When we first laid our eyes on the Huawei Watch back in February, the next-gen Moto 360 models and the LG Watch Urbane sequel were merely a twinkle in Google’s eye, and it was easy to be blown-away by the Chinese contender. However, 8 months is a long time in the world of wearables and while the Huawei Watch is still a great looking Android Wear option with a cracking display, it’s no game changer. The delay between announcing and shipping will have dampened any chance of Huawei making a major dent at the Android Wear top table. Things would be much simpler if the price wasn’t so high. $349 for the entry-level model is about $50 too much and $799 for the top-model is plain daft. Huawei wants to take on Apple in the Western world – but it won’t do so by charging Apple-esque prices for its first-gen devices.
- Great, vibrant display
- Fashion conscious design
- Lots of customisation on offer
- Nice Jawbone compatibility
- No GPS for running
- Price-tag is too high
- Heart rate monitoring is useless
- No ambient light sensor
Despite Huawei launching a plethora of good-looking, high-spec’d and generally well received smartphones over the last couple of years, the Chinese company is struggling somewhat to establish itself as a desirable brand outside of its homeland.
Its first few cracks at the wearable market – most notably its duo of TalkBand trackers – were pretty naff, so we raised an eyebrow when it unveiled what looked like being a real jewel in the Android Wear earlier this year.
But a long time has passed since then – so does living with the Huawei Watch live up to its pre-launch hype? Read on to find out…
Design and build
The Huawei Watch packs scratch-resistant sapphire crystal glass, like theApple Watch, and a cold-forged, stainless steel unibody design. It comes in gold, silver or black and there are both fine-grain leather and cold-forged 316L stainless steel strap options.
This is no rubber and plastic hatchet job – the Huawei Watch is stylish and well-made. With a diameter of 42mm and a thickness of 11.3mm, it’s a touch more compact than the new 42mm Moto 360. The bezels are also just 0.6mm thick, so you get more display real-estate too – 1.4 inches compared to 1.37 on the littler Moto.
The rose-gold plated model – that we’ve also spent some time with – features a bezel with an extra textured finish, making it an altogether prettier wearable than the two plainer, minimalist watches. It glints in the light and feels more like a piece of – admittedly fairly weighty jewellery.
Clearly Huawei is aiming to be the first genuine premium smartwatch from the Google stable but, while the hardened glass and the mix of leather and stainless steel are a million miles from the original Wear models from 2014 – we don’t expect Tag Heuer to be shaking in its boots.
High-end it may well be – luxury is certainly is not. Yes, it may be a touch fancier than the likes of the LG Watch Urbane and the ZenWatch 2, but it’s not all that different, and certainly not as superior as its price-tag suggests.
The Huawei Watch walks the round LG display path, rather than limping along Moto ‘s ‘flat-tyre’ avenue – in reference to the black dead area at the bottom of the 360’s screen. The AMOLED display is a 1.4-inch 400 x 400 one with a ppi count of 286. That’s the highest on an Android Wear device to date – although to soon-to-launch LG Watch Urbane Second Edition will trump it with a 480 x 480 panel at 348ppi.
Huawei’s effort is made all the more impressive thanks to a 10,000:1 contrast ratio. Colours are vibrant, text appears crisp and it even holds up pretty well under bright-lights.
Side by side with the smaller Moto 360 2 – its closest rival in terms of aesthetics – it’s evidently a better display. Not just because it offers genuine 360-degree visuals, but because everything just looks sharper. There’s no ambient light sensor, however – so you’d always have to have the display to a preset brightness setting that doesn’t account for your situation.
The display is always-on and there are almost 50 pre-loaded watch faces, not counting the hundreds officially on offer from Google Play. The supplied faces range from a little boring to quite vibrant, and certainly support the overall build quality.
Obviously, this being an Android Wear watch, Google Fit is pre-loaded on the device and will do all the things it would do on another Google-powered smartwatch. However, Huawei has decided to have a crack at the fitness front itself, with the Watch pre-loaded with the Daily Tracking app.
Essentially, it does the same thing, but with slightly nicer graphics. Once you enter your personal metrics, it will keep score of your steps, calorie burn and the amount of times you stand up during a day. You can set all your own goals and Huawei also claims the Watch will know whether you are walking, running or climbing – we had mixed results on this front though.
So far, so pointless – but thanks to Huawei’s partnership with Jawbone, the UP platform is compatible for Huawei’s smartwatch. You can select the Huawei Watch as your device within Jawbone’s app and tap into its rich graphs and personal coaching platform, which is great – especially if you don’t own one of the latest UP bands. And it’s the Huawei fitness stats that are imported, not the generic Android Wear ones.
There’s no GPS on board though – so you can’t treat the Huawei Watch as a dedicated running assistant, as you can with the Sony SmartWatch 3 and the new Moto 360 Sport. For the price-tag we’d have expected this connectivity to be included.
Like many of its AW rivals, the Huawei Watch has an optical heart rate tracker and, like many of its AW rivals, it’s a totally useless feature. It’s just not accurate enough to rely on for a resting bpm reading and, because it will only count a pulse on very still wrists, it’s an absolute waste of time when it comes to active heart rate monitoring.
Android Wear experience
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to critique individual Android Wear devices as the usability generally boils down to how well you can get on with Google’s wearable OS. Some people like Android Wear just fine, some people think it’s the absolute pits. Opinion is even divided on the Wareable team.
However, what is clear that Android Wear is still very much a work in progress and is heavily reliant on the updates rolling out of Mountain View.
The good news, with regards to the Huawei Watch specifically, is that it’s bang up to date with the latest version of the smartwatch OS. That means Wi-Fi independence, the new Together features, and official iOS support. Yep – you can officially use the Huawei Watch with an iPhone. You’ll get a stripped back experience mind; be sure to check out our guide to what’s what with iOS and Android Wear.
Hardware and battery life
The IP67 water resistant Huawei Watch is powered by a 1.2GHz Qualcomm processor and 512MB of RAM and, like all Android Wear smartwatches, has 4GB of on board storage. That IP rating means dust shouldn’t be an issue and it will survive a dunk in up to 1m of water for half an hour.
The other numbers are kind of irrelevant – we’re not yet at a stage where processor clock speeds and memory affect the performance of a smartwatch. Especially one running software as vanilla as Android Wear is right now.
Huawei quotes a battery life of 1.5 days, and we can’t really argue with that. We’ve had it on for a week now, with brightness up full-whack, and with all the connectivity options firing, and we’ve charged it five times.
The dock is a tad fiddly because you have to get the pins completely lined up before it will begin charging and it’s easy to think it’s connected when it’s not. Once connected though, it’s a quick charge – flat to full in just over an hour.