Huawei Watch 2 review: A truly smart watch

Alex Kidman 30 August 2017 NEWS

Quick Verdict
The combination of onboard 4G for near-permanent data connectivity and a simple style make it a great option if you never want to miss a notification while you're out running.

Strengths

  • Integrated 4G
  • Android Wear 2.0 is easy to understand
  • Good sports tracking

Could be better

  • Screen is small
  • Call forwarding is fiddly
  • No simple dial or scroll wheel
  • Not swim proof


The Huawei Watch 2 impresses with its integrated 4G for on-the-go data, although there are still a few quirks in this particular smart watch design.

It's odd to think that smart watches have been around as a category for a couple of years now, but in that time, few manufacturers have really stepped up to define what a smart watch is or what it can do.

Stay connected with the Huawei Watch 2

Stay connected with the Huawei Watch 2 from DWI (Digital World International)

The 42mm Watch 2 features a 1.2" circular always-on 390 x 390 AMOLED display covered by Corning Gorilla Glass and is powered a 1.1 GHz Snapdragon Wear 2100 quad-core processor and 768 MB of RAM.

View details

Huawei's latest entry into the smart watch game is the Huawei Watch 2, available exclusively through Vodafone in Australia. The big hook this time around is that it's the first Android Wear device to launch in Australia with integrated 4G LTE compatibility, meaning you can throw a nano SIM card into it for additional data connectivity. Is that enough to make it a must-buy prospect?

Hwatch2_1_738

Design

Huawei went all out with the designs for its first smartwatch, the Huawei Watch, but for the second generation it's dialled back its design aspirations just a touch, with the 4G model as supplied coming in a simple black ceramic finish. Huawei's claim with the Watch 2 is that the use of ceramics rather than metal gives it a more premium finish, as well as making the 4G LTE connectivity stronger because there's little to no interference with the radio antennas onboard.

At 48.9 x 45 x 12.6mm, the Watch 2 is large, but not absolutely massive on the wrist. Much of that space is taken up with the body of the phone, however, with a 1.2 inch, 390x390 pixel display that's actually marginally smaller than on the original Watch model in play. The display screen is touch sensitive, and there are two side buttons for launching the app list as well as a dedicated single-use button that by default launches the Workout app at a tap.

The Watch 2 takes a 20mm band, but that doesn't mean you can drop just any old watch band onto it. The integration of a nano-SIM card that slots into the side of the Huawei Watch 2 means that only Huawei's own bands will actually fit and properly cover and protect the SIM card slot. The supplied band is relatively nondescript. It's not flashy, but it's workable and easy to adjust for relative wrist sizes, as well as being mostly comfortable after a long, sweaty run.

Hwatch2_2_738

Performance

While Huawei makes the hardware, the software on the Huawei Watch 2 is predominantly Google, and to be specific, Google's own Android Wear 2.0 platform. This allows for direct app downloading to the Watch, as well as integration of the Google Assistant for spoken word commands directly to the watch. There's something that's still a little socially awkward about talking directly to your smartwatch in public, but the feature itself does work.

The Huawei Watch 2 can take a full nano-SIM to enable 4G LTE features, which sounds impressive on paper, and can add a degree of functionality not found in other smart watches. Typically for data services the pairing with a 4G-enabled smartphone is mandatory, so if you go outside the Bluetooth range of your phone, your smartwatch suddenly isn't quite so smart.The Huawei Watch 2's 4G LTE integration allows it to sidestep some, but not quite all of these limitations.

Specifically, you can certainly use it to keep abreast of standard notifications, use Android Wear 2.0 apps and stream music via Google Play Music, but in the calling area there's a significant catch.

The Huawei Watch 2 can take and make calls, with a pair of Bluetooth headphones a good idea unless you're happy to broadcast your calls to the world. However, there's no Australian carriers that offer the same number across multiple SIM cards, and what this means is that you end up with two live mobile numbers, one from your existing phone, and one for the SIM in the Watch 2 itself.

It's then a matter of setting up call forwarding and remembering to enable it when you go out for a run, or otherwise out of range of your phone. Again, this does work (presuming you stay in mobile reception areas) but it's a slightly clunky solution to the mobile calling problem.

GPS is also built into the Huawei Watch 2, which means that if you do use it for run tracking, it can provide a quite accurate assessment of where you've actually been.

One nice aspect of the Huawei Watch 2's internal configuration is that it has NFC support, which means that it can act as a standalone Android Pay solution, presuming your financial institution supports Android Pay.

In day to day use, the Huawei Watch 2's smaller screen is adequate for displaying most notification information, but only just, because it is a smaller display screen. Android Wear 2.0 is nicely optimised for information, and that's both a blessing and a curse. It's great for quick snapshots of your day or simple app control of matters such as music playback, but that also means that more complex tasks really aren't its forte.

The smaller touch screen doesn't quite match up to the ease of selection of the scroll dial on, say, the Samsung Gear S3, or for that matter the digital crown on the Apple Watch.

While the Huawei Watch 2 is IP68 rated for water resistance, this doesn't include swimming, or in other words, Huawei isn't confident enough in repeated immersions to suggest that you use it in that way. There's only a handful of smartwatches (the Apple Watch being the best known of them) that support swimming activities, although a number of feature-packed sports watches do offer that kind of functionality.

Hwatch2_3_738

Battery life

Adding 4G LTE to a smartwatch sounds like a recipe for battery life disasters, especially as the smaller size of the Huawei Watch 2 only allows for a 420mAh internal battery.

Day to day testing, both on an overseas trip where mobile data was disabled (because I'm not made of money) and then within Australia with mobile data in full use showed that these concerns were largely unwarranted. Precise usage will clearly affect the battery life, but I've had no problems with single day usage, and even multi-day if notifications and other usage was kept to a minimum.

Huawei does use its own proprietary pin charger for the Huawei Watch 2, rather than a wireless charging standard, which does mean that you need to take good care of the charger itself. It's wishful thinking perhaps, but the use of a standard Qi charger would be a nice step for the next Huawei Watch.

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Verdict

The Huawei Watch 2 improves on the original in all the right ways, but at $599 outright, it's still something of a luxury buy. That's true of just about any smartwatch, however, because while I do personally love having notifications pop up on my wrist, and the integration of 4G LTE is a nice twist to ensure that they keep on coming, I'm left thinking that I'm still waiting for the next real evolution in the smartwatch model.

The Huawei Watch 2 is a fine digital timepiece for right now, but it's just an evolution of existing ideas, rather than a radical reinvention of the category. It is more flexible than the Apple Watch, because it'll work across Android or iOS, and its simplicity does make it an easy smartwatch to simply set up and use as it is.

The Huawei Watch 2 is available in Australia through Vodafone on a specific $10 Red Wearable plan with 1GB of data to use each month on the watch for $26.63 per month over 36 months for a total minimum cost of $608.68

Specifications

Product Name
Huawei Watch 2
Display
1.2in
Resolution
390 x 390 pixels
ppi
326ppi
Software
Android Wear 2.0
Storage
4GB
RAM
768MB
Battery
420mAh
Processor
Snapdragon Wear 2100
Size
48.9x45x12.6mm
Weight
57g

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