Huawei Watch 2 Review: We’ve been wearing the Huawei Watch 2, one of the first Android Wear 2.0 smartwatches, for well over a week now. Here’s what we think of this smart and feature-packed wearable, loaded with some cool fitness tracking tools and impressive functionality.
One of the first smartwatches we ever truly loved was the original Huawei Watch, which hit the UK at the end of 2015. This Android Wear device boasted a premium design and some solid specs, for a satisfying user experience. Of course it wasn’t particularly cheap, but then you (often) get what you pay for.
Fast forward to 2017 and Huawei has finally launched its new wearable, the Huawei Watch 2. Packing the latest Android Wear 2.0 OS, plus an all-new design and updated specs, the Watch 2 is a step up from the original smartwatch in almost every respect. But is it worth your cash, especially if you’re interested in the fitness features?
Here’s our in-depth Huawei Watch 2 review.
Huawei Watch 2 review: Design
The first Huawei Watch was a good-looking wrist rocket and the Watch 2 continues where the original left off, delivering an attractive but functional design.
If you pay a bit extra for the Huawei Watch 2 Classic edition, you’ll get a stainless steel band for a more premium finish. Sadly the standard Watch 2 is all-plastic model, with nary a sniff of metal outside of the backing and buttons. But you can at least pick it up in a couple of different colours, namely black, orange and the rather enticing ‘concrete grey’.
Despite being made of plastic, the standard watch still feels solid enough, happily surviving all kinds of punishment without showing signs of wear. The tough Gorilla Glass screen is sunken into the body, so the glass is doubly protected from damage if you smack your arm off something. At 40g the Watch 2 is pleasingly light too, despite its quite chunky build.
On the right edge of the watch you’ll find two metal buttons, which are easy enough to find when you’re groping in the dark. The top button brings up a list of available apps while the bottom can be configured to do what you like.
You get a standard plastic ‘sports strap’ with the Huawei Watch 2, which can be replaced with any other 20mm wrist strap. This is certainly comfortable enough and holds tight, adjusting well to wrists of different sizes. It’s also a bit ugly however, and feels rather cheap. If you’re flush enough to afford the Classic edition, you’ll be treated to a leather 22mm strap instead.
With its certified IP68 water resistance, the Watch 2 can be kept on your wrist during swim sessions, showering and everything else involving moist conditions. It’s a feature we expect from wearables these days, although surprisingly quite a few trackers still don’t come with a water resistant design.
Check out our unboxing and hands-on review video below for a closer look at the Watch’s design and features.
Huawei Watch 2 review: Screen
Housed in that chunky frame is the Huawei Watch 2’s 1.2-inch screen. It’s a circular panel like most other smartwatch screens, but unlike the Moto 360 there’s no ugly black bar at the bottom of the display.
Images are perfectly sharp thanks to the crisp 390×390 pixel resolution, which is particularly evident when you’re punishing yourself with one of the built-in workouts. Those animations are pleasingly pixel-free, although we’d have liked the colours to be punchier like on the Samsung Gear S3.
Still, viewing angles are strong, so you can glance at your wrist from an awkward angle and clearly make out the time and other info. On auto-brightness the Watch 2’s display is clearly visible at all times too, even under harsh glare.
Huawei Watch 2 review: Android Wear 2.0 and other features
The Huawei Watch 2 is the first smartwatch we’ve reviewed to sport the latest Android Wear 2.0, and in this incarnation we’re finally starting to see the true potential of Google’s wearable OS.
For some reason the standard watch faces are a bit crap. Thankfully you can quickly and easily add new ones with a swipe of your finger (without even touching your phone). These almost all feature complications, like the Apple Watch 2, which are configurable shortcuts to your favourite apps.
Notifications from your chosen apps will pop up on demand, complete with a buzz to alert you. You can answer or reject calls via your Huawei Watch 2, check out emails and other messages and even respond, via your voice, pre-set replies or a dinky on-screen keyboard. This is actually impressively usable in a pinch, thanks to some rather good predictive correction. But honestly, we’re struggling to think of a situation where typing on a tiny watch screen would be preferable to simply using your phone, unless the handset is dead.
Fitness enthusiasts will find plenty to enjoy in the Watch 2 as well. This device has the full complement of sensors, including a 3-axis A+G sensor, gyroscope and compass, plus a barometer to boot. You can track your steps and try and beat your pre-set daily goal, as with all standard fitness wearables. Plus the built-in heart rate sensor can automatically track your ticker throughout the day or be called upon to figure out your recovery rate.
We’re pleased to see GPS support built into the Watch 2 also. This is great for everyday life, allowing you to navigate without connecting to your phone. But it’s even better when you want to record your run or cycle sessions, offering you the freedom of leaving your mobile at home.
With Google Fit, you can do loads more besides simply tracking your steps, calorie burn, heart rate and other stats over time. The Fit Workout app allows you to get stuck into specific workouts and even participate in daily challenges, to see if you can improve on your previous press-up, sit-up and squat sessions. The Watch even counts out your efforts with impressive precision, so you don’t need to keep track in your head.
And of course, you’re free to download your own preferred fitness apps and other smartwatch apps via the Google Play Store, which now comes built into Android Wear. With 4GB of storage space, you’ve got plenty of room for fresh software. You can also use that space to carry around some tunes for your training sessions, to leave the phone at home.
You can connect the Watch 2 directly to your WiFi network or use the eSIM to hook up to a mobile network, with full support for LTE connectivity. This way, the Watch 2 works as a stand-alone device, even when your phone is dead or otherwise unavailable.
Lastly there’s NFC support, so you can use Android Pay with the Huawei Watch 2.
Check out our Android Wear 2.0 review for more info on the latest features.
The only issue I had with the Watch 2 was its stubborn reluctance to display my Google calendar entries. All of the permissions were set correctly through the Android Wear app, so I’m looking into other possible reasons why this might be happening. Stay tuned.
Huawei Watch 2 review: Performance and battery life
Packed inside the Huawei Watch 2’s meaty frame is a Qualcomm MSM8909W chipset, running at 1.1 GHz. This is backed by 768MB of RAM and after ten days of full-time use, I’m pretty happy with the performance.
You will witness the occasional little pause as you wait for an app to load or a menu to pop up, so definitely don’t expect a silky smooth delay-free experience. But then, we’re yet to review a smartwatch that offers the same stutter-free performance as a mobile phone, and that includes the magnificent Apple Watch 2.
With a 420mAh battery on board, you can expect longevity comparable to Apple’s most recent watch. I managed two full days of use between charges with mobile data turned off but everything else (WiFi, Bluetooth, NFC) activated. That includes a reasonable amount of app use and lots of fiddling around with notifications.
If you turn on the modem, you’ll still get a day and a half of life between charges. While knocking off most of the features and using the Watch 2 just as a watch (what??) gives you close to a week of functionality.
You can charge the Huawei Watch 2 again using the bundled dock, which is similar again to the Apple Watch 2’s charger. However, Huawei’s is better designed, with a better grip as well as the magnetic pairing to ensure the watch isn’t accidentally knocked away.
Huawei Watch 2 review: Verdict
The Watch 2 packs all of the hardware features you’d expect from a modern premium smartwatch, backed by Google’s ever-evolving and increasingly effective Android Wear OS. The standard strap might be a bit cheap and ugly, but that’s easily fixed and the overall design is chunky but lovable.
You can pick up the Huawei Watch 2 soon in the UK. Precise UK pricing hasn’t been revealed, but the standard WiFi-only model costs €329, the LTE model costs €379 and the Classic costs €399.