The U8 Smartwatch – My Tips A Month In

uwatch-u8-bluetooth-touch-screen-smart-watch-android-iphone-red-myshop8-1406-07-MyShop8@3

If you just want a specific question answered, take a look at my U8 FAQ which may answer it.

I got the U8 Smartwatch for Christmas (my choice) and I’ve been wearing and using it pretty much nonstop ever since. Because I love it? Well no, it’s because I’m a tech nerd who has to try and get the most out of his widgets. Here’s my thoughts and tips.

The watch itself is surprisingly good quality, given my low expectations for something a fraction of a name brand smartwatch price.

Its case is metal, and while I doubt it has any protection on the glass it’s not showing any wear yet.  The band is just rubber, yet is of reasonable quality. I did find it causing my wrist to be sweat slick easily in summer -probably as the rubber doesnt allow the skin to breathe. It’s the same kind of material my wife’s FitBit band is made out of.

The android app to bind it to a phone was a learning experience. For best results I  found you have to sideload a (very poorly listed) chinese app called BTNotifier.apk. I found it buried in the Old versions folder of an obscure ftp server somewhere, although I may list it myself soon.

I’ve since learned there is an app on Google Play store called MediaTek (from memory) which also works with it. However in my testing while MediaTek looks infinitely more professional, it has a lot more trouble staying connected to the watch, and a LOT more trouble correctly pushing selected notifications to the watch.

Apr 2015 update: it’s since developed a few cracks right across the screen (happens when you accidentally smash it and your wrist into some concrete wall). However it still works flawlessly, and while I wouldn’t recommend doing so, it’s survived the few times so far I’ve dunked it totally underwater (kids bath, dishes in sink) without incident. I just don’t get those who leave scathing reviews on shop sites about it – were they expecting a Galaxy Gear for $35?!

Also to save anyone having to scour the net for the best android app I’ve seen for working with this watch (and I suspect, with all the similar watches) – here it is

NOTE this is an apk file, for installing the android app on your android phone or android tablet, which allows your android device to talk with your watch and push android app notifications to it.

Jul 2016 update: While I don’t user the watch much any more, when I tinkered with it recently I discovered (a different version of) the BT Notifier app is now on Google Play – yay! It’s maker is a bunch of chinese characters, however I tested it and it appeared to work OK. So, no more side loaded (per above) needed. Also while I haven’t set anything up yet I’ll try to source a (link to a) good screen protector for it, as that was the only thing I now regret with mine – I didn’t think to protect the screen, and it has cracked badly (though still working fine). Finally, I’ve been fielding lots of help requests from people who I discovered have a(n ever cheaper) knockoff of the U8 smartwatch. I found this site which does a thorough job of explaining some of the differences – although by their site I believe my own would be considered a knock off too, as it only passed test 5 😛

  • Cyber COwboy

    Did you update the firmware at all? Where did you get the updated files?

    • ben

      No, I’m just a user who happened to find the apk that was buried somewhere and decided to make it easier for people to find.

      From memory I found the (semi broken) FTP details on an ebay listing for the phone, somewhere.

      As far as I know the APK does nothing towards updating the actual watch’s firmware.

    • No, I’m just a user who happened to find the apk that was buried somewhere and decided to make it easier for people to find.

      From memory I found the (semi broken) FTP details on an ebay listing for the watch, somewhere.

      As far as I know the APK does nothing towards updating the actual watch’s firmware.

  • David Lusby

    I clicked on your “here it is” link and not sure if it updated my watch or not but when I try to push something to the watch it says “drive not found”…help please

    • Hey David,

      So you downloaded the apk file from the “here it is” link onto an android phone or android tablet and installed it? It’s just an android app, and doesn’t modify the watch itself.

      What android app notifications were you trying to push to the watch?

      • David Lusby

        I was hoping to see if my watch needed to update the software or firmware

        • Ah, as far as I know the watch doesn’t have any firmware updates available for it. It’s very low spec and running a custom OS made for such devices.

          It’s a very basic device, though for 1/10th the cost of a Samsung Gear or Moto 360 it’s not bad. The main thing I wish it had was Gorilla Glass.

          The app I linked to is just someone’s modified version of the standard app, which adds the app push notification capability to your android device.

          • David Lusby

            Ya it’s not a bad watch for its price it’s more than I expected actually lol…I actually deleted the mediatek apps and now I’m just running that nicer looking one and connects way faster now as well

          • Yeah the mediatek app I found was way worse at staying connected.

          • David Lusby

            Ya they were then I downloaded this one you suggested and no problems…my watch don’t look like your pictured one mine is black and metal with a camera and a hard push button

          • That was just a stock photo. Mine’s also black with a hard button, though no camera. I suspect that the many many makes and models out there are basically the same under the bonnet, and can use the same app.

  • giant4203

    So I don’t expect that it does this, but does it connect with google maps at all? (like show the map on the display while you’re using GPS on your phone?)

    • Heh,’fraud not. Closest would be pushing maps notifications to the watch, though it would probably be one of those types of notifications that causes the phone to vibrate(receive new notifications) constantly.

  • agam

    The “smart watch” android app also works quite well with it.

    • True – that’s the name the BTNotifier app displays in android as, once installed. It has a green circle with a white speech bubble in it, with an exclamation mark inside that, as it’s icon.

      I think BTNotifier is just an earlier iteration of the standard SmartWatch app – before they stuffed up app push notifications.

  • Monica Kumar

    Can I download games in it

    • Sorry, no, the watch firmware is pretty limited

      • Monica Kumar

        With which android version can it connect to?

        • Monica Kumar

          Can you please suggest some other smart watches of this range in which I can even download games

          • I’d seriously doubt any of the cheap smartwatches could play any games (apart from any simple ones they may come with). I’d expect you’d have to get a Google Gear smartwatch from Samsung, Motorola and the like to have a chance at that. They at least run a (probably cut down) version of android (or Tizen).

        • I’ve had it connect to my HTC Wildfire, which from memory is Gingerbread (2.3). I’d assume anything newer than that with Bluetooth should be fine.

  • Monica Kumar

    Can I download games in it?

  • Monica Kumar

    Sorry for disturbing you again and again.
    But, can the watch show time in analogue mode?

    • Yeah, that it can do. It has 4 watch faces – 2 digital and 2 analog style.

  • Dave Theraspberry

    Well, so far I am in about……4 months, and I just stumbled on this.

    Here’s to not getting malware on my phone – You sir, are a god for finding this. Even the English itself is more readable hahaha.

    Also, already – went from three different apps, this APK file you provided is THE best…..

    Thanks!

    • ben

      Hehe, Cheers.

      I got fed up with trying to remember where I found it.

      I tried a couple of other apps on Google Play and only one other came close.

  • Machiavelis

    Hi , I am wandering 2 thing:

    A) Is it possible to have a better notification system than having to click an “app” to see the notification?
    B) Is it possible to keep the watch connected but to remove the automatic bluetooth connection for the phone… (it’s soooo bad, I can’t hear anything, and now by default, I need to answer tell the person to hold it for a sec and manually remove the bluetooth from the phone.

    thanks

    • ben

      A) normally the notifications should appear on the main screen of the watch(the notifier should come to the fore) when there are new notifications. However you do have to have enabled notifications for the phone app in question before they will start to appear.

      B) I’d suggest one of 2 things – 1. In your phone’s Bluetooth settings, click on the settings for the connected watch, and deselect phone audio. I’m guessing that if media audio is also deselected it will probably disconnect the watch though, or 2. When a call comes in press the button which deselects bluetooth/headset (can’t remember the exact term). Not an elegant solution though.

      If the watch is too quiet, when a call comes in try ramping up the volume (using your phone’s volume buttons) – it often solves it

    • A) Not really. From memory when a new notification comes in the phone vibrates and displays it, but could be remembering it wrong.
      B) You can change what bluetooth modes it connects to your phone with (in your phone’s bluetooth settings). From memory it defaults to Audio and Phone – you can simply uncheck Phone.
      Can’t be sure it remembers those settings between connections though.

  • Steve Bates

    Hi Ben,

    I see you have moved on from the U8. If you can recall, did the U8 get notifications from gmail, SMS? I have the BTNotify apk from your blog installed, and phone messages come through, music works, contacts list is there, but not anything else. If I open the “messages” app on the watch all I get is “Please install BTnotifier app in remote”, even though I have already installed it. Ditto for camera. My phone is a Motorola Moto G Next Gen, using Android Lollipop 5.02

    thanks,
    Steve

    • ben

      Yeah moved on to a Xiaomi Mi Band at moment, although waiting on something else to arrive to tinker with 😉

      From memory it handled basic SMS and calls differently to every other notification (e.g. Google Talk/Hangouts, GMail, etc). All those others were just lumped as “notifications” and appeared as such.

      From memory the “Please install” message meant that the watch wasn’t set (in the BT Notify app) to push notifications to the watch, or that android hadn’t allowed notifications or similar access to the watch (can’t remember which android menu it lives in, and it moves with android versions).

      Likely something like Security > Notifications or similar.

    • Yeah have moved on, but will see what I can remember.
      From memory it did get notifications from all those. You may have to poke around your phone’s settings for Notifications and perhaps Accessibility. One or both of those areas control which attached devices have access to such messages.

  • Jay

    Why can’t I get my messages on my watch? It says I have to install “BT APPS”, but I already have.

    • ben

      Yeah it often says that even with the app installed. Usually it just means either the bluetooth connection is down or the app needs permissions to your notifications etc ( from memory Security > Notifications )

  • Ali Bukhari Shah

    Hi Ben. I downloaded the app you suggested however it gets disconnected after a while (works for a bit when I restart the watch). Can you please suggest another app that works well? Or any other solution, for that matter?

    Thanks! 🙂

  • Christina Beaverson

    Is it possible to get Runkeeper or other such apps to be viewable on the watch?

    • Sorry, like most cheap no name brand watches, it’s OS is pretty limited. Most similar smartwatches have a pedometer feature built in, but it’s always rudimentary and manual. I’ve found a Xiaomi Mi Band to be far superior for watching steps and sleep – also lasts about 30+ days between charges.