis if you leave it on overnight, which is nice. And it gives you estimated calories and distance walked, which are fine, but to this point, it's only replicating things your phone can do anyway.
The big ticket item here is the heart rate monitor – a handy thing to have if you want to keep track of your cardio progression during exercise and at rest.
Now, perhaps my expectations here were out of line, but to me, a heart rate tracker should constantly keep an eye on your heart rate, take measurements every few seconds, display a rolling readout if you put it in the right display mode, and output a nice graph that you can check out at the end of the day, pointing and sniggering at the jagged peaks where you got lucky.
The Oaxis, at least in its current form, does not do this. It takes measurements – but only when you directly request them. So if I want to know what my heart rate is doing when I'm cycling, I need to take a hand off the bars, beep my way through to the heart rate screen (which is hard to do, because the OLED screen doesn't show up very brightly in the sun), hold the button down for 3 seconds, wait about 10 or 15 seconds for it to take a reading, and then squint at the screen for a reading.
These individual readings are synchronized with the Timepiece app, where they're presented to you in the form of daily tables: here's the time you asked for a reading, and here's the reading. Honestly, I don't find this useful at all during exercise. As a way of tracking your resting heart rate, I guess it's fine.
Perhaps, if the memory in the phone is big enough to store a bunch of heart rate data, this functionality could be upgraded in a software update to something closer to what you'd expect from a fitness tracker. I'd be personally willing to sacrifice a lot of this thing's enormous battery life for that kind of functionality.
It doesn't sync with any other fitness app but its own at this point, and the creators don't seem to have any such compatibility in their roadmap. We attempted to contact the team to ask how much will change in the future – our sample is pre-release – but it seems they're on holiday, and we elected to bring you this review before the end of the Kickstarter campaign, which finishes in just a couple of days.
The Oaxis is selling at US$89 for the 38 mm model, and US$99 for the 41 mm, which is the size we're reviewing. It comes in black, silver or gold, with black or white faces, and a variety of straps.
At those kinds of prices, even though the Timepiece isn't what we were hoping for in a heart rate monitor, it's still a nice watch at a good price with the potential to improve significantly in software upgrades.