Even though the best smartwatches have really come into their own over the past few years, I’ve been sitting on the fence for quite some time now.
You see, I bought into the idea of having a small computer on my wrist way too early on. In fact, even before there was an Apple Watch, I bought a third-party wristband and rocked a 6th generation iPod Nano as a wearable. Of course it couldn’t do what today’s smartwatches can but I loved it all the same — until it accidentally ended up in the washing machine.
I wanted to see what else a smartwatch could do after this, so I ended up buying a Motorola Motoactv to replace my makeshift Apple Watch. Even then though, it was more fitness tracker than smartwatch but it could display caller ID, text messages and calendar events. I gave smartwatches one more try a few years later but at the time, they were still clunky, buggy and not the experience I was hoping for.
While I thought I had sworn off smartwatches for good, I picked up the new CMF Watch Pro ($89, Amazon) earlier this week to complement my recent purchase of the Nothing Phone (2). Besides seeing what Nothing’s new budget sub-brand CMF was all about, part of me wanted to experience what it was like for everyone that got a Pixel 8 Pro and Pixel Watch 2 bundle by pre-ordering Google’s latest smartphone.
I’ve now been wearing the CMF Watch Pro and using it alongside my Nothing Phone (2) for a week. Here are my thoughts on this budget friendly accessory and why you might want to pick up Nothing’s first smartwatch instead of something more expensive.
The closest thing to a Nothing smartwatch (for now)
Besides releasing a follow-up to the Nothing Phone (1) and its new Nothing Ear (2) wireless earbuds this year, Nothing also launched a new sub-brand called CMF back in September. According to a press release put out at the time, the goal of CMF is “making great design more accessible” and so far, the sub-brand has launched an inexpensive pair of wireless earbuds with the Buds Pro, a 65W GaN charger to power all of your devices at once and of course, the CMF Watch Pro.
Although the CMF Watch Pro isn’t quite the transparent Nothing Watch fans of three-year-old startup were hoping for, it does share some common DNA when it comes to design. The watch itself features a 1.96 inch AMOLED display with an aluminum alloy frame and it can last for up to 13 days with typical use or a whopping 45 days with its power saving mode enabled. The CMF Watch Pro also has Bluetooth, built-in GPS and loads of health and fitness monitoring tech baked in. Not bad for the $89 I paid to get one early from eBay, though the smartwatch is now available through Amazon for the same price.
After unboxing the smartwatch and going through the initial setup procedure, I was pleased to see that its battery was almost topped off at 93% right out of the box. While the CMF Watch app isn’t as fully featured as Nothing OS 2.0, it shares a lot of the same design language, though instead of red, orange is the accent color used throughout it. In fact, besides the dark gray seen in the picture above, you can also get the CMF Watch Pro in this orange color. The same goes for all of CMF’s other products.
The CMF Watch app is divided into four sections but you won’t find any menus that slide in from the side here. Instead, navigation between the different pages is done through the black bar at the bottom of the app. I really like how all of your fitness and health data is presented in a similar style to Nothing’s widgets when you first open the app while the Exercise and Device pages share this same clean look.
At the moment, there are close to 60 different watch faces you can choose from in the app and then download onto the CMF Watch Pro. However, I also found a few that were specifically made for Diwali last week, so I’m hopeful that CMF will add even more down the line. While not as elaborate as some of the watch faces you’ll find on the Apple Watch Series 9 or Samsung Galaxy Watch 6, they all either resemble something you’d see from Nothing or CMF.
A premium-looking smartwatch that excels at the basics
So what’s it been like using a sub $100 smartwatch for a week? Surprisingly good actually. I’ve yet to have to charge my CMF Watch Pro even with continuous heart rate and blood oxygen monitoring enabled. However, I do have the display set to only turn on when I lift my hand but there are eight always-on options that drain its battery much faster.
From checking the time to my daily steps, heart rate, weather and even how much I slept the night before, everything feels very snappy on the CMF Watch Pro just like using my Nothing Watch (2). There are some extra features too like stress monitoring, guided breathing sessions, a stopwatch, timers, alarms, a flashlight, a camera remote and even voice assistant support. However, finding them took me a while and I didn’t even know they were there until I pressed the button on the right side of the CMF Watch Pro.
At just 47 grams, the watch itself is light enough that I don’t even realize I’m wearing it a lot of the time. While less premium, I really like the silicon strap and how it tucks under itself instead of being held in place by a loop. The build quality is quite good too and the curves around the edges of the CMF Watch Pro remind me a lot of the corners on the Nothing Phone (2).
With a peak brightness of 600 nits, the CMF Watch Pro is visible outdoors when you turn the brightness all the way up. The dotted, retro-style font seen on the Nothing Phone (2) also makes an appearance here and the animations remind me a lot of those on the phone too, like the blinking face that appears while the smartwatch measures your stress levels.
I’ve yet to dive into all of the 110 different sports modes available on the CMF Watch Pro but I have been using it while taking my dog out for walks. The tracking worked well, though I did have to wait a few seconds before getting started while the watch’s GPS locked onto a signal. The CMF Watch Pro also has an IP68 water-resistance rating. This means that it can withstand sweat and water splashes but unlike the much more expensive Apple Watch Ultra 2, you won’t be taking this watch on a dive or even for a swim anytime soon.
An ideal companion for your Nothing Phone
Smartphone and tech addition in general is something that Nothing has been working to help its users break free of. This is why you can add widgets and quick setting toggles to the Nothing Phone’s home screen and the company also offers its own monochromatic icon pack for its Android smartphones. If there’s less to distract you when you take your phone out of your pocket, you’re going to spend less time using it.
For better or worse, the CMF Watch Pro is trying to accomplish something similar. This isn’t the kind of smartwatch you’ll be fiddling with during dinner as it doesn’t have any third-party apps nor can you respond to text messages and other notifications on it. It does let you make and answer calls though. Instead, the CMF Watch Pro is a minimalistic smartwatch that doesn’t carry an exorbitant price tag. Also, like Apple’s products, it just works and it does what it sets out to do quite well.
Just like with my Nothing Phone (2) when compared to the best iPhones, I did notice one welcome change compared to the Apple Watch. The CMF Watch Pro’s button on the right is centered unlike the Apple Watch’s Digital Crown which is slightly higher up. This immediately reminded me of how the power and volume buttons on the Nothing Phone (2) are lower down on the device than those on the iPhone.
With a battery life that’s over a week long even with heavy use and a large AMOLED display, the CMF Watch Pro really does live up to its “See more go further” tagline. While I’ve spent the last five years wearing inexpensive, but surprisingly rugged digital watches from Casio, I haven’t taken the CMF Watch Pro off of my wrist yet. If you want a well-designed smartwatch that gets the basics right along with a bit more without breaking the bank, you might want to consider picking up one for yourself. That is at least until Nothing decides to launch the transparent Nothing Watch we’ve all been waiting for.