Robert is on the Apple watch loyalist. Racer88 would rather be castrated than wear a smart watch. I’m not cool enough to know anybody that has one. “Perfect!” RF said. “Amazon’s got a smart watch for $36! All yours!” So began my journey into the strange new world of the Willful SW025 smart watch . . .
Like a manual watch, the Willful arrived without power. Even a Luddite like me could figure out how to snap the little magnetic cable to the back and plug the USB plug into a wall jack (Not a computer. I don’t trust those things.)
After charging, I proudly removed the sticker on the face directing me to charge the watch before first use. The Willful SW025 started vibrating in my hand, shooting green lights out of the case back. Scrolling through the screens, I was lost. The instructions are a single accordion folded page almost a yard long. The text is in Chinese!
Luckily, the other side is in English. Step one, charge it. Step two, download and install the VeryFitPro app. I’m more of a SlightlyFitAmateur, to be honest. Can’t I just set the time on this thing? I got on the smartphone and started screwing around on Instagram before remembering to get the app.
The VeryFitPro app downloaded and installed quickly. Using apkpure, I avoided any Googlepay nonsense. The app insisted that I activate the location setting so they can track me and report back to PRC (presumably). It also asked nosy questions about my gender (only two options listed!) and age. Access to media and camera? 不，谢谢!
Finally, the Willful SW025 read the right time. It even copied my 24 hour time preference from the cell phone setting. The app suggested I do 10k steps a day. I agreed to 5k. This after learning that I have a resting pulse in the mid 60’s. My door prize in the genetic lottery.
On an Apple watch the screen displays out to the edge. Not so here. The Willful is controlled by a little sensor at the bottom of the screen – and only a little sensor at the bottom of the screen. You were expecting a full touchscreen for $36? Every screen has a black background so the box-box-in-a-box effect isn’t so noticeable
The case is an utterly generic rounded block with some lugs molded in. The little metallic target for pressing the screen is the only noticeable feature. Like every other rectangular smart watch, the Willful lacks the style of a late ’50’s Philco Predicta television set.
There are three available time screens, all annoying.
The first has a terrible parallel line numbering that looks like a neon sign as seen by a drunk with double vision. The other digital selection is more tolerable, despite the characters for hours and minutes being different colors. A half-assed attempt to make the numbers look like stencils left parts grayed out. At least this screen has a step and calorie counter at the bottom.
The third screen is an attempt at a square analog clock face using differently sized serif number indices. I’m the type of jerk that wants to use a fake analog display, but this was too quirky and it didn’t even show the date.
Later I figured out that I didn’t need to tap the screen to wake it up. There’s something satisfying about it waking up when called upon, but also dissatisfaction in that you could press the button in the amount of lag time. This surely maximizes battery life, but one quickly sees why Apple developed always-on displays post haste.
I wore it for 36 hours before noticing that there’s no seconds display. There is a stopwatch, so you can time things, like other people’s pulses if in that line of work. But that stopwatch is not the typical “out of sight, out of mind” digital affair that runs on for days after you forget about it. Leave the screen and it’s gone forever. Back to start, do not collect $200.
The smartwatch charts nine of ‘activities’: cycling, running, walking, hiking, climbing, yoga, treadmill, training and spinning. I was only able to access the first three. It times your “session,” counting calories burnt and measuring your pulse. It records the distance walked, but not for cycling, which is odd.
Like any backlit watch, brightness pales in the sun. There are three brightness levels, which light up dark rooms, but the display is washed out by midday sunshine. To read the display, seek shade or create some with your hand.
The quick release band is 22mm wide at the lugs. The only thing I had on hand in that size was a NATO that would block off the pulse reader on the back. At some point I got some red stain on the OEM band, presumably from a red marker. I tried removing it by scrubbing, soap and water, rubbing alcohol, acetone, bleach, and OxiClean. The stain merely faded a bit.
The smart watch maker (smart watchmaker?) fits the Willful SW025 with quick release spring bars. As per Klosoff’s Law, whenever a manufacturer supplies spring bars on a watch, they’ll sell extra bands. The single keeper has that little tab that should go into a hole and keep everything in place.
It didn’t work well, and the bonus two inches of length wagged around frequently. So I didn’t buy a stock replacement band, even though the price is right ($6.99). Also, the buckle is an almost-black shade that doesn’t match the case, if you worry about that sort of thing.
In other mishap news, the screen suffered a small mystery scratch, followed by a later door scuff. I’d imagine light weight is priority one, low price priority two. Or the other way around. Regardless, Gorilla Glass is an upscale Apple thing. The Willful is made from EZ-scratch plastic that will require toothpaste touch-ups.
I also chipped the paint on the Willful SW025’s case, which I’d hoped was molded-in color. The somewhat metallic satin effect decently passes as better plastic. Unlike every traditional watch made (save hybrids), the Willful will age like milk in the aesthetics department. This is function over fashion, where tech offers only slight more heirloom quality than a 12-pack of paper towels.
I have my doubts about the sleep tracker’s accuracy. The “smart” watch thought I was asleep when I knew I was awake and vice versa. Eventually, it figured it out. Monitoring the amount of light and deep sleep provided a useful metric for complaining the next day. It told me that my sleep habits are even more erratic than I thought.
The Willful SW025 can vibrate for cell phone calls, alarms, or just if you sit too long. Sadly, answering the phone or doing anything to the cell phone does not deactivate the wrist buzzer. It is very awkward to tap it off as it shimmies away while talking into a handheld phone.
Every fifteen minutes it would buzz me and tell me to move around. I never did. Even after changing it to thirty minute intervals, I still ignored it. I don’t sit it one place because I’m lazy but because I have stuff to do.
The battery life is a good five to seven days, even under extensive testing. The Willful WF025 takes about an hour to fully charge, so it could conceivably be maintained during shower time each morning.
IP68 water resistance means the smart watch is submersible to at least one meter – so it’s not going in the shower with you. Light rain was no issue, which should serve as a testing substitute for the heavy perspiring I avoided.
The app requires manual synchronization to extract the latest data from the Willful WF025. One more thing to do each day, even if it only takes a few seconds. Get too far from the Bluetooth signal and you have to clear an annoying notice from the phone.
The nondescript, unassuming styling of the Willful SW025 made it unobjectionable daily wear. It looks like a smart watch and does some smart watch things with simplicity. For the price, it’s a modern marvel.
As far as I can tell, navel gazing – collecting metrics of interest more than use – is this watch’s raison d’être. I learned that the majority of my walking is done by mid-morning, I sleep more on weekends and I prefer analogue watches. Again. Still.
Model: Willful SW025
Case width: 35.3mm
Case height: 41.5mm
Case thickness: 12.1mm
Case lug width: 22mm
Lug to lug: 47.3mm
Weight: 30g (1.06 oz)
Case metal: plastic
Weight: 1.09oz (31g)
Waterproof Rating: IP68
Working Time: 5-7 days
RATINGS (out of five stars):
Design * * *
Can you even call it a design? Generic as can be, it’s a smoothed block of a wrist screen on a rubber band.
Legibility * * *
Big ass numbers for the time, bright indoors. Can’t compete with the Sun for brightness, and needs a wrist raise (wait for it) to display.
Comfort * * * * *
It’s an ounce of plastic on a soft band. No real problems here. Despite chunkiness, it slid under cuffs with ease.
Overall * * * *
A modern marvel with limited functionality and zero pizzazz. I damn it with faint praise.
A cheap smart watch doesn’t look as good as a sub. The next big breakthrough in smartwatches will be a manufacturer that can bring the “look” and price that Casio had for digital watches.
Totally agree. Digital watches suffer the same limitation of a rectangular screen, but there is no shortage of unique and stylish cases there. A bit of attractive design differentiation would go a long way.