U8 Smartwatch Review

U8 Smartwatch, cheap iOS Android Apple watch Alternative Knock Off Bootleg Clone

 

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U8 watch – A Cheap iOS and Android Smartwatch.

There are many smartwatches out there. Some are incredibly amazing such as the Apple Watch, while others are fairly middle-of-the-road in terms of function and style. Some however are even lower than the ‘middle of the road’ – In fact some may be best described as ‘beneath the road’ like some horrid C.H.U.D. like creature. I wonder where a $30 smartwatch will fall on this ever-impressive spectrum?

The ’U-Watch U8’, which henceforth I am calling ‘the U8 Watch’ for brevity (that extra ‘U’ makes all the difference), is priced at $30.00 USD and is available in 3 colours; White, Red and Black. Sorry guys, no opulent gold or rose gold option on this one. I have a bit of a history with this watch and despite my better judgment I have some fondness for it too. The white U8 was the first smart watch I ever bought and while not as elegant as my Apple Watch, it did look pretty good for what it was. Unfortunately my original watch screen broke before I could write my review and so for my second attempt at a review I decided to purchase the red version. Both colours looked much better than the photos suggested they would and I can only imagine that the black one would also look pretty sharp in person. My only nit-pick with the colour is that the shade of colour on the strap is somewhat different than the colour on the body, or at least it is on the red one – I hadn’t thought of looking at this on the white one before I tossed it in the trash, but I don’t remember it being an issue to me. This perceived discoloration is due to the fact that while the body is plastic, the straps are rubber and these material differences cause a slight, but inoffensive colour discrepancy. Overall, the watch looks good and fits the wrist (at least a man’s wrist) fairly well but it does have a ‘geekiness’ to it that may deter some from wearing it in public.

 

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 A smart-watch for the budget-minded

The U8 Watch sports a 1.48” LCD screen that is very receptive (perhaps too much so) to touch input, but the glass covering is extremely sensitive and within a week of normal use, my original white U8 watch had shattered to pieces. This all happened without my knowledge and without any excessive force – I was walking with my daughter to McDonalds and by the time we sat down to eat the watch was shattered beyond repair. As if McDonalds wasn’t already brutal enough on the digestive system but now I have glass in my Big Mac to deal with on top of it, but I digress. The screen, when not shattered to Hell, is only visible when inside the house. The minute I stepped outside, the sunlight rendered the screen impossible to see and essentially useless. While the screen display is in colour and it is clear in the proper lighting, do not expect a HD Retina screen, the pixels are obvious, but I’ve seen worse… mind you that was on a calculator. The watch screen is definitely the weakest point on this device and I would recommend that anyone who buys it resize a smartphone screen protector to fit the watch and give your screen a little more of a fighting chance at survival.

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3rd party apps and iOS/Android limitations… mostly iOS…

While we cannot install 3rd party apps on the U8 watch, as we can with the Apple Watch or Moto 360, many of the defining and essential smart watch apps come pre-loaded on the U8. Some of these apps function independently of a smartphone, meaning that no smartphone is required at all. Other apps however, such as the phone calls and notifications, require a paired (via Bluetooth) smartphone to function and the available functions depend on your smartphone of choice. Without getting too bogged down in the details, Android phones (regardless of the manufacturer) running Android OS 2.3 or higher are fully compatible with the U8 watch once the free BT Notifier app is installed. Of course the same cannot be said of the iPhone. Due to Apple’s ‘walled garden’ approach, compatibility with the U8 watch is ‘hit-and-miss’ and notifications are unfortunately one of the ‘misses’ when paired with an iPhone. Although most other apps run just fine, the lack of notifications for the iPhone uses is a major consideration when deciding on the purchase of the U8 watch since notifications are a large part of a smartwatch experience. I haven’t tested with a Windows Phone or Blackberry, but nobody cares about them anyway.

 

U8 Smart Watch features & benefits

The U8 reminds me of the knock-off iPod Nanos I reviewed a few months back – it is one of many knock-off watches that rely on the same open-source operating system. This has some important ramifications – the features on the U8 watch are the same features as on the more expensive knock-off smartwatches. Sure others may have skinned the software to look like Apple’s Watch OS, but at their core they are no better than what the U8 offers. Let’s keep this in mind as we dig in to the U8 watch (and by extension, almost any knock-off smartwatch) functions one by one and see what this little puppy can do…

 

 

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Languages

Fully functional without smartphone.

Don’t let any non-English images you may have seen scare you away from the watch. This watch supports a myriad of languages, including English, French and Spanish among many others. Why you would choose any language other than English is beyond me though.

 

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Watch Faces

Fully functional without smartphone.

There are 3 watch faces that you can choose from, 2 analog and 1 digital. The digital watch can be set to display 12 or 24 hour style, however the time must be manually set when you get the device as it does not sync the date and time with the paired smartphone. It is however with great sadness I report that none of the faces include Mickey Mouse.

 

Background Colour

Fully functional without smartphone.

You can change the background colour to turquoise, black or pink – seriously, those are the only options. It reminds me of old DOS ‘CGA’ games, and while they were fun – they were not known for their beauty. You would think the background color choice would have been selected to match the physical watch colour but apparently expecting that level of refinement is utter madness. Additionally, since you can’t set your own background image from a photo, I recommend you use the generic ‘black’ colour background as it is the least offensive choice.

 

Play Music

Android and iOS compatible.

Have you ever wanted to listen to music on small tin-sounding speakers from your wrist? Neither have I. Had this feature acted as a remote control for the music on my smartphone I would have praised it, but instead it takes music on the phone and plays them on the watch speaker. Much like the background colour option, this too is a ‘non-feature’ that nobody will be inclined to use once the initial 5-minute novelty wears off.

 

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Remote Control camera

Android compatible only.

While the watch itself does not have a camera on it, it does have the ability to trigger your smartphone camera to take a picture on command. Unfortunately this function works only with Android devices and in particular only with the stock Android camera app. There are no frills with this function – you tap the camera on the watch and the smartphone camera takes a photo. It is simple to use and such a feature could be handy but I don’t feel iPhone users are missing out on that much with this one to be honest.

 

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Notifications

Android compatible only.

This on the other hand, a lack of notifications is indeed a very huge issue for my iPhone brethren. The Notifications function only with an Android phone and even then it works only when the ‘BT Notifier’ app is installed. In order to give you an idea of how it works, I gave the watch to my wife to wear (She has a Moto G3) and test it out (once I convinced her that she didn’t look like a dork with the watch on). While she found the notifications reliable for both calls and texts, the lack of any reply functions made the feature feel half-baked and in order to take any action on a notification, she would have to pull out her phone anyway – rendering the watch notifications as little more than ‘FYI’ alerts. To make matters worse, the notifications do not appear on the watch face, but rather the watch alerts you with a vibration and you are expected to load the appropriate app to see the notification, which ruins the ‘glance ability’ that other watches provide.

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Alarms

Fully functional without smartphone.

It is hard to make an alarm sound exciting, however the alarm function on the U8 watch is exactly as it needs to be – clear and simple, multi-functional and independent of the phone it is connected to. You can set multiple alarms that will play one of the several included tones and/or vibrate your wrist. This is no subtle ‘poke’ vibrate like the Apple Watch, this is a vibration that can wake the dead – you can’t miss it. If however you cannot handle the awesome raw power of the u8 watch alarm, you can adjust the vibration level down a notch or two. The fact that these alarms are independent of the phone means that you can rely on them even if the phone is far away or out of batteries. Alarms can be set to occur daily at a specific time or can be more nuanced, alerting you only on specified days/times of the week. Just make sure you set the AM/PM properly, trust me – it sucks if you don’t…

 

Anti-Lost

Android and iOS compatible.

To be clear – This function is not a GPS. In fact the U8 watch has no GPS functionality whatsoever (due to a lack of SIM card and GPS chip). The anti-lost feature is actually an alarm that warns you when the watch about to leave the Bluetooth range of the phone. This feature alone may be worth the price of admission if you have a tendency to forget your phone at restaurants or friends’ houses as the watch will alert you before you get too far from the phone that ‘hey! You forgot your phone!’

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Stopwatch and Pedometer

Fully functional without smartphone.

What can I say here, it is a basic stopwatch, but if you are a runner you may find it useful. I avoid exercise so for me the most I used the stopwatch for was to see how long it was in between my stabbing chest pains. There is also a pedometer function although the accuracy is influenced heavily by how much you move your arm. Unfortunately the stopwatch and pedometer are the extent of exercise apps available on the watch – no calorie counters, heart rate monitors or any other fitness logging functions. This device will not replace a Fit bit or any other fitness tracker but if you want to keep track of your steps as a prelude to starting a fitness regime, it will work just fine.

 

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Phone Book

Android and iOS compatible.

Although many sites claim that the on-watch phone book can only sync contacts with an Android device, I successfully brought in contacts from my iPhone by following the ‘standard procedure’ on the watch. The phone book, once synced, allows you to tap a name and call from your watch directly. If one of the major features that attract you to a smart watch is the ability to make and receive calls right from your wrist, then the U8 watch may be a great option for you.

 

Misc. Sensors

Fully functional without smartphone.

The U8 watch includes a thermometer and barometer for those too lazy to look outside for the current weather conditions. I do not mean to ridicule anyone who is passionate about weather (ok, maybe a little) but the issue is that the watch displays the temperature and barometric pressure of your current location only. Since there is no phone connectivity for this function, the sensors are housed in the watch themselves and can only tell you the temperature of the room you are in – they have no way to test the weather outside (assuming you are inside). Additionally, if you ever wondered how high you were, at least geographically speaking, the watch comes bundled with an altimeter as well and while I see little value here, you know if you are the type of person who needs this.

Battery Life

The battery life was surprisingly good. While I still recommend that you bring a charger (Micro-USB) with you when you go somewhere just to be safe, the watch lasted over 3 days on standby and lasts for nearly a day and a half of normal use. This is in line with my Apple watch experience and is one of the strongest features of the watch in my experience.

 Is a budget (read: cheap) smart watch worth it?

The U-Watch U8 lacks many things that only the higher-end watches can do, however it does make for a great entry-level device, as you can get a feel for what a smartwatch can offer without the significant financial investment of some brands. Unfortunately for your small investment, you lose out on durability, in particular the screen, which I have no faith in. You also lose out on 3rd party apps and some functionality if you are an iPhone user that I consider essential to the smartwatch experience. In addition to this, many of the features are non-starters that may look good on a checklist but in reality offer no true advantage – I’m looking at you altimeter! Couple this with the limited exercise functions and what we are left with is a glorified notification and calling device, and even then notifications work only with Android devices and if that wasn’t enough, you still need your phone to reply to them even if you are an Android user.

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Optimus Prime may be more than meets the eye, but the watch is pretty much ‘the same as meets the eye’

 Final thoughts

As I mentioned previously, I am fond of this watch, even if my review doesn’t give that impression. It is not a terrible watch, not by a long shot – It is an incredible value for the price they are asking. As also mentioned earlier, most of the knock-off smartwatches on the market all rely on the same software that this one does; they may skin it so it looks different, but most of these knock-off watches are essentially identical in terms of functionality but are generally more expensive than the U8 watch. If you are going to get a knock-off smartwatch, there is no reason to pay more than $30 for it – you are extremely unlikely to find one with functions that the U8 lacks. Of course if you want to get a ‘real’ smartwatch, that is a different story altogether…

 

Pros:

  • The Price.
  • Doesn’t rely on the phone for everything
  • Not too bulky and looks pretty good for what it cost. I have seen uglier watches cost more.
  • Provides the basic Smartwatch functionality of notifications and phone calls.
  • A great experimentation/beginner smartwatch.
  • All knock-offs rely on the same operating system, so most limitations of the U8 are universal.

 

Cons:

  • Lack of Notifications for iPhone users renders the U8 watch extremely limited in value.
  • It SHOULD rely on the phone for some things such as temperature but it doesn’t.
  • The screen is fragile and hard to read in direct sunlight
  • Battery drains pretty fast.
  • Includes a myriad of features nobody will ever actually care about.
  • A real lack of fitness functions, which are a large part of the smartwatch experience

 

Verdict: If you are looking for a cheap smartwatch, a stocking stuffer for a tech obsessed kid, or if you simply want a watch for cheap that happens to have a few cute alarms on it – this is a fine choice. This may not however be all that appealing to fitness fans or iPhone users due to its limitations. The competition in the knock-off market is more about design and prices than it is of functions, so if you like the design of the U8, as I do, don’t waste your time with a more expensive one. Of course if you want an Apple Watch or Moto360 and only the best will do for you – why the hell are you even on my website, we don’t like fancy things around here 😉

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