Huawei has been one of the fastest-growing technology companies in the world for the past few years. Its growth has been so astounding that it became a punching bag of sorts. For instance, even the US President Donald Trump and his administration have tried to restrict its growth citing security issues. While this has impacted Huawei’s smartphone business, the company continues to play a key role in 5G infrastructure. In 2016, Eric Xu, then rotating chief of Huawei, laid out a plan for Huawei’s transformation into a leading consumer electronics brand with smartphones and wearables like Huawei Watch GT. While the company has achieved the goal, the road ahead is tough. Also Read - Huawei Watch GT 2e smartwatch now available via Flipkart and Amazon India
Huawei gets almost 50 percent of its revenue from its smartphone division. With the absence of Google services, this segment is likely to shrink in terms of revenue. Considering this, the Chinese giant has been looking for new avenues with its “1 + 8 + N” strategy. One of the shining areas for the company has been its wearables business. We saw this strategy play out in a big way in India recently. Huawei launched the Freebuds 3 TWS earbuds and immediately followed with Watch GT 2e smartwatch. Huawei Watch GT 2e, in particular, is a play for the larger wearable market. Also Read - Huawei Watch GT 2e with SpO2 monitoring, two weeks battery life launched in India: Price, Features
In Q1 2020, India’s wearables market registered 80.6 percent year-over-year growth. IDC notes that shipments reached 4.2 million units. While the growth was driven by the earwear category, the smartwatch segment also saw 43.3 percent year-over-year growth. As per IDC, Huami’s Amazfit is the leader in this market, followed by Fossil and Apple. If you are Huawei then this is a market full of opportunity. After reasonable success seen with Huawei Watch GT 2, the company has launched Watch GT 2e. A more affordable smartwatch that gives away little to reach the price point. Is this the smartwatch for the masses? Also Read - Huawei Watch GT 2 update adds SpO2 measurement feature
Huawei Watch GT 2e: Design and Display
Huawei Watch GT series has always been about contemporary watch design paired with smartwatch functionality. The Watch GT 2e is no different. In fact, it borrows the basic design element from Huawei Watch GT 2 and makes it bigger and better. So, we are looking at a circular watch face with a diameter of nearly 47mm. It is nearly a millimeter bigger than the Watch GT 2. This design gives it a bold stance that you would see from traditional watch designs from brands like Junghans, Seiko, or premium ones like Rolex, Omega, or IWC.
At 10.8mm, it is as thick as the Huawei Watch GT 2 but not as thin as the Bvlgari Octo Finissimo. You might be wondering why I am making comparisons to the Swiss watch industry. The reason is simple: watch design starts from there and electronics end up at Shenzhen. I would have preferred this to be a bit smaller, probably something like 44mm would have been more adept. However, the larger watch face does not mean that Huawei Watch GT 2e looks unwieldy on the wrist. In fact, it looks exactly the opposite and has a lot of character.
This is mainly because of the black stainless steel case, which is superbly milled and has two clickable buttons on the right side. The lugs of the watch are a part of the case and form a full enclosure with the casing. Our review unit came with a black fluoroelastomer strap but I would recommend getting other options. Huawei offers lava red and mint green strap options that are designed to be meant for the field. I would like to give full marks to Huawei for the build quality and engineering design. However, it falls short of being perfect in this segment of the smartwatch market.
For starters, Huawei does not offer an option to buy additional straps just yet. So, if you buy the black variant, you are stuck with it for some time. I have tried some 22mm straps from AliExpress but they don’t offer the same balance as the company designed ones. You can get quality 22mm straps from a traditional watch shop and they would be a much better fit. This is an area where Apple works as a true watch company while Huawei works like a tech company. The scope for customizing an Apple Watch is endless and it can be done right at an Apple Store or website.
Huawei Watch GT 2e is limited in that way and you will need to put in efforts to customize the smartwatch. This smartwatch is designed really well for a sports smartwatch but it doesn’t extend beyond that. I personally consider this to be a lost opportunity for a company that can do better in this area. My sources at Huawei tell me that the company is looking at options to offer bands as a separate option. Till the time it doesn’t happen, I’m deducting points from this otherwise well-designed smartwatch.
That design is primarily to accommodate the 1.39-inch AMOLED display with a resolution of 454 x 454 pixels. This is exactly the same display that we first saw on the Watch GT 2. It is extremely bright and sharp even under direct sunlight. Since the primary use of this display is to output numbers and text, the display never fell short. There is no sapphire dome on top but the display seems to be well designed to withstand any bump or blemish along the way. It supports always-on and you can set a standby watch face to make it look closer to a traditional watch. I could not find a reason to complain about this display or design but lack of wide range of strap options is something worth noting.
Activity Tracking and Other Features
Huawei Watch GT 2e is a sports fitness watch that is meant to be used for a workout. Unlike Watch GT 2, which can also be a dress watch, this is a fitness-first wearable. It comes with support for 85 custom workout modes. Huawei mentions activities such as rock climbing, skateboarding, or street dancing that the fitness watch can track. Honestly, I could not try or test any of those activities. However, the 15 minutes that I am allowed to run in my locality during this lockdown, I found the wearable to be as accurate as its premium sibling.
It is also capable of tracking activities like elliptical, indoor running, cycling, climbing, among others. Huawei Watch GT 2 was accurate in tracking several of these activities. I assume the same to be true for Watch GT 2e as well since they share the same electronics. While spending time at home, I was able to track my sleep really well. This is an area where Huawei Watch GT 2e is as accurate as it gets in the segment. It was perfect about the time I went to bed and also even the time I was awake. If I woke up in the middle of the night, it got that right as well.
One of the additions this year out of the box is support for SpO2 measurement. This allows users to track oxygen saturation in the blood. While it is not medically approved, it is still a critical data to track with the help of your smartwatch. For SpO2 measurement, you need to be still and the test gets completed in a few minutes. Huawei also tracks stress, which has been a critical data point for me during this lockdown when work hours have become extensive for all of us. There are also features like period tracking, which was added in the form of an update a few days back.
Huawei Watch GT 2e can also be used as a remote shutter to control the camera on the connected device. I was unable to try this out. When I reached out to Huawei for this, they confirmed that the feature will be enabled for all users with another OTA update in the next few days. Once the feature is enabled, I will update this review once again. However, it will be a handy feature to have when smartphones are becoming the go-to devices for shooting long exposures and timelapse videos. Huawei Watch GT 2e is meant to be used outdoors but I realized that it also works well indoors.
Interface and Battery Life
Huawei Watch GT 2e can be paired with any smartphone with the help of Bluetooth and the Huawei Health app. Regardless of which wearable you buy from Huawei, the app remains standard. As soon as you open the app, you are greeted with data, including the number of steps, duration of time active, distance covered, calories burnt, and elevations during the day. The best thing about this design is that Huawei is not forcing its customers to get in the race to close rings or complete activities like Apple or Google.
The data is there right in front of you and you can make your own conclusions. It is then followed by exercise records (which has been shabby during this lockdown), SpO2 measurement, Heart Rate, Sleep, Weight, and Stress data. At the bottom, there are four tabs: Health, Exercise, Devices, and Me. These allow you to control your profile, start an activity, or check connected devices. When you tap on connected devices, you will see all the connected devices and options for things like watch faces and music.
Huawei Watch GT 2e comes with a total of 122 watch faces and at any point in time, you can keep 32 of those watch faces in the memory of the wearable. You can uninstall an existing watch face to add a new one to the mix. In my review of Watch GT 2, I said the options are limited. Now, the options are not only plenty but they are also eclectic in terms of design. I really like this watch face named fragmented but there are few watch faces that still exhibit the Chinese language element. It does not have a clean watch face like Apple Watch’s California but the ones already available are pretty good.
Some of my favorites include 24-hour Time, Digital, Sdots30, AstroWatch, Sleepless, MB03, Venn among others. Huawei seems to be adding new watch faces at a rapid pace. So, I am sure you won’t be left without a choice at any point. Huawei Watch GT 2e can also be used to store music but you cannot play them right out of the watch. You need to pair earbuds to listen to music. The transfer process for music is still cumbersome. You need to go to Huawei Health, tap on Devices, Music, and then Manage Music. Since the software is sending the music from your phone to the watch over Bluetooth, the transmission speeds are really slow.
Otherwise, you get plenty of options to customize your watch, set alarms, monitor health, and change notification settings. Even firmware updates happen via the Huawei Health app. This results in a very much tethered smartwatch experience. In terms of battery life, Huawei claims up to two weeks with moderate use. I got around a week with constant notifications, listening to music via earbuds, always-on display, sleep tracking, and tracking my daily run, heart rate, and stress. It’s not bad at all and is mainly because of the Huawei Kirin A1 chipset. The connection to my smartphone was also stable and I didn’t see any disconnections in the more than a week spent using the smartwatch.
Huawei Watch GT 2e: Should you buy
If you have read so far, then you would have noticed my constant comparison with Apple Watch. Apple Watch is the only good smartwatch in the market right now. Wear OS smartwatches are just not good while Samsung Galaxy Watch does some things that even Apple Watch does not. However, Apple Watch offers an ecosystem play that no other wearable has managed to replicate. With Huawei Watch GT 2e, the Chinese giant has managed to create an ecosystem of products but the software is still not quite there. Huawei acknowledges it and mentions that LiteOS is not full-fledged. Huawei Watch GT 2e looks really good, performs well, has weeks-long battery life, and can track a myriad number of activities.
However, it cannot do simple things like the Watch immediately show up on a Huawei smartphone as soon as you press the power button. I was reading last evening while my smartphone was charging. I would have liked to see a window on my smartwatch telling me about my phone’s battery percentage. Huawei can do some of these things with its Harmony OS based on a micro-kernel. However, that operating system is not quite here yet. For now, we have a smartwatch that does a lot of things really well. However, it also knows it’s limitations, which are mainly caused by the lack of a mature wearable operating system.
At Rs 11,999, Huawei Watch GT 2e is not competing in that full-fledged smartwatch segment. If you want a smartwatch that shows time, tracks steps, activities, heart rate, stress, SpO2 without dropping a lot of money then Huawei Watch GT 2e is an excellent option. I am giving this half a point extra for shaving off nearly Rs 4,000 from the price of Huawei Watch GT 2. However, it is important to note that these fitness tracking or health parameters should not be taken as medical data. One of its competitors is Huami Amazfit T-Rex, which brings Casio G-Shock style design to the smartwatch segment. My beef with Huawei is that it could not build an alternative to Apple Watch Series 5 or Samsung Galaxy Watch. It is instead offering an excellent smartwatch, although limited in functionality. Hopefully, we will see Huawei challenge the real smartwatch brands sooner.