Huawei Watch review: the best Android Wear smartwatch

Classic design, slim bezels, a round, sapphire screen, two-day battery life and a heart rate monitor make the top-end smartwatch worth the extra cost

Who would have thought that a little-known Chinese smartphone manufacturer famous for budget smartphones would make the best Android Wear smartwatch going?

Huawei, which recently partnered with Google to make the excellent Nexus 6P phablet, announced its first Android Wear smartwatch in March, although it took another six months for it to go on sale.

Now, two months after the US, it’s about to arrive in the UK as one of the most expensive Android Wear watches, a direct challenger to the Apple Watch.

Timeless design

Huawei Watch review
The Huawei Watch comes with a collection of good-looking watch faces, here shown on a slim female wrist. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Huawei is designed like a classic man’s watch with a stainless steel case, round screen and a button at the two o’clock position. Other watches, including the LG Watch Urbane and Motorola Moto 360 have similar designs, the difference here is that the Huawei Watch is a lot more slender.

The 42mm screen is circular – no flat tyre shape – and the bezel and lugs are small. It can easily pass simply as an attractive classic watch.

The Huawei Watch has the highest resolution screen yet fitted to an Android Wear watch, with a pixel density of 286 pixels per inch, which makes it sharper and clearer than any other. There are no jagged lines or other such give aways that the watch is smart, unless you want them.

The screen is also protected by sapphire crystal, which is used in high-end traditional watches as well as the Apple Watch. Sapphire is very hard and much more scratch resistant than hardened glass, such as Corning’s Gorilla Glass that is used on most other smartwatches.

The base model comes with a black leather strap, which has a classic look and feels comfortable on the wrist. The watch takes standard straps, which means you’re not confined to the collection offered by Huawei.

Huawei Watch review
The Huawei Watch is has a stainless steel case that’s 11.3mm thick, shown here on a slim female wrist. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Specifications

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 400
  • RAM: 512MB
  • Screen: 1.4in AMOLED (286ppi) sapphire
  • Storage: 4GB
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, heart rate sensor
  • Dimensions: 42mm x 11.3mm
  • Compatibility: Android and iOS

Two-day battery

Huawei Watch review
The ambient display is on all the time and easy to read at a glance. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Huawei Watch runs as smoothly as all the other Qualcomm Snapdragon 400-powered Android Wear watches. Animations are fluid, the watch is responsive and its connection via Bluetooth to the smartphone is solid.

I also found its switching to Wi-Fi syncing when out of Bluetooth range of the smartphone was one of the smoothest of all the watches I have tested. The transition from Bluetooth to Wi-Fi and back again was not noticeable, which cannot be said for some of the others.

The Huawei Watch uses a high-resolution ambient mode when the screen isn’t active, which displays a crisp power-saving face that typically looks the same as the active face without moving elements or a background.

Huawei Watch review
The charger attaches magnetically to the back and has a standard USB connector to plug into a computer or wall charger. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

It lasted an average of two days of use with the screen on all the time and a dark face. The AMOLED screen consumes more power the brighter the display, which means a predominantly white screen drained the battery slightly quicker, typically only just reaching 9pm on the second day.

Charging the Watch takes over an hour via the magnetic dock, which latches onto the back of the watch with small metal contacts. It isn’t useful as a nightstand, but the watch can be charged with the screen off, while some others cannot.

Android Wear

Huawei Watch review
The Huawei Watch runs the latest version of Android Wear. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Huawei Watch runs the latest version of Google’s smartwatch operating system, Android Wear. Connected to an Android smartphone, it displays notifications as useful cards, runs Android Wear apps and games, and provides the usual watch features you might expect, such as timers, alarms and stopwatches.

For more information on Android Wear, please read:

Health-tracking apps

Huawei Watch review
The heart-rate monitor allows you to check and make sure you’re not dead. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

In addition to the standard Android Wear apps, Huawei includes three fitness-tracking apps.

Daily Tracking does what it says on the tin, tracking steps, runs, stair climbs and the various calories they consume. The app is attractive and adds stair climbing to the stats tracked by Google’s built-in Fit app.

Huawei’s Fitness Tracking is an ad-hoc exercise tracking app. Hit start, set a goal of calories or time and go for a workout. It works well enough as a basic run tracker, but better options from third-party developers are available.

The last app is Heart Rate, which allows users to take heart rate measurements, although I’m not sure why you would use it over the built-in Fit app. It does not take periodic heart rate readings throughout the day as some others do, such as the Moto 360’s Moto Body and the Apple Watch.

Price

The Huawei Watch is one of the most expensive Android smartwatches currently available. Starting at £289, it is £60 more expensive than the Motorola Moto 360. The Apple Watch costs £299 or more, and only works with an iPhone.

Verdict

Huawei Watch review
The Huawei Watch looks like a normal watch, not some sort of tech bling. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Huawei Watch is the best Android Wear smartwatch yet and one of the best cross-platform smartwatches. It easily passes as a traditional watch while providing access to information and notifications on your wrist.

It isn’t a standout “look at me” piece of technology, which is good if you’re more interested in function and classic design than showing off, and is comfortable to wear. The higher resolution sapphire screen is the best available at the moment and the battery lasted two days in my testing with the screen on all the time.

The watch is waterproof and feels like it’s built to last, but the utility of a smartwatch has yet to be proven for everyone.

Pros: sapphire screen, crisp display, fluid performance, comfortable, waterproof, standard watch strap support, two-day battery

Cons: same specifications as last year’s smartwatches, maybe too big for some, more expensive than the competition

Other reviews

Contributor

Samuel Gibbs

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Android Wear: the nine best free apps for Google's smartwatch
Which ones of the dozens of official apps for Google's three Android-powered smartwatches are worth downloading? By Samuel Gibbs

Samuel Gibbs

14, Jul, 2014 @2:17 PM

Article image
Android Wear 5.1 review: simple, useful and the best – for now
Google’s latest version of Android Wear makes it easier to get to apps, improves notification handling and adds brilliant emoji features

Samuel Gibbs

13, May, 2015 @5:00 AM

Article image
Two months with Android Wear: the best smartwatches yet
A deluge of smartwatches is expected at the IFA electronics trade show in Berlin this week so three Guardian writers put the best of Google’s Android Wear to the test. By Samuel Gibbs

Samuel Gibbs, Tom Grinsted and Subhajit Banerjee

02, Sep, 2014 @10:37 AM

Article image
As Apple Watch launches, smartwatch app makers explore new interfaces
Developers from CNN and The Economist to Citymapper, Epicurious and TuneIn explain what they’ve learned and how they think smartwatches will be used

Stuart Dredge

24, Apr, 2015 @9:26 AM

Article image
Google smartwatch review roundup: Android Wear put through its paces
First impressions of Google's smartwatches are positive, but their software is still needs work

Samuel Gibbs

02, Jul, 2014 @3:43 PM

Article image
20 best Android apps and games this week
Android Wear, City Air, Boots, FuseMe, 99 Bricks Wizard Academy, Bounden, Blek, Bezircle and more. By Stuart Dredge

Stuart Dredge

07, Jul, 2014 @2:38 PM

Article image
Google smartwatch: how it will work

A developer has demonstrated Google's highly anticipated smartwatch, which will deliver personalised updates and notifications based on Google Now. By Samuel Gibbs

Samuel Gibbs

30, May, 2014 @11:43 AM

Article image
Google Glass go on sale in the UK for £1,000
Smartglasses go on general sale for anyone in the UK over 18 with a credit card. By Samuel Gibbs

Samuel Gibbs

24, Jun, 2014 @8:54 AM

Article image
Steve Wozniak: Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch is ‘worthless’
Apple co-founder and early adopter of wearable technology threw out smartwatch after half a day. By Samuel Gibbs

Samuel Gibbs

02, Jul, 2014 @2:02 PM

Article image
UK-made custom smartwatch adopts Android Wear
Following in Google’s Project Ara footsteps, a British startup has created Android-powered modular smartwatch that can monitor health data and add GPS. By Samuel Gibbs

Samuel Gibbs

09, Jul, 2014 @9:00 AM