The Huawei Watch is a nice smartwatch with a nice screen, good battery life, and what I would call an above-average level of construction quality. If you want a Wear device that is nice and usable and doesn’t have anything seriously wrong or annoying about it, this is a great option. A pricey one, to be sure, but still very, very good. But above all else, it really does feel like the Huawei Watch is the smartwatch for the consumer seriously concerned about the Moto 360’s flat tire. That is most of this watch’s real appeal to enthusiasts, so let’s just lay it out there. The sapphire crystal? The “all-metal” construction? The variety of bands and body colors? I’ll be frank: none of them are all that interesting. Nice, sure, but not interesting.
And if you’re considering the Huawei Watch, you’ve also probably already looked closely at the Moto 360 v2. The Moto, by the way, is without a doubt the more customizable, personalizable device between the two, and if it were my money, I’d be giving that a whole lot of consideration. But the Huawei Watch’s denser, truly circular display and apparent high level of quality are certainly worthy of your attention, as well.
- Display: 1.4" Super AMOLED 400x400 (286PPI) with sapphire crystal
- Battery: 300mAh
- Charging: proprietary pogo-pin cradle
- CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 400
- RAM: 512MB
- Storage: 4GB
- Wi-Fi: Yes
- GPS: No
- Heart rate monitor: Yes
- Dimensions: 42mm diameter, 11.3m thickness
- Price (US): $349-799
- Other: It has a speaker. It doesn't do anything (yet).
The Huawei Watch is categorically a “generation two” Wear device, launching with the most recent version of the Wear OS and generally just being substantially cleaner and more refined than many of the smartwatches from earlier this and late last year. The amount of bezel on the body is quite small, making LG’s Watch Urbane look positively chubby by comparison, and yet it still manages to have a nice, large, fully-circular 1.4” display (large for a smartwatch, at least). It’s also very comfortable, in my opinion, with the standard leather band being much softer and more pliable than the ones LG has used to date (sorry, I can’t compare to the 360 because I don’t have one).
Beyond that, though, what makes the Huawei Watch special? Let’s see if we can bullet-point this out.
- The display is truly round without having an enormous bezel and has a high pixel density (286PPI).
- There is a reasonable selection of body colors and band styles (even if the rose gold is prohibitively pricey for most of us).
- A full day of heavy use battery life (... if Wi-Fi is off), or 2 days of light/moderate use.
- If Wear gets support for speakers, the Huawei Watch has one.
- A sapphire crystal over the display (for scratchproofing).
- Actually easily swappable bands with simple, finger-operable latches.
- A “better” heart rate monitor... that seems to work exactly as well as any other smartwatch’s: slowly, only sometimes, and with OK accuracy.
- There are about two dozen included watchfaces, many of which are quite nice.
That’s pretty much it. “Better” build quality is something that I can’t objectively measure, and really, it’s hard to say how much it matters on a smartwatch whose components will probably be hopelessly outdated in the next 2-3 years anyway. Those components, by the way, are the same basic ones in most Wear watches - a Snapdragon 400 chipset lurks inside the Huawei Watch and keeps things moving at the pace you’d expect (relatively quicker), and a very average 300mAh battery provides the juice. The display is an AMOLED panel that is not particularly bright nor dim, but does boast a higher pixel density of 286PPI, making it the densest display of any Wear device to date (though, that number is still lower than the Apple Watch in either size). As to the sapphire cover? I’m not about to test it, and honestly, having worn a smartwatch for nearly a year now, I’ve never scratched the face of my watches, though I realize some people may appreciate it regardless.
The bands are indeed easily swappable, with a small, finger-friendly pin mechanism to pop them out, though you’ll have to replace your band with something other than one of Huawei’s for the time being, as they don’t yet sell them. Huawei also claims the heart rate monitor on their watch is “better” than existing HRMs on Wear devices in
some unquantifiable way (edit: it has two photosensor lamps, most have one), but my experience was the same as every other smartwatch I’ve used: slow to get a read, only reads sometimes, and only with middling accuracy compared to a self-inflating wrist monitor.
The battery life seems very much dependent on how you use the watch. Initially, with Wi-Fi on and using a watchface with a lot of elements and a lighter background, I barely made it through a day. After turning Wi-Fi off and switching to a predominantly black face, now I’m getting two days. Your mileage may vary. And yes, both of my figures are with ambient mode on. Oh, and as to that hidden speaker? It may do something… eventually. But Huawei isn’t saying what, and neither is Google.
So, what doesn’t the Huawei Watch necessarily do right? That really does seem to be the big question here as it’s hard to find many major flaws with the device. Again, let’s just bullet point this out for simplicity.
- You can’t actually buy any of the other Huawei watch bands on their own yet, which isn’t that big of a deal considering body-mismatched ones would probably look terrible.
- The proprietary charging cradle is permanently attached to its USB cable, and a replacement costs forty freaking dollars. This is dumb.
- No GPS.
- Only comes in a single size.
- Anything but the stainless version is, frankly, too expensive.
Most of these are entirely minor complaints, perhaps excluding the charger. Huawei claims they permanently attached the cable to the charging puck because it makes it harder to lose. But it also has the undeniable effect of inextricably linking cable failure to complete charger failure, and that makes no sense. That little rubber joint where the charger meets the cable is going to flex, bend, and twist over time. How many will fail? Maybe very few, but I’d rather not have to worry about that at all to begin with. The puck is small, yes, but I’m a grownup and can manage not to misplace my watch charger, Huawei. It’s going to stay in pretty much the exact same spot aside from when I’m travelling, when I will carefully pack it in my bag. The whole “it’s not as easy to lose” thing makes less sense the more I think about it, so let’s just stop. Oh, and Huawei wants $40 for a replacement charger which is just a big, blatant “screw you” to customers. This is why people buy crappy counterfeit accessories.
That really ties into the next point: the price of the watch itself. At $350, I think the stainless with leather is not priced especially compellingly. Huawei clearly wants people to cross-shop the 46mm Moto 360, but here's the thing: Motorola sells a 42mm 360 roughly the size of the Huawei Watch, and it's $50 less. The 46mm is substantially larger, even if you have to deal with the flat tire. And even if you'd consider the 46mm 360 and Huawei Watch to be competitors, $450 for the black Huawei Watch is $50 more than a comparable 360, even if it does have a hardened black carbon finish that is scratch-resistant. There’s also no leather option for the black body Huawei Watch, and that’s where the difference is really clear - $350 for a black 360 (or $300 for the 42mm) with leather versus $450 plus whatever the cost of the black leather band you’d buy for the Huawei Watch. I think Huawei should seriously consider a black version of the watch with a black leather band, but that's just me.
And then you’ve got the yet-to-be-released rose gold models, which really are just for people with more money than sense and don't warrant serious attention. They start at $699 for a leather band with alligator texture or $799 for the gold links, and both are absolutely ridiculous cash-grabs. You can get a gold 46mm 360 with gold links, by the way, for a far more reasonable $429, if you really must have an all-gold smartwatch.
And, remember: any extra money you spend on “quality” is still largely defeated by the fact that these watches will, at some point, become either officially obsolete or so unusable and limited that they are functionally obsolete. How long will that take? It could be two years, it could even be three. Google and Huawei are both pushing the “long view” narrative for Android Wear devices - the idea that you can own and use one of these for more than a few years - but given how much the wearable space is evolving and how quickly companies might need to pivot for new hardware-dependent “killer features,” I find that to be a specious argument at best.
This watch is going to become obsolete just like every other current Wear device, and throwing more money at it is not going to make it any nicer or more practical to use when that day rolls around. So please, Huawei, let’s not pretend that somehow Google has suddenly figured out how to fix the issue of obsolescence - the Huawei Watch uses the same Snapdragon 400 processor the G Watch did when it came out last summer. And that processor will inevitably be supplanted by a newer, faster, more efficient chip with more features at some point. But this applies to any Wear device, and I don’t mean to single Huawei out here so much as provide a bit of warning to anyone considering spending $300+ on a smartwatch, and give a bit of a slap on the wrist to marketing language that suggests you'd hold on to such a thing just as long as a "real" watch, because of course you won't. That's just silly.
But, getting back on track: should you buy a Huawei Watch? If you want an Android Wear smartwatch, this really is the cream of the crop. It seems very nicely constructed, the battery life is quite decent, and the display is the sharpest we’ve yet seen on a Wear device. The price is high, though, and that’s going to be the barrier to entry for most people, I imagine. Even at $300, a smartwatch is a tough sell to most people, so Huawei undoubtedly has an uphill battle to fight, especially with the Moto 360 being a far more well-known device at this point. But it certainly has the credentials to go toe-to-toe with Motorola’s wearable, and downright beats it in several ways. And, frankly, there isn’t really anything terribly wrong with the Huawei Watch, at least that you couldn’t say is “wrong” with any Wear device. As such, I fully recommend it to anyone willing to spend the money and who knows they want a Wear device, though both of those things are highly personal conclusions to reach. (Buy here.)