2019 was a roller coaster year for Chinese technology giant Huawei. On the bright side, the company shipped record number of smartphones and achieved new revenue goal. On the dark side, the company got caught in the middle of tariff war between the US and China. Its growth in the past few years has raised eyebrows and US President Donald Trump has been using it as a leverage. Despite the trade ban imposed by the US Department of Commerce, Huawei is not showing any signs of slowdown. While it has withered the winds of US ban, the company is yet to make a mark in India. The company believes its newest product for the market – Huawei Watch GT 2 – could be the dawn of a new era. Huawei Watch GT 2 comes at a time when smartwatches are going through a moment of resurgence.
According to Strategy Analytics, the global smartwatch shipments registered 42 percent year-on-year growth to reach 14.2 million units during the third quarter of 2019. The shipment numbers could be even higher in the fourth quarter supported by the launch of new models. Huawei Watch GT 2 is not the smartest smartwatch out there. It doesn’t have a proper wearable operating system. So, it resorts to being a great watch that shows time effortlessly and does activity tracking as well. With a starting price of Rs 15,990, it aims to take on the Apple Watch, Samsung Galaxy Watch and others. However, its real competition is Xiaomi-backed Huami and other local brands. Here is my experience wearing the Huawei Watch GT 2 on the wrist for more than two weeks.
Design and Display
In my first impressions, I called Huawei Watch GT 2 a contender for the best looking smartwatch of 2019. After wearing it for more than two weeks, I want to say it is the best out there. In the past year, I have had a chance to review a number of smartwatches. None of them have turned heads like the way, the Huawei Watch GT 2 does. Two things helping the wearable are the traditional watch design and a huge display. Huawei Watch GT 2 bears a lot of resemblance with wearables made by traditional watchmakers. For this review, Huawei provided us with the wearable and two straps – brown leather and black fluoroelastomer.
The Huawei Watch GT 2 comes in two different sizes, and we are reviewing the biggest 46mm variant. There are three different case options and our review unit has the standard stainless finish. Huawei confirms that the whole device is built using fusion of metal and plastic. The outer case is metal, but the rear panel housing optical heart rate sensor is plastic. The 46mm model has wrist coverage between 140 and 210mm, which makes it look huge especially on smaller wrist. However, it borrows a lot from the traditional watch design and that helps the wearable stand out.
If you look at the market, there are the likes of Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch that reflect their digital lineage. Huawei Watch GT 2, on the other hand, successfully pretends to be a mechanical watch. Huawei has also numbered the bezel of the watch, which makes it look like a diver’s watch. It doesn’t look quite the part when you compare with watch from brands like Bell & Ross, Omega or Tudor. But it definitely stands out in its own right. While it is huge, the smartwatch does not feel heavy. The leather strap feels premium, but gets wrinkled after sometime. The fluoroelastomer strap is also comfortable and ideal if you are going on a run or undertaking any activity. One way Huawei could have elevated this device is by offering strap options like NATO, Mesh, Bund or Aviator.
The Huawei Watch GT 2 equips a 1.39-inch AMOLED display with a resolution of 454×454 pixels. The primary purpose of any watch is timekeeping and Huawei Watch GT 2 does that flawlessly. The display is extremely sharp, and the OS designed by Huawei, is meant to show all the on-screen content in a big way. I don’t mind having giant font on a circular display since I’m trying to consume content and not just glance through them. There is not much difference between Huawei Watch GT 2 and Amazfit GTR 47.2mm in terms of the display. However, the Watch GT 2 seems more polished. It wants to be worn and that is the highest praise I can give to the designers of this wearable.
Is this a smartwatch?
One of my all-time favorite watch is the Casio Vintage Series digital watch. While watches with minute and second hands were launching left, right and center, Casio moved to digital era. Now, imagine that watch with color display instead of monochrome one and added smartwatch functions. That’s precisely what we have in the market right now. These watches are cheap but they are not exactly smart. I like to classify the smartwatch market into smartwatch and smarter smartwatch. In my opinion, the Apple Watch, Samsung Galaxy Watch and Wear OS watches are all smarter smartwatches. Whereas watches like the Huawei Watch GT 2, Amazfit GTR and others are just smartwatches. Let me explain.
The primary purpose of the smartwatch was to be an extension to your smartphone. It was designed to complement your mobile device and not replace it. Think of them like a caddie at the golf course. However, in the past two years, smartwatches have begun aspiring to displace the smartphone altogether. So, to do that, they have gained support for SIM card, ability to make and receive calls and text, download apps and interact with them. In other words, do all smartphone things from your wrist. Huawei Watch GT 2 cannot do most of the things mentioned above. For starters, it does not have a SIM card slot so you need to rely on tethered device like a smartphone.
It is perfectly capable of showing you notifications that arrive on your phone. However, you cannot interact with them. Say, you get a two-factor authentication request from Samsung. You can see the notification on your wrist but not granular option – Yes or No. On other leading platforms, you are presented with this option. It is a small thing but can be a discomfort in case you login to multiple services with two-factor authentication enabled. Similarly, if you get a text message or WhatsApp message, you can view it, but cannot respond it. So, if you are looking for a purebred smartwatch then this not the way to go. However, there are some areas where it excels as a wearable.
Activity and Sleep Tracking
That area is activity and sleep tracking. When it comes to the options for tracking various activities, Huawei has added every trick in the market. It, of course, tracks your steps and breaks it down to distance walked and calories burnt. It also has a barometer and altimeter built into it. As a result, the wearable is also capable of calculating the amount of distance climbed during the day. Most fitness experts suggest climbing stairs over walking a straight path. Using this data, it breaks down into metadata such as amount of time you were active during the day. It also tracks the number of times you get up from your seat. There are also reminders when you are sedentary for too long. One of the good things here is that it does not give sedentary alerts even when you are moving.
As far as activities are concerned, it can track outdoor or indoor run, pool or open water swim, outdoor or indoor walk, outdoor or indoor cycle, climb, hike, trail running, triathlon, elliptical, various running courses among others. I could not check every one of these activities but I did find it be accurate for cycling, walk, run and climb. The second fitness tracker that I had on my other wrist often seemed to give poor results in comparison. If you go on a run, then you will appreciate the design of activity tracking on the wrist. There is an AI runner, who is either leading or trailing you. It also has built-in GPS to plot the course of your run or any other activity. However, you cannot connect third party apps like Runtastic or Strava to track your progress.
There is an optical heart rate sensor built in that can be set to continuously measure your heart rate. In comparison to an Omron medical device, the margin of error in reading was tiny. It never recorded the same reading as Omron’s portable heart rate monitor, but it was very close to matching that clinically certified device. Huawei also uses the heart rate data to offer additional information such as stress level. In order to do a stress test, you need to attach the band firmly to your wrist, stay still and wait for 60 seconds. It then offers readings that are supported by the Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences. The readings are classified as relaxed, normal, medium and high. For me, the reading was normal at most times and relaxed during the weekends.
One area where Huawei Watch GT 2 knocks it out of the park is sleep tracking. Let me tell you, sleep tracking is extremely important for me. The reason is simple – I went through a phase where I struggled to get enough sleep. Then I started tracking the irregularity and fixed it. Huawei Watch GT 2 is a useful tool for tracking sleep. It can track deep sleep, light sleep and REM sleep and even naps during the day. The data collected by various sensors is further analyzed for valuable information.
It has consistently reminded me that I’m not getting enough deep sleep and my REM sleep lasts longer than most users. My doctor said this should be considered as clinically proven data but it is a good place to start. As Arianna Huffington says, the secret of her success is sleep. There is a possibility that your success also depends on good amount of sleep.
App and Battery Life
There is a lot to like about the Huawei Watch GT 2 but equally, there are things to dislike about it. For instance, the app offered by Huawei is barebones. The app lacks polish, and we have seen better ones from the likes of Fitbit. Huawei, could change the whole scenario, with its Harmony OS this year or early next year. The app currently opens straight to the activity window. Here, it shows cumulative data collected by your wearable and smartwatch. However, you cannot see data just from your smartwatch. The app is useful to see battery life and control music playback from the watch.
Yes, Huawei Watch GT 2 has onboard memory of over 2GB, where you can store local music. In order to add music, you must first have the MP3 file in your smartphone. You can then transfer it to the watch from the app. In order to transfer two 10MB songs, it took me nearly 10 minutes. I have around 15 songs on the watch and they play fine. Huawei should simplify this process of moving songs from smartphone to smartwatch. The app can also be used to switch between different watch faces. The selection is limited to 26 at the time of publishing this review. You cannot add third party watch faces but Huawei executives tell me they have plans to introduce more watch faces.
Battery Life is another strong suit of Huawei Watch GT 2. Once fully charged, the Huawei Watch GT can easily last for at least two weeks. If you disable continuous heart rate monitoring then battery life will expand further. Huawei is achieving this extraordinary battery life by ditching Wear OS and adding Kirin A1 chipset. However, the use of proprietary charger means you will need to carry it on trips longer than two weeks. In a nutshell, there is room for improvement and a lot rides on Huawei’s development of its own proprietary operating system called Harmony OS.
Should you buy?
Huawei Watch GT 2 is all about three main things – design, activity tracking and battery life. In terms of design, the Watch GT 2 succeeds in pretending to be a low key smartwatch and high key wristwatch. However, it is not perfect. The two pushers on the side offer quick access to functions but are not very useful. Huawei could have actually made the watch better by adding a digital crown, like the one seen on Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle HR smartwatch. This would have helped with scrolling through the menu system and doing things inside services. In the world of smartwatches, small change in design can hurt the entire state of wearables.
It is also nearly perfect for all of your activity tracking needs. Do keep in mind that it does not misdiagnose walk as run, an issue seen with most hybrid smartwatches. With two weeks of battery life, the smartwatch wants to go on and on and when it does, you don’t have to worry about charging. It also supports fast charging. When it comes to wearable, Huawei has pulled out every trick up its sleeve. However, the lack of a really smart operating system limits the wearable. If you can look past these issues, the Watch GT 2 is a solid option for a smartwatch.