A few weeks ago I heard about a smartwatch called the Haylou Solar. A circular smartwatch that looks pretty – nothing strange here. Then I heard the price. £20 made me take notice. So I swiftly jumped on to AliExpress to buy one and I saw they had a newer square model, the Haylou LS02 for the same price so I picked it up to review. Let’s see if it’s a pocket money dynamo, or a slightly annoying waste of money.
- Solid Build
- Lovely Screen
- Performance is adequate
- Software on watch is buggy
- App very basic and poorly translated
- Notifications very poor.
- Constant disconnections from multiple phones
- 1.4” IPS screen
- 320×320 resolution
- Tempered glass covering
- 20mm watch straps
- 260mAh battery
- 20 days rated battery life
- 30 days without constant heart rate monitoring
- 20 days rated battery life
- Bluetooth 5.0
The LS02 is Haylou’s third smartwatch, after the LS01 and the Solar (also called the LS05), it is a very small little thing that definitely has hues of the Apple watch, no doubt, but also the Amazfit Bip. as far as I know, there is no connection between Xiaomi/Huami and Haylou, but I definitely see design cues. The thin 11.5mm watch sits comfortably on my little wrists with ease, it is 41mm tall and 36mm wide, It’s just small, sleek and unobtrusive and with the insane 38g mass I often forget I’m even wearing it.
On the front we have the 1.4” TFT screen with a resolution of 320×320 under a tempered glass touch screen, the reason I mention that last bit is that it is not uncommon to find plastic on cheaper touchscreen devices, and a £20 this is very, very cheap. Compared to the LS01. the screen is a smidgen bigger at 1.4” compared to 1.3”, and at 320×320 it is about 28% higher resolution leading to a much crisper and clear screen and the glass has nice optical clarity. The bezels around the watch are noticeable, I think Haylou could have squashed in a 1.5” or potentially 1.6” screen in here without increasing the face size, and it would have looked quite stunning.
On the left-hand side is nothing, and the right-hand side has the power button and the home button. The chassis is plastic but for a little while tricked me into thinking it might have been metal. The design is very square with the top and bottom (if taking a profile view) being chamfered for aesthetics but comes to a nice soft raised area for the power button. On the rear of the LS02 is a separate soft-touch black plastic panel with the charging pins up top and the heart rate sensor optics in the middle, this disc is slightly raised from the rest of the back to give a tighter seal to your skin for more accurate readings.
Despite the stupid light mass and a plastic frame, the LS02 doesn’t feel cheap or nasty, and with the quality of the screen, it doesn’t look it when on, I definitely think the hardware here is nicer than the Realme Watch that Craig reviewed a few weeks ago (I have one here as well).
This is where the LS02 struggles and the price starts to show. Whilst the watch faces are nice and high resolution, and the navigation is mostly responsive once you go into an application it looks cheap, and the fonts used are not conducive to English or languages which use a Germanic alphabet instead of symbols, this reeks of a rushed global firmware port from an ODM who makes the SoC and firmware in here.
Smartwatch navigation is fine you start at the home screen or watch face. Sliding down from the top allows you to see the quick settings with 4 buttons, once to go to settings, one to toggle Do Not Disturb mode, one to quickly change brightness and the other to make the connected phone ring. Swiping up from the bottom gets you to your applications launcher with 9 options, albeit one is a “more” entry that has 4 more entries in it. Left and right is a carousel, so going too far one way brings you back to the watch face, you have:
- Fitness stats
- Real-time heart rate
- Sleep stats
- Breathing trainer
Something that does seem pretty pervasive throughout the software, and I’m not sure if this is an intentional choice or a hardware limitation, but there seems to be a fair bit of screen tearing, but I’m not sure if Haylou is trying to hide it with animations, and if they are the chipset inside is simply not powerful enough to run them at a decent framerate.
I’ll move on to the smartphone companion app as it is just as important as the watch itself. The Haylou app is very simple there are three tabs on the interface, home, sport and device. Home has all your stats, from the steps you’ve taken today, to your heart rate throughout the day to how much sleep you’ve gotten. The “Sport” tab is a GPS enabled running/walking/cycling mapper pretty neat. Lastly is the device tab which shows you the Haylou devices you have connected to this phone, for me, it is obviously the LS02 but I assume their earbuds also go into this app.
Inside of the “Device” tab, there are 9 options, whether to send phone call notifications to the watch, Alarm settings, “stand up” notice, application notification settings, DND settings, Heart rate sensor settings, Time format, lift to wake, screen dimming settings. Very basic.
This is another area where a rushed translation for global release comes in, some of the options, like “incoming call notice”, “heart rate sensor”, “Time format” and “raise am to light up screen” aren’t actually subsections, they’re just toggles, and whatever is said under that toggle is the current state, now that’s not too bad for time format or heart rate sensor which just says “24 hour” or “auto” meaning the heart rate sensor is running in automatic mode at a fixed interval, and the time on the watch is 24 hours. But on “incoming call notice” and “raise arm to light up screen” it just says “Activate” beneath it, now this means that lift arm to wake up the screen is active but the wording makes you think that tapping it would activate it, instead that is not the case, it should say “active” or “Activated”.
In the cog in the top right is the settings part of the watch, it tells you what firmware version the watch is on, the button beneath is a factory reset button, and the one beneath that checks for new firmware. The button right at the bottom is to unbind this device from your phone and the app.
The app is very basic and in some ways that are good, there is less stuff to get confused by, but in some cases, it just means there isn’t anything you can do. You can’t install any new watch faces, my biggest pet peeve is that you cannot just set the watch to scrape your notification panel, the LS02 will only send you notifications from a preset set of services they are:
- Facebook Messenger
- Kakao Talk
- Vkontakte (VK)
Whilst this is annoying, I actually have a pretty limited set of apps that I allow my watch to notify me for, what is more frustrating, however, is that the font used is ghastly and the text doesn’t format correctly, nor can you scroll. Oh, and the app requires a persistent notification in my notification shade, what is this 2013?
Lastly, despite being in the notification panel all the time, and even when I turn off all battery optimisations, the app will close and the watch will lose connection, this has happened on all 3 of the phones I have tested this on, and has caused me to miss notifications.
Whilst this is annoying, these are all software issues, and software issues can be fixed if the company wants to. I can’t comment on Haylou’s software update prowess because this is my first device from them and they appear to be a relatively new company, but in the month I’ve had the LS02 It’s not had an update yet, but I am hoping that Haylou fixes at the very least the text formatting issue.
Haylou state that the LS02 has a 20-day battery life when using auto heart rate monitoring, to call this optimistic would be putting it lightly. The most I was able to get was 10 days at medium brightness. I’d love to know why I’m getting half the life Haylou claim, but still, 10 days Is higher than most others and just a little bit less than my Huawei watch GT2.
Charging the LS02 is simple, it is a magnetic cable that snaps to the rear, no cradle nor stands no Wireless charging, but again this is £20. A full charge takes under an hour so not the quickest but easy enough to do during the day if you sit at a desk, or, if you notice it getting low do it whilst you sleep.
So can I recommend the LS02? Sadly not. Whilst the hardware is excellent, and the price is right the software really lets down this experience. I could live with the limited app notification support and the poorly translated app, but the notification formatting and connectivity issues are a killer sadly, but as I said, these are software issues, if Haylou wants to they can sell one of the cheapest and nicest smartwatch, but they have to want to fix the software instead of just moving on to the next product.
Successful products merge great hardware with great software when that is out of balance the product suffers, and despite loving the hardware, the unpolished software means this is going in a drawer and will be a backup watch just in case.