With the recent rollout of Android Wear 2.0, and a week of MWC announcements ahead, it’s round two of which manufacturer can create the best-looking smartwatch that runs nearly identical software. It’s going to be a closely fought contest, we’ve already seen LG’s efforts with the LG Watch Style and LG Watch Sport, and now its Huawei’s turn.
Like LG, the Chinese manufacturer has dropped two new smartwatches, with the executive appeal of the Huawei Watch 2 Classic landing alongside this, the Huawei Watch 2. Don’t let it’s suffix-lacking name fool you though, this is the real star of the show here.
First look: Huawei Watch 2 Classic review
A fitness-focussed smartwatch in a similar vein to the LG Watch Sport or Samsung Gear S3 Frontier, it’s bigger, bolder and far more sporty than the original, slightly formal Huawei Watch. With a mass of features and even the option of integrated 4G LTE connectivity, it’s a watch that’s about far more than just its looks too.
But is this the device able to rekindle the Android Wear excitement? We’ve had an early play to try find out. (Note: the pictures below of dummy units were taken from Huawei’s conference in Barcelona as no pre-MWC photos were allowed of the fully working watches we tried out.)
Huawei Watch 2: An unconventionally classy design
Like big watches? Good, you’ll need to if the Huawei Watch 2 is going to be your next smartwatch of choice. The Huawei Watch successor is an attractive bit of kit, but a slim, compact build isn’t really its thing.
Instead, there’s a 1.2-inch circular touchscreen – there’s no flat tyre cut outs here – that’s been built into a 42mm face. So that’s smaller than the 1.4-inch display on the original. This one’s been wrapped in a whole heap of rubber, plastic and metal though, giving the watch its oversized style. For those with smaller wrists it’s going to be overpowering, and with a rather masculine design it’s not going to be for everyone.
It holds it size well though, and once strapped to your wrist feels no bigger or cumbersome than the Fossil Q Marshal or Samsung Gear S3. There’s a nice subtle curve to the underside of the watch that helps fit the contour of your wrist, and the textured rubber strap is reassuringly locked in place thanks to a chunky metal buckle.
Despite the materials used, the Huawei Watch 2 doesn’t look or feel cheap either. It’s more like a Casio G-Shock (or a smaller version of the connected Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F20) in somehow managing to make this unlikely collection of components work.
Finishing the look, a diver-style bezel further enhances the watch’s stylish, sporty credentials while the double crown design puts a couple of buttons on the right side of the watch. There are no Apple Watch-inspired twist navigation options here though, Instead, the top control acts as a back button with the bottom button throwing you straight into the watch’s fitness menus.
There are three colours to pick from, with a paint-flecked grey device lining up alongside a more traditional black model. It’s the vibrant orange option that really caught our eye though, with the bright, bold styling giving a sense of the Nixon The Mission’s outdoorsy finish. This is a watch that’ll stand up to a weekend in the woods too, with an IP68 water and dust resistant rating making it capable of being submerged for 30 minutes to depths of 1.5 metres.
Although big, the Watch 2 isn’t as fat as most 4G equipped smartwatches we’ve seen. Instead of compromising the watch’s look with an ugly cut out, the device’s nano SIM has been hidden between the lugs. A smart touch that makes a big difference.
Huawei Watch 2: When sensors and software combine
Android Wear smartwatches are quickly going the way of the flagship phone you’ll likely pair them with – big on the specs with everything you could possibly want or need thrown in. That’s the model that the Huawei Watch 2 has followed, with the usual collection of accelerometers and gyroscopes joined with inbuilt GPS, a heart rate sensor, NFC (for payments) and 4G.
Read this: Living with Android Wear 2.0 on an iPhone
All of this combines with 2GB of internal storage and a few Android Wear enhancements to make this smartwatch a friend to both desk dwellers and fitness fans alike.
On the activity side, Huawei has built in its own fitness platform. On first look, this is a well laid out collection of indoor and outdoor sports centric activity tracking apps, with the ability to create your own training plans crossing between the lot. It’s an easy on the eye addition, but with Android Wear’s own abilities also present, and the platform playing nice with third party apps, it’s hard to see what it’s adding that isn’t already available.
Unfortunately being locked in a briefing room meant we’ve as yet been unable to put these to the test.
Despite monitoring everything from your steps, pace, heart rate and VO2 Max, this isn’t just a watch for runners, cyclists and general lycra lovers though. Thanks to its Android Wear 2.0 innards, it offers all the usual smartphone syncing message alerts, music controlling and call handling options you’d expect.
You don’t even need a phone to hand to make and receive calls. For those who crave the ability to make and receive calls on their wrists – we’re told these people do exist – the Watch 2 comes in two forms, one with standalone inbuilt 4G LTE connectivity options, and one without. What’s clever is that the nanoSIM slot – it also supports eSIM – is built inbetween the lugs in a nice use of space.
Ensuring these inbuilt cellular skills don’t haemorrhage battery, the Watch 2 has been equipped with a 420mAh power supply, an addition Huawei claims will last two days between charges (that means nightly charges) on the 4G model, and three days on the non-4G option.
Android Wear 2.0 essential reading
That’s standard at best, but what’s got us excited here, is the wearable’s ‘Watch Mode’ feature. When you notice you’re running short on juice, enabling this will extend the device’s staying power massively.
Sure, it’ll turn off key features such as GPS and Bluetooth connections, but you’ll still be able to tell the time – and isn’t that the key to why you’re sporting a watch in the first place? Huawei claims that enabling ‘Watch Mode’ when you’ve got just 10% charge left will keep the watch going for a further 40 hours, with your step count continuing to be racked up too.
Huawei Watch 2: Initial Verdict
Huawei has followed a similar path to Samsung and LG in creating a slightly big, slightly bulky smartwatch that’s heavy on its fitness focus. The option of integrated 4G skills on a normal sized watch is a nice choice to have, and ultimately, despite the size, the watch, especially the orange model, looks and feels good.
Design aside though, and the only thing really setting it apart from the competition so far is this 4G. It’s as competent as any of the other Android Wear devices out there, but hasn’t really done anything to truly stand out from the crowd. Look out for a full, in-depth review once we get it home to see how it stacks up on our wrists and out for a run.
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