[review] 20$ U9 smartwatch

20160829_171235Smartwatches are usually expensive gadgets. Here is a very inexpensive one, let’s see what it could do for you.

This smartwatch have been courtesy provided by Gearbest in order to make a fair and not biased review. I would like to thanks them for this attitude.
You can find it actually for 21.14 USD at Gearbest

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This cheap « U9 » chinese Android smartwatch is almost a U8 smartwatch clone. I’m using the black model but it seems to exist in Blue, Green, Pink, Black, White. The look is nice for a smartwatch, it doesn’t look cheap at all. It is slim and very lightweight (~30g). However, the wristband is a little rubish and not easy to adjust.

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There are very cool features on this watch : altimeter, barometer, pedometer, remote camera, remote music, sleep monitor, remote dialing using some onboard mic/speaker, SMS/notifications, alarms, stopwatch, calculator. There’s also an anti-lost feature that alerts you when you are too distant from the phone… Very nice…
However, most of these functions only work when the watch is actually connected to the phone. Some small bugs in the software also limits some of these features.
Note: iOS system only supports dialing feature.

20160829_165928It is a bluetooth 3.0 watch, and it uses a Mediatech MT6260 364 Mhz, 32 bit processor. There is a 1.48” color 128×128 pixels touch display with 3 « hardware » buttons (like on most androids). A real button lies on the right side while a micro-USB port, a speaker and a microphone are on the other. There’s also a small hole under the watch to reset the device if needed.

Unboxing
The box includes:

20160829_165044SmartWatch
USB Cable
Manual

Let’s power it on :

20160829_171235Display is clear and sharp, this is a nice looking analog / digital clock.

It’s time to switch bluetooth on and connect.
The pairing is really easy : just allow discovering in your phone bluetooth settings and execute the bluetooth search function on the watch.
While pairing, the smartphone will ask permission for accessing your contacts and call history. The watch will also ask for syncing the date and time from the phone.
The watch supports media and phone audio profiles with my Galaxy S3 / Android 4.3 device.

For some advanced features, you will also need a special piece of software called « BTnotifications » on Google Play Store.
Once installed on the phone, the software will ask you to enable it within « Accessibility », in your Android settings. Once enabled, « BTnotifications » will ask for permission to receive and retrieve notifications.
The « BTnotifications » icon will now appear in your notifications bar when the watch is connected, and allows to tweak some settings. Most notably, this is where you could allow or block some applications to send notifications. This setting is also present in the watch’s settings menu.

Notifications and SMS are working really well but text is a little too big in my opinion. It would be easier to read with more character lines and less empty ones.
I could receive notifications from K9-Mail, Skype, Play Store updates, on low battery and so on. This is where the app blocking feature is very handy.

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The bluetooth dialing feature is also working very well, and the sound coming from the watch is really nice and loud. I was really surprised about this part.

At first I could not find how to use the camera remote… Actually, you just have to launch the camera app on the phone while connected to BTnotifications, and the remote will work.
The picture is very, very small but it should be enough for its use.

The music app will stream your music from your phone to your watch, if you enable the bluetooth audio profile on your phone. Sadly, this feature is very limited : it could only work using the watch’s internal speaker. I tried my best to use the watch as a simple remote, and some external bluetooth headset/speaker, but it just does not work.

The anti-lost feature, however, is a very handy one : with the feature enabled, the watch will alert you when you are more than 5 meters from the phone. The alert is very loud and you won’t miss it. The feature works very, very well.
Of course this feature only works while connected to the phone.

Now, about some of the features that don’t need a connection to the phone :

20160829_165951The barometer / thermometer is simple but works well and seems accurate. However, without a proper way to set the starting location, there is a big offset when compared to the real pressure. This is not really important as we are usually tracking variations to predict weather. A small chart would have been handy…

20160829_170017The altimeter however is a little useless in my opinion :
First, it shows a relative altitude from a set point, not the real altitude. May be usefull for hicking enthusiasts, but I would prefer the absolute reading…
Second, I could not find a way to set it to metric units, and this is a real problem. Bug or missing feature, I don’t know.

20160829_170030The pedometer works ok, minus the typo and the ugly layout. It shows steps and calories, after you set your body data in options. It also keeps a log of previous sessions.

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Calculator, calendar and stopwatch just work, there is not much to say about these features.

resize-20160829_170832Battery life is not the best, but is good enough : with a permanent bluetooth connection, under very heavy use and with power saving disabled, I could get ~18 hours running time from the watch. With some lighter (say « normal ») use, I got over 30 hours. It could last a full day under heavy use, so in my opinion, it’s ok.

However what is more problematic is the phone’s own battery life in this situation. During the heavy test, my phone could not last one full day. Permanent connection to the watch drains the battery very fast.

Conclusion

Overall, and despite a few bugs, this smartwatch is a fun little toy. At that price, it works surprisingly well and packs some cool features like anti-lost, camera remote, remote dialing, notifications…
Apart the cheap wristband, it looks nice, it is lighweight and has decent battery life.
At 20$, this is really a bargain.

Pros

  • nice look
  • lightweight
  • nice connected features
  • nice additional features
  • decent battery life
  • compatible with older android 4.x / bluetooth 3.0 smartphones
  • price

Cons

  • some software bugs limit fonctionnality (altimeter, most notably)
  • cheap wristband

This smartwatch have been courtesy provided by Gearbest in order to make a fair and not biased review. I would like to thanks them for this attitude.
You can find it actually for 21.14 USD at Gearbest

About Captain Stouf

Spécialiste en systèmes informatiques, Développeur matériel et logiciel, Inventeur, Maker : électronique, Systems on Chip, micro-controlleurs, Internet of Things, Modélisation / Scan / Impression 3D, Imagerie…

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