Smartwatches

Review: Huawei Watch

Review: Huawei Watch
Gizmag reviews the Huawei Watch, a fashionable smartwatch that works with both Android phones and iPhones
Gizmag reviews the Huawei Watch, a fashionable smartwatch that works with both Android phones and iPhones
View 11 Images
The Huawei Watch easily lasts more than a day, even with its always-on clock face setting turned on
1/11
The Huawei Watch easily lasts more than a day, even with its always-on clock face setting turned on
Huawei's default watch faces complement the watch's physical design
2/11
Huawei's default watch faces complement the watch's physical design
We reviewed the entry-level (black leather band) version of the Huawei Watch
3/11
We reviewed the entry-level (black leather band) version of the Huawei Watch
Android Wear is basically the same across all devices, leaving variables like style, battery life, display quality and price to determine your decision
4/11
Android Wear is basically the same across all devices, leaving variables like style, battery life, display quality and price to determine your decision
The leather band in this model is thick, stitched and feels high-end
5/11
The leather band in this model is thick, stitched and feels high-end
Even with the always-on setting turned on (pictured) our review unit's battery only dropped about 3-4 percentage points per hour
6/11
Even with the always-on setting turned on (pictured) our review unit's battery only dropped about 3-4 percentage points per hour
The Huawei Watch has a fully round 1.4-inch AMOLED display
7/11
The Huawei Watch has a fully round 1.4-inch AMOLED display
At 11.3 mm (0.44-inch) thick, the Huawei Watch isn't as thin as many regular timekeeping watches
8/11
At 11.3 mm (0.44-inch) thick, the Huawei Watch isn't as thin as many regular timekeeping watches
The Huawei Watch has a heart rate sensor on its backside, and quick-release sliders to easily remove the watch band
9/11
The Huawei Watch has a heart rate sensor on its backside, and quick-release sliders to easily remove the watch band
The Huawei Watch is available now, starting at US$349 for the model pictured in this review
10/11
The Huawei Watch is available now, starting at US$349 for the model pictured in this review
Gizmag reviews the Huawei Watch, a fashionable smartwatch that works with both Android phones and iPhones
11/11
Gizmag reviews the Huawei Watch, a fashionable smartwatch that works with both Android phones and iPhones

Good looks can do wonders for any gadget, but when it comes to wearable gadgets, an attractive design can change everything. Meet the Huawei Watch: a familiar Android Wear experience on the inside, but the best-looking smartwatch design to date on the outside.

As far as function goes, once you've met one Android Wear watch, you've pretty much met them all. The Huawei (pronounced "wah-way") Watch is no exception, with the same software you'll find on predecessors like the LG Watch Urbane and Moto 360. A brand new experience this is not.

But when it comes to design – holy cats, is this one damn good-looking piece of high-tech jewelry. No longer is "good looking for a smartwatch" the best praise we can dish out. Hell, I might still wear the Huawei Watch if all it did was tell the time.

Even with the always-on setting turned on (pictured) our review unit's battery only dropped about 3-4 percentage points per hour
Even with the always-on setting turned on (pictured) our review unit's battery only dropped about 3-4 percentage points per hour

You start with its fully round, 1.4-inch AMOLED display. It has a solid 400 x 400 resolution (286 pixels per inch), and should hold up well to bangs and scrapes, as it's covered with sapphire (we've accidentally bumped it against several hard surfaces, and its screen is still in mint condition).

The Huawei Watch's display is less sharp than the Apple Watch's ~326 PPI Retina Display, and when we hold it close to our eyes we can notice some pixels. But Huawei's screen is by far the sharpest we've seen on a round Android Wear watch, and from a regular watch-viewing distance (about a foot or longer from the eyes), it looks gorgeous.

Huawei's default watch faces complement the watch's physical design
Huawei's default watch faces complement the watch's physical design

Its casing is made of stainless steel, with a much smaller bezel than you'll find on LG's two round smartwatches. We prefer this bigger screen/smaller bezel look: your eye goes straight to that sharp screen showcasing Huawei's beautiful (and complementary to the watch's design) default clock faces. The metal body serves as a simple, subtle and elegant frame.

At 11.3 mm (0.44 inch), the Huawei Watch's body is pretty thick, as smartwatch-makers haven't yet cracked the case of ultra-thin builds. We don't find it to be alarmingly thick by any means, but anyone who looks at it from the side is more likely to peg it as a smartwatch than they would from straight-on.

At 11.3 mm (0.44-inch) thick, the Huawei Watch isn't as thin as many regular timekeeping watches
At 11.3 mm (0.44-inch) thick, the Huawei Watch isn't as thin as many regular timekeeping watches

We don't think the 42 mm diameter of its face looks oversized on men's wrists (I'd call it "just right" on mine). But it would look a little big on many women's wrists: the smaller (38 mm) Apple Watch is still the only advanced smartwatch we've seen that doesn't.

Huawei sells several different versions of the Watch, including snazzy-looking stainless steel band options. We're reviewing the entry-level black leather band version, and the stitched leather has a thick and high-end feel that, unlike Apple's entry-level rubber straps, shouldn't look like a huge step down compared to pricier variants.

Similar to the Apple Watch, Huawei also gave its default bands a quick-removal switch. Just slide a little pin over to the side and easily remove each side of the band. It takes only a few seconds, no tools required.

The Huawei Watch has a heart rate sensor on its backside, and quick-release sliders to easily remove the watch band
The Huawei Watch has a heart rate sensor on its backside, and quick-release sliders to easily remove the watch band

Battery life is up there with the best we've seen among touchscreen smartwatches. With its always-on clock face setting turned on, and brightness set to 80 percent (setting 4 out of 5) it only drops between 3 and 4 percent per hour.

... that's with what we'd describe as "normal" use: notifications coming in every 10 minutes or so, using the occasional voice control, and spending the rest of the time in idle mode.

That averages out to around 25-33 hours worth of total uptime (and, again, remember that's with the clock face always on and brightness cranked up pretty high).

Android Wear is basically the same across all devices, leaving variables like style, battery life, display quality and price to determine your decision
Android Wear is basically the same across all devices, leaving variables like style, battery life, display quality and price to determine your decision

As far as software goes, you can revisit our 2014 Android Wear review and our coverage of its big updates from early 2015 and late 2015.

Of the three biggest smartwatch operating systems – a list that also includes Apple's watchOS and Samsung's Tizen – Android Wear is now the simplest and easiest to pick up from the get-go. It's organized like Google Now on smartphones: "cards" pop up for app notifications and other contextual alerts (things like reminders, daily steps, music controls and the current weather). When you're done, just swipe the cards away. It also gives you an app launcher that Android Wear didn't have at launch, and its Google Now voice control is fast and (usually) reliable.

Android Wear is also the best hands-free smartwatch OS. Not only can you summon voice control without touching your watch ("OK, Google"), but you can also scroll through your alert cards just by flicking your wrist. We often find ourselves either holding something or having messy hands while wanting to give a quick glance through recent notifications. This hands-free navigation is handy enough that we miss it when we switch to other types of smartwatches.

We reviewed the entry-level (black leather band) version of the Huawei Watch
We reviewed the entry-level (black leather band) version of the Huawei Watch

Android Wear's biggest recent development, though, is that it now works with iPhones. When it's paired with an iPhone you miss out on third-party app support, but the core Android Wear experience – smartphone app alerts and interaction with core Google services – is all there.

That means the Huawei Watch is now a direct competitor not only to other Android Wear watches like the Moto 360 and LG Urbane, but also to the Apple Watch. And we think it stacks up well:

The Huawei Watch seen in this review costs US$349. That's a 42 mm build (the only size the Huawei Watch ships in) with a stainless steel body, sapphire display and leather band.

To get an Apple Watch with 42 mm stainless steel body, sapphire display and leather band, you're paying almost exactly double that, at $699. For $349, you get an Apple Watch with a smaller 38 mm body made of aluminum, much smaller (and rectangular) glass display and a rubber strap.

Of course a product is more than the sum of its specs, and if you're pairing with an iPhone, the Apple Watch has the big advantages of tight iOS integration and third-party app support. But if you're content with using a smartwatch for core Android Wear services and notifications from all your iPhone apps, then the Huawei Watch is the better value.

The Huawei Watch is available now, starting at US$349 for the model pictured in this review
The Huawei Watch is available now, starting at US$349 for the model pictured in this review

... and if you own an Android phone, the Huawei Watch is our current pick for the best smartwatch you can buy – due to its combination of looks, battery life and Android Wear. The Samsung Gear S2 comes close, with its fun new rotating bezel and potential for a deeper experience on your wrist, but it lacks too many fundamentals to be our top pick. The 2nd-gen Moto 360 isn't far behind either, but has a (to our eyes) weaker design and slightly shorter battery life. We recommend putting the Huawei Watch at the top of your list if you're an Android phone owner, and you should still take a long, hard look at it even if you own an iPhone.

The Huawei Watch is available now, from Huawei's US store, Best Buy, Amazon (though some models are backordered there) and the Google Store. It starts at $349 for the leather band version you see in this review, and shoots up as high as $799 for a 22k gold-plated version.

Product page: Huawei

This article was updated on 10/9 with current context on how we see the Huawei Watch comparing to its biggest rivals.

3 comments
WigWag
Is there a purpose to wearing the watch upside down and on the wrong hand, other than so everyone can see what a pretty, expensive watch you have, and so they can tell you the time? Or is it so that the name of the watch becomes "NOW", so you are aware that the watch is telling you what time it is NOW, not later?
Yielar
WigWag - You're probably just trolling but I'll bite. It's clearly not being worn upside down but just being photographed that way. You can tell by looking at the arm in the photos.
JohnEmilioRocaJr.
I literally tried reading WigWags comment 4 times... and it STILL made no sense to me. Have I just gotten older with the times, is there something I'm missing in that sentence that would tie it all together and give me that "Ah HAH!" moment? The missing participle? Or am I overthinking what is more likely a fools journey into the internet and the reawakening of neurons and synaptics in the brain that have been dormant since 7th grade. I feel like over-analyzing the "pigpen" of a comment has actually made me light headed from the extraneous thinking and blood rushing to my head. I think I shall lay down for a while and try to recover to finish my day, but you may have beaten me for the day WigWag. You may have trolled so hard, you successfully ruined ones day with your trollage. I'm just gonna rest my weary over used mind here