OnePlus Band seems to have difficulty tracking heart rate of people with dark skin?

Update: Fixed after a software update
OnePlus Band seems to have difficulty tracking heart rate of people with dark skin?

Update: The issue appears to have been fixed after OnePlus issued a comprehensive software update for the band. For OnePlus Band owners facing this issue, all they need to do is to open the OnePlus Health app, go to 'Manage', click 'More' and tap the 'Device update' option. 

Original story:

Does the OnePlus Band have an issue with measuring heart rate on folks with darker skin? I don’t know. But that’s what I am trying to investigate. This is a short first-hand experience with the OnePlus I purchased recently. 

Now, for those unaware, it’s been just a few days since OnePlus launched its first smart band in India. This band is basically a rebranded OPPO Band (which is only sold in China as of now). The OnePlus Band - as of January 25, 2021 - is only on sale in India.

Let me come to the story now.

Since I was considering buying a smart band for my wife, I thought it would be a good idea to purchase the newly launched OnePlus Band for her. At the same time, I also thought I could review the band for our readers here on NextPit. Two birds with one stone!

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I posted this photo on social media the day I received the OnePlus Band / © NextPit

Anyway, over a week after it arrived, I opened the OnePlus Band and attempted to use it over the weekend. However, thanks to an unplanned outing, it wasn’t until Monday (January 25) that I started to use it properly. Among the first things I checked out after I set up the band was to check the SpO2 and heart rate sensors. And that’s when I started to notice something peculiar.

While the SpO2 sensor worked fine and showed me fairly accurate readings, every time I attempted to measure my heart rate, the band threw back an error message asking me to wear it tightly. Initially, I was quite convinced it was something I did that caused the error. 

Maybe I wasn’t wearing it right - or tight enough? Perhaps It needs to go slightly higher up the wrist? Or was it supposed to be worn higher up? I don’t know - but I ended up trying everything in a (futile) attempt to get the band read my poor heart. I wore it as tightly as I could. Loosened it. Restarted the band, reset it. And that’s pretty much you could do with a smart band, I guess? 

After trying out all sorts of gymnastics with my wrist (and the arm attached to it), I finally deduced that the problem was not with me. I decided to return the (obviously) faulty product that refused to read my heart. Towards the end of the day, I created an RMA at OnePlus’ website so that they can initiate a return. That’s when I noticed that OnePlus would only process a return if they figure that the product is actually damaged. And how would they check if the heart rate sensor isn’t working? Someone at the service centre would try it on, right? 

OnePlus Band RMA2
The OnePlus RMA tracker states that the band will be inspected before a return is processed/ © NextPit

That’s when it occurred to me that I can actually do that myself. My wife (for whom this band was supposed to be a gift) happily volunteered. She wore the band, hit the heart rate icon to start the measurement and well, to my surprise, everything worked normally. Surprised (and outraged), I snatched her gift away from her and tried wearing it again - and on my wrist, the result was the same. No reading. I then asked her to change the position of the band on her wrist. She wore it slightly higher, lower, and even loosely. And every single time, it gave a reading.

Having exhausted all options, I couldn’t help but notice that the only ‘difference’ between my wrist and hers was the skin tone. She is of much lighter complexion than me. 

Now, being a tech blogger with over a decade of experience, I know that there have been instances when smartwatches and bands have had issues with people with darker skin tone. Could this be the case with the OnePlus Band as well? To be honest, I don’t know.  But I have decided to investigate further. As I type this, I am also placing an order for another OnePlus Band. I will see if the second unit that I get faces the same issue.

I even posted a video of the OnePlus Band refusing to work on my dark wrist on my Twitter.

During my investigation, I also noticed that another person had tweeted about a similar issue and had his OnePlus Band returned. 

However, the skin tone of this person wasn’t dark. So, we don’t know this yet. Besides, we haven’t had many complaints about this ‘issue’. Basically, at this point in time, I have too little data to ‘insinuate’ OnePlus.  Once I get the replacement OnePlus Band, I shall post an update to this rather interesting development. 

Watch this space!

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  • storm 1 month ago Link to comment

    They probably never tested it outside their employee pool, which likely is not representative of varied skin tones.

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