Last year I had a chance to try out the Huawei Watch and it ended up being arguably the best Android Wear smartwatch of 2016. That original Huawei Watch was a fashion watch with steel and leather band options with a refined design.
This year’s Huawei Watch 2 is more focused on the sports and activity tracking demographic. There is a Classic edition that has a more traditional band system and look more for style, but I evaluated the US version that is designed to provide you with all you need for working out and tracking your daily activity.
Once you understand that this Huawei Watch 2 is designed as a smartwatch that can be used throughout the day and also as your GPS running watch, then it becomes a valuable companion with many functions that also let it stand alone without your phone.
- Operating system: Android Wear 2.0
- Display: 1.2 inch (30.4mm) 390 x 390 pixels resolution AMOLED color screen made of Gorilla Glass
- Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 210 1.1 GHz
- RAM and storage: 768MB RAM and 4GB storage
- Dust and water resistance: IP68
- Connectivity and sensors: 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1 LE, NFC, GPS, GLONASS, optical HR, barometer, compass, gyroscope
- Battery: 420 mAh
- Dimensions: 45 x 45 x 12.6 mm and 40 grams
When it comes to Android Wear smartwatches, there is nothing missing here on the Huawei Watch 2. There are also LTE versions outside of the US, but after owning a LTE-enabled Gear S3 Frontier I don’t yet find much value in having LTE on a smartwatch.
The first thing I noticed when I took the Huawei Watch 2 out of the box was how light it was compared to the original Huawei Watch. Without the bands, this second generation is 15 grams lighter, which is a lot when it comes to something mounted at all times on your wrist.
Huawei achieves this on the Huawei Watch 2 through the use of a ceramic bezel around the Gorilla Glass display, plastic sides, and a thin metal bottom plate where the heart rate monitor is mounted. As a watch designed for daily activity tracking and fitness, the lighter weight is appreciated and makes for a very comfortable all-day watch.
The display has about the same resolution as the original Huawei Watch, but is a bit smaller (1.2 vs 1.4 inches) so has a higher pixel density. It looks great in low light and in the sunlight. The bezel angles down towards the display, but the smaller display and wide bezel makes it a bit difficult to enter in my PIN and tap on the keyboard.
While the ceramic bezel with numbers on it gives the watch a fitness look, I would like to see the bezel rotate like on my Gear S3 Frontier or else be a bit narrower to support a 1.4 inch display.
There are two large buttons, colored yellow on the concrete gray model I am testing, with the upper button acting to turn on the display and activate the launcher. If you press and hold this upper button then Google Assistant will also launch, but you can also simply state OK Google to launch the Assistant. The bottom button is customizable in the settings, but by default it is setup to launch the custom Huawei Workout app that I will discuss more in the software section below.
The soft silicone band is comfortable and stays securely in place. The band can be easily removed with the quick release pins, but there are limits to the band you can use to replace the default bands with. The concrete gray color I am testing has white dots throughout, similar to overspray from painting or something to that effect.
The Huawei Watch 2 runs Android Wear 2.0 out of the box, which comes with Google Assistant and a modified user interface. Swipe down from the watch face to view your quick controls or get access to all of the detailed settings. Swipe up to view your notifications and then right to clear them. You can also clear all by swiping to the bottom of your notifications.
Watch faces can simply be changed by swiping left or right from the main watch face display. I don’t switch my watch faces that often and am not a big fan of this change in Android Wear 2.0
Android Wear 2.0 attempts to make smartwatches stand on their own, which means the Google Play Store was moved to the watch rather than as a companion to the phone. This makes you have to find and manage your app installations and updates directly on a small 1.2 inch display. I would prefer to manage my apps on the phone, similar to how the Apple Watch and Samsung Gear watches function.
It is nice to download music for offline enjoyment directly from Google Play Music though. You also get 10 weeks of free Google Play Music with the purchase of a Huawei Watch 2. The speaker on the Huawei Watch 2 is quite loud and I found I can enjoy music while running without even having a Bluetooth headset connected.
There are also two mics with noise cancellation so that phone calls through the Huawei Watch 2 are excellent.
Huawei also includes some custom apps to enhance the overall experience. These include apps for Battery, Workout, and Daily Tracking. The Battery app is fairly simple, giving you options to toggle on smart power saving or watch mode. Smart power saving turns off the always-on watch face and actively manages brightness which in turn gives you a couple of days of battery life. Watch mode gives you multiple days of battery life by only enabling the clock and pedometer, the essentials to function as a daily activity device and watch.
The Workout app gives you options to track your running in different modes, walking, outdoor cycling, treadmill, indoor cycling, and other activities or to follow your training plan that you have selected in the smartphone Huawei Health application. I’ve used the Huawei Watch 2 several times for my running as I train for my first full marathon. The GPS has picked up the satellites quickly, been very accurate when compared to my Garmin Fenix 3 HR, and provided extensive data captured by the watch. This includes pace, calories, speed, heart rate, steps, stride length, altitude, training effect, VO2 max, and recovery time. The Huawei Watch 2 is an very good GPS running watch, but the data is not exportable to other services and I am unable to get data out of the watch into Runkeeper, Garmin Connect, or other services I use. I have the Runkeeper app on the watch and can use that, but like all of the data captured by the Huawei Workout app so hope that a future update will either add services or the ability to export the data.
The Daily Tracking app is similar to the Activity app seen on the Apple Watch. There are colorful semi-circles that indicate your progress in steps, active minutes, and how many times you stood throughout your day. The apps also tracks and shows progress for calories burned, distance covered, stairs climbed, and resting hear rate. Unlike some other watches, resting heart rate is measured regularly on the Huawei Watch 2.
The Android Wear application on the smartphone is fairly basic and the same experience across all Android Wear watches. It is useful for setting up the first connection and taking screenshots, but after that I rarely use it with all apps managed on the watch itself.
If you are not using a Huawei smartphone, then you should download and install the Huawei Health app in order to see more details of your daily activity. This smartphone app is similar to the Daily Tracking app on the watch, but also brings in your exercise data that you capture using the Workout app.
There are also cards for viewing your training plan progress, sleep, and weight. Unfortunately, sleep tracking is not supported on the Huawei Watch 2 at this time so I am not sure why there is a sleep card available. Hopefully, sleep tracking is coming in a future update to the watch.
You can also manage the units, your profile, and set targets in this Huawei Health app. There are data sharing options for UP by Jawbone, Google Fit, and MyFitnessPal.
Pricing and competition
The Huawei Watch 2 is available now from retailers such as Best Buy, B&H Photo, Target, Walmart, and more for $299.99. You can purchase it in carbon black or concrete gray. The orange one you may have seen in images is a LTE version available outside the US.
Daily usage experiences and conclusion
The Huawei Watch 2 packs all the latest Android Wear technology into a lightweight package that is still a bit thick for those who have smaller wrists. It is clearly targeted towards the fitness market so if you are looking for a high end watch to wear to work then this is not the right candidate.
I was able to get through every day without having to charge up the watch and often get in a short run too. The Huawei Watch 2 did well at tracking my runs and serving me up music via the integrated speaker and Bluetooth headset. It can definitely be used for most casual runners and those looking for a smartwatch that can function as their fitness watch too.
I personally found the display to be a bit too small and had some trouble entering my passcode to unlock the watch for Android Pay usage. However, the display looks fantastic with clear fonts and vibrant colors.
Android Wear 2.0 is taking me a bit of time to get used to, but after initial setup and installation of key apps the experience is better and I am enjoying wearing the Huawei Watch 2 as my daily driver.