Huawei Watch

Update: The Huawei Watch is still available and it's nowhere near as expensive as it once was. However, there's also now more competition, including the Huawei Watch 2. Our review has been updated to reflect this.

The Huawei Watch was a hotly anticipated premium Android Wear device, it has a fully circular screen, it's made from expensive materials, and the battery life is actually half decent.

Released after the Apple Watch, the Huawei Watch is part of the third generation of Android Wear devices. It's got a few new tricks that have been picked up from its Apple counterpart, but in truth Google's wearable OS has plenty of its own ideas up its sleeve.

It's also since been replaced by the Huawei Watch 2, so you'll need to be looking for this as a real bargain way to get into Android Wear.

At launch prices started at around £299 (US$349.99, AU$549), making it one of the more expensive Android Wear watches, though it's since dropped substantially and can be found for around £175 in the UK. Prices don't seem to have dropped as much in the US, but you can still often pick it up for well under $300.

But it's still not the cheapest wearable around, and it's getting on a bit, so is the Huawei Watch worth the cash, or is your money better spent on a cheaper Android Wear device such as the uncannily similar looking Motorola Moto 360? Or something newer like the Huawei Watch 2?

Google doesn’t let device manufacturers customise its wearable UI, so in terms of functionality it’s identical to most other Android Wear smartwatches.

As with all Android Wear devices, the Huawei Watch will work with any Android handset running Android 4.3 or above – and it'll work with iOS devices running iOS 9 or higher.

In terms of specifications, the Huawei Watch is reasonably well equipped with a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 CPU, 512MB of RAM, 4GB of internal storage and a 300mAh battery. That's on par with more recent Android Wear smartwatches.

Display

  • Sharp, fully circular screen
  • Bright and vibrant

The Huawei Watch features a fully circular AMOLED display measuring 1.4-inches in diameter. That makes it slightly larger than the LG G Watch Urbane, larger than the 42mm Moto 360, but smaller than the 46mm Moto 360.

The device impresses with a high resolution of 400 x 400 pixels. That gives a pixel density of 286ppi, which is on par with the Apple Watch's retina display (290ppi or 302ppi for the 42mm watch).

The extra pixels really stand out when putting the Huawei Watch next to other circular Android Wear watches from the same sort of period, including the Moto 360 and LG G Watch Urbane. It's visibly much sharper, and clearer as a result.

However, more recent Android Wear watches such as the Huawei Watch 2 and LG Watch Sport have it beat.

Huawei Watch Screen

It's our opinion that circular displays are more aesthetically appealing than the square displays of the likes of the Apple Watch and Sony Smartwatch 3. It looks more like a traditional, analogue watch, but we understand some people prefer square watches.

One advantage of having a completely circular screen (as opposed to the Moto 360, with its flat tyre), is the ability to use white watch faces without ruining the design.

During my time with the watch I had the brightness setting on level 3 (out of 5), I never had an issue with the screen in direct sunlight, but the brightness can be boosted temporarily with 'Brightness Boost' if you are having problems.

The colours are vibrant, and really pop from the screen.

With ambient mode on, after several seconds of inactivity the screen will dim, however, the time will still be displayed with a reduced interface. It's a useful feature that allows you to view the time without needing to raise your arm and flick your wrist to wake the screen (like with the Apple Watch).

Design and comfort

  • Chunky but stylish design
  • Water resistant and includes a heart rate monitor

Early smartwatches were known for having awful designs, just take a look at the Samsung Gear Live or LG G Watch, but thankfully the current crop are all actually, dare I say it, attractive?

The circular Android Wear watches are not only starting to resemble more traditional timepieces, but they're also starting to get smaller. If you're a man and already a regular watch wearer, the size of the Huawei Watch shouldn't be an issue. On a woman, it could seem a little bulky.

Huawei Watch Thickness

It only comes in one size, measuring 42mm in diameter and 11.3mm thick. That's the same diameter as the smaller Moto 360, but the 360 is 0.1mm thicker. Strangely though, on the wrist you'd swear the Moto 360 is thinner.

Perhaps it's the strap lugs that make the Huawei Watch appear chunkier, we're not sure.

Ultimately, it won't look out of place on most male wrists, but just like every other smartwatch we've tried (bar the 38mm Apple Watch) it may look out of place on more slender arms.

The Huawei Watch is reasonably lightweight. As in, its weight is noticeable, but it doesn't feel too heavy in day to day use.

Taking a leaf from Apple's book, there are several different design options for the watch, allowing you to personalise it to your tastes. First off, customers have the option of three finishes, gold, silver, and black.

Huawei Watch Design Options

The gold casing comes with either a brown alligator leather band, or a gold link band. The silver case comes with either a black leather strap, a steel link strap, or a silver Milanese loop. And the black casing comes with either a black leather band, black steel link strap, or a black Milanese loop.

We reviewed the silver steel casing with the black leather band, and must say, it's our favourite configuration of the bunch.

The leather strap is one of the best I've seen come with a smartwatch, it's soft, flexible, and doesn't wrinkle.

If you want to further customise the watch, you can add any 18mm watch strap. It's a nice option to have, especially if you like to stand out. Changing the strap is incredibly simple, just pull back the release mechanism and it'll pop out.

The Huawei Watch is still one of the more premium-feeling Android Wear watches. It's solid, the materials are high quality and the design is understated and sophisticated. Unlike the Moto 360, the screen is fully round, too.

Huawei Watch Heart Rate Sensor

The crown button, located at the 2 o’clock position, acts as a home button, also waking and dimming the screen. Positioned where it is makes the button much more ergonomic than having it placed at 3 o’clock, as it requires less rotation of the non-dominant wrist.

On the rear of the watch you’ll find a centralised optical heart rate monitor and four gold contacts for the charging dock.

The Huawei watch is rated IP67, which means it’s dust resistant and will survive half an hour in up to one metre of water. While it’s not necessarily a watch you’d want to wear while swimming, you could happily wear it in the shower or during torrential rain.

Battery life

  • 300mAh battery
  • Battery life is simply okay

Huawei has equipped the Watch with a 300mAh battery, which is actually quite small for such a thick device. They claim this is good for around two days use with Ambient Mode turned off, and 1.5 days with Ambient Mode turned on.

I found this to be more or less correct, depending on usage, although, even with Ambient Mode on, I’d guess you could stretch out around two days usage, if you’re not doing anything battery intensive, such as navigation.

Most of this is used by the AMOLED screen and background OS, but in idle the watch uses very little power. In fact, the smartwatch uses so little power, I charged the watch on Friday, left it on a desk over the weekend, and the device still had power on Monday.

Huawei Watch on Charger

In short, the battery life is merely okay, it's certainly not a stand out performer.

Charging the battery to full takes around an hour, which isn't bad. The charging connector looks similar to the Apple Watch power cable, except, instead of wireless charging this magnetic plate has four little gold connectors. It can't be easily knocked out, and the magnets make locating the connectors simple.

Interface

  • Has been updated to Android Wear 2.0
  • Interface is much the same as other Android Wear watches

We weren't sure about Android Wear when it first released, it was clunky, and didn't really do much. But thanks to frequent updates from Google, the OS is really coming into its own.

The on-screen experience compared to every other Android Wear watch is almost identical. That's because Google doesn't let hardware manufacturers apply their own UI skins. In some ways that's good news, because it creates a seamless experience between all Android Wear devices. It does however make the smartwatches samey, and difficult to differentiate between them.

The Huawei Watch ran the most recent version of Android Wear, 5.1.1 when it launched, and now packs Android Wear 2.0. 

The update brought with it some important features such as iPhone compatibility, Wi-Fi, watch-to-watch messaging, and gesture support.

Android Wear 2.0 also includes tweaks to the interface, standalone apps, and widgets known as 'complications.'

The UI is your basic Google Now-esque information cards affair, which pop up vertically from the bottom of the screen. You can scroll through cards with either your finger or a flick of your wrist (in case you don't have a spare hand).

Huawei Watch Quick Settings Menu

You can swipe from the left to view more information about the card, or in the opposite direction to dismiss the card.

Swiping from the left on the homescreen will reveal your list of applications, with the three most recent apps displayed at the top. Swipe from the left again reveals your contacts page. Tap on a contact and you'll have the option to call, sent an email, or send a text.

Swiping down from the homescreen will bring you to some quick settings.

The Android Wear interface certainly isn't perfect, there can be a bit too much swiping and flicking involved, but if you find the Apple Watch interface too fiddly, it's an improvement over that.

It's still reasonably difficult to receive the information you want, in the order you want it in. 

The order the cards appear in is down to Google Now, which tries to predict what you want to see. So for example, if you're leaving work it may show you transport directions, or recent emails, but if you want to know the weather you'll have to scroll past irrelevant cards to reach the one you want.

Huawei Watch Apps Page

This is partially mitigated with voice control, with Android Wear watches constantly listening out for the command 'OK Google'. This works just like voice control on your smartphone. 

It's fast, and comes into its own when you're driving, running, or at home, but there's still a stigma about talking to your wrist in public (such as at work, or a quiet train carriage) that makes it feel awkward.

Where manufacturers can stand out is with custom apps and watch faces. Huawei does a reasonably good job at this.

The watch faces that come as standard with the Huawei Watch are really impressive, among some of the best I've seen bundled with a smartwatch.

There's a varied mix, with some very traditional looking faces, with the only downside being you can't customise them, such the ability to change the accent colours (which you can with the Moto 360).

Specs and Performance

  • Generally smooth performance
  • Can lag when opening apps

The Huawei Watch comes packing a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor and 512MB of RAM. That might not sound like much, but it's enough to run Google's low powered operating system smoothly.

There is a perceptible lag when opening apps, perhaps of around two seconds. It's slightly annoying, but it's manageable, and only apparent because we're used to the latest smartphones doing everything instantly.

Huawei Watch

The Huawei Watch has 4GB of storage on board for music and apps.

The internal specifications and performance are on par with comparable watches from Motorola, Asus and Sony and not far off the latest watches. There really is very little to differentiate between them.

In terms of sensors, Huawei has included a 6-axis motion sensor (gyroscope + accelerometer), barometer, and the previously mentioned heart rate sensor.

There's no GPS, so it's not a going to serve as a proper running watch like the Moto 360 Sport, although, with sophisticated styling I'd say it's more of a dress watch than a fitness wearable.

Saying that, it'll still count your steps and monitor your heart rate throughout the day, feeding that data into Google Fit.

The Huawei Watch connects to your smartphone with Bluetooth 4.1 BLE (which stands for Bluetooth low energy) and also features Wi-Fi.

Wi-Fi isn't new for an Android Wear smartwatch, but it's a great inclusion, meaning the watch will continue to receive notifications as long as both have access to the internet.

Apps

  • A growing number of apps are available
  • Several useful fitness apps come pre-installed

Google Play is pretty well populated with Android Wear apps now, there are big names like WhatsApp, Endomondo, Tinder, and IFTTT to name a few. Let's put it this way, if you need to do something on your Android Wear smartwatch, there's probably an app for it. 

Having said that, Android Wear still lags behind the Apple Watch in terms of top quality, big name apps.

The preinstalled Google apps are fairly standard, Calendar, Hangouts, Maps, and Google Fit.

Huawei has also pre-installed three fitness focused apps named 'Heart Rate', 'Fitness Tracking' and 'Daily Tracking'. They're nicely designed applications, and I could see myself using them in the long term, but fitness enthusiasts may want to look elsewhere.

Huawei Watch showing Weather App

Compatibility

  • Works with both Android and iOS
  • iOS compatibility isn't perfect

Just like all of the most recent Android Wear smartwatches, the Huawei Watch is compatible with Android smartphones and iOS devices running iOS 9 or higher.

iOS compatibility is more limited than Android, but you can still do a lot, including downloading apps, getting notifications on your wrist, and you can even use Google Assistant.

There are some limitations though, for example you won't be able to reply to iMessages on your wrist.

As such, using an Android Wear smartwatch with an iPhone is no substitute for an Apple Watch yet. Eventually, Apple might open its APIs further to allow deeper integration with iPhone apps, but considering they want to sell as many Apple Watches as possible, you shouldn't hold your breath.

There’s a lot to like about the Huawei Watch, but it’s by no means perfect. Here are our final thoughts on the device.

We liked

I really like the premium design of the Huawei Watch, it's understated, sophisticated and wouldn't look out of place underneath a dinner jacket. The materials they've used feel great as well, with a solid build and soft touch leather. 

Of course, design is always subjective, and some in the office think the watch looks too bland.

Where the Huawei Watch really stands out is with hardware, the processor and memory were the best around, and the screen was one of the best I'd seen on a smartwatch. The AMOLED is bright, sharp and delivers strong colours. All these aspects are less impressive now, but it still competes with the latest wearables.

Android Wear is also worth shouting about, Google's OS has come on leaps and bounds since the Huawei Watch launched, with more polished UI navigation and new features. These updates aren't exclusive to the Huawei Watch, but it's a positive trend if you're considering an Android Wear smartwatch.

We disliked

Those premium materials and top specs come at a price, literally. The Huawei Watch launched as the most expensive Android Wear smartwatch at £299 (US$349.99, around AU$549). 

That was a tough sell considering all Android Wear smartwatches had exactly the same functionality, including the Sony Smartwatch 3, which can be picked up for £130 (around US$170, AU$230).

However, now it's a lot cheaper it's worth thinking about this watch if you want a stylish entry into the Android Wear system.

Battery life is also a bit of an issue, as with most smartwatches. While around two days is on par with most Android Wear smartwatches, it's still not ideal.

There are no size options for the Huawei Watch, which is a shame if you've got small wrists, and the customisation options lack taste.

Needless to say, if you're looking for a GPS running watch replacement, this isn't it. The watch doesn't feature GPS, and it just looks a bit too posh to take jogging in the park.

Verdict

The Huawei Watch is one of the better smartwatches in the market, but then again it should be, because it was also one of the most expensive at launch.

The extra money does mean you get more premium materials, build, and specs. There's no question the circular screen is still very impressive.

Android Wear improved a lot, but it's identical on all devices, so that price isn't really buying you any more functionality.

It's a 'nice' addition that the current crop of Android Wear watches are now compatible with iPhone, although functionality is limited, and you're better off with either an Apple Watch, or getting an Android phone.

If you're not sure about Android Wear, and want to test the waters first, there are cheaper options available with the same functionality and, in the case of the Moto 360, a remarkably similar look. And if you're fully sold on the OS then there are newer, arguably better models available.

But the Huawei Watch is no longer the pricey option it once was, making it a decent middle ground.

There are plenty of strong alternatives to the Huawei Watch, such as the following three.

Huawei Watch 2

The Huawei Watch 2 is a newer, more feature-packed and more expensive alternative to the original Huawei Watch, but it’s not an improvement in every sense.

The design is less premium and in our review we noted that the experience isn’t that user-friendly and the battery life isn’t great.

Still, it retains the circular screen, ups the pixel density even higher and adds GPS, NFC and optionally even LTE into the mix, so if you want a wearable that can do it all this is worth considering.

Moto 360 (2015)

The Moto 360 (2015) has been out a while, and like the Huawei Watch it’s far more affordable than it once was. It’s also got a circular screen (though one with a flat tire).

Still, it’s otherwise among the better-looking Android Wear smartwatches and it comes in multiple sizes, which the Huawei Watch doesn’t.

The specs are much the same as the Huawei Watch though, so unless you want a smaller size or find this for substantially less money the Huawei is probably a better buy, since it has a fully circular screen.

LG Watch Style

The LG Watch Style is a newer competitor, but the price is kept down thanks to the absence of extras like GPS, which means you can pick it up for not too much more than Huawei’s wearable.

The Watch Style is also a slimmer, sleeker device, and like the Huawei Watch it has a fully circular screen, though as with so many smartwatches the battery life is mediocre.

Spencer Hart
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