The Finow X5 is an Android smartwatch that accepts a 3G SIM to make calls, send texts and get online independently of your phone. You can buy it from GearBest.com where, at the time of writing, it costs £100 with free shipping to the UK. However, note that you may have to pay import duty on goods sent from China to the UK.
The ‘smartphone’ watch
The Finow X5 is more ‘smartphone watch’ than ‘smartwatch’ and can be used independently of your phone to get online and send and receive calls and texts, albeit using a very small and fiddly keypad or audible instruction. This is made possible by adding a Nano-SIM card.
The X5 also has Wi-Fi connectivity, which you can use to browse the web. We weren’t able to use the internet connection of a paired Samsung Galaxy S6, despite an option in the watch settings making it look as though this is possible.
Before you start using the Finow X5 you should download the free Watch Helper app, which pairs to a smartphone and can be configured to deliver notifications from any app installed on your phone, and to push music-, image- and other files from phone to watch and vice versa. By default, you will see notifications for calls and texts, and we also managed to set up Watch Helper to deliver WhatsApp, Gmail and Facebook notifications. Frustratingly, you see only the message subject line for email notifications, and once you’ve read the notification it’s gone from the watch.
Worse still, we found the X5 would lose the Bluetooth connection if it had been idle for a while. This might help battery life, but it prevents you from receiving any notifications until you physically reconnect it to the phone. And that makes this smartwatch pretty dumb.
To get more functionality, then, you really need to add a SIM to the Finow X5. The SIM slot is accessible by unscrewing the rear panel (a screwdriver is supplied in the box), but unfortunately this means the device does not have a waterproof seal and rules out its use as a true sports watch, despite the built-in heart-rate monitor and pedometer.
The need to use a screwdriver every time you want to swap SIMs between phone and watch makes you much less likely to do so. With your SIM in the watch you won’t receive email-, WhatsApp- or other notifications, so ideally you need to keep the SIM in your phone at all times, or have one SIM in your phone and one in the watch.
And herein lies the major limitation for UK users: it isn’t possible to have two SIMs for the same phone number. Elsewhere in the world this is possible, and in some European countries you are able to make use of a paid-for service such as Proximus to clone a phone number on to a second SIM. You could try using a second SIM with a second number, but you won’t receive any notifications from your primary number, and your communication will come from a number your contacts don’t recognise.
Apps are the second biggest limitation: the Finow X5, as we tested it, runs a version of Android 4.4 KitKat with no access to Google Play, and that’s how we have reviewed it here. We have read online that others have been able to update the firmware or root the smartwatch in order to get Google Play installed and working, turning this Finow X5 into a proper Android Wear watch – the Bluetooth cutouts would still be an issue unless you used it in place of your smartphone, of course. GearBest tells us that it’s possible to install Google Play without rooting