Huawei Watch GT 3 review: Great sports tracking and battery life, but a pain to set up
Quick verdict: Huawei's Watch GT 3 ticks off a lot of boxes for any interested smartwatch or fitness watch buyer. It covers a wide range of sports and easily creates routines for you to reach your fitness goals. It's a great looking watch with exceptional battery life. However, it lacks NFC for easy payments, and it's a nuisance to set up on Android phones or update on iOS handsets.
- Superb battery life
- Classic watch styling
- Charges from most wireless chargers
- Android set-up raises security questions
- Slow, crash prone firmware updates
- No NFC onboard
- Shameless Apple Watch UI clone
The third generation Huawei Watch GT 3 continues the company's long tradition of providing smartwatches with superb battery life. That's a really key matter for any smartwatch, and it's impossible to fault the Watch GT 3 for its battery endurance, or indeed the ease with which you can recharge it.
However, like so much Huawei hardware right now, while the physical parts are superb, the software is another story. The Watch GT 3 could be a great smartphone companion if you're notably fitness focused, but it's not quite as smart as its competition, and it's nowhere near as easy to set up, either.
Design: Swings between classical and chunky, and smooth and round
Like so many other smartwatch makers, Huawei sells its Huawei Watch GT 3 in 2 size variants, with either a 46mm or 42mm face, depending on how large a watch you prefer to strap to your wrist. The model supplied for review was the larger 46mm size with a leather strap.
It's a classic watch design that works well if you like that old school style, while the 42mm variant has more of a modern smooth rounded design. There are some compromises here as not all bands and combinations are available across both the 42mm and 46mm sizes.
Still, I'm a big fan of classic watch designs, and if you don't want a smartwatch that looks like a tech product – why yes, Apple Watch, I am looking at you – then this fits the bill nicely.
The 46mm model I tested has a 1.43-inch AMOLED display. I had no issues viewing it during the review period, even in direct sunlight or while exercising. Touch and swipe gestures worked well, as did the rotating crown button and single button underneath. Huawei's UI doesn't always make it immediately apparent which you should use for particular functions, but I never found it frustrating. It's not as though 2 effective buttons and a scroll dial are a lot of controls to wrap my head around.
On the software side, the Huawei Watch GT 3 runs Huawei's own HarmonyOS. Prior incarnations of the Watch GT tended towards a plain UI, but it's very clear to see where the company has drawn its inspiration for this time around. Click the scroll wheel on the side of the Watch GT 3 and you'll be met with a bevy of icons that look incredibly familiar to anyone who's ever used an Apple Watch.
I'll go a little further than this; the Huawei Watch GT 3 is a blatant Apple Watch UI clone, and that extends to many of its default watch faces too. It's a slightly odd look in some ways, because the watch face itself remains round, not rectangular. Still, if you were jumping from an Apple Watch to the Huawei Watch GT 3, it would at least look familiar.
Set-up: Either very slow or very complicated – it's your choice
The Huawei GT 3 supports both iOS and Android operating systems, making it one of the more flexible smartwatches in this respect.
However, that's flexibility that comes with some significant limitations when it comes time to set up the watch.
The Huawei Watch GT 3 uses Huawei's own Huawei Health app. Having your own health app isn't uncommon for smartwatch providers, but the way you can get it set up and working is sub-optimal at best.
Initially, I set up the Huawei Watch GT 3 on an iPhone 13 Pro. Here it is a little easier to get the Huawei Health app, because it's readily available in the Apple App Store.
I have no idea how or why Huawei can dance around US trade bans with Apple but not Google, but there you go. On an iOS device, it's just a click away to install and start setting up the Huawei Watch GT 3.
Where I got intensely frustrated with the Huawei Watch GT 3 was when it informed me that it needed a firmware update. For any review test I like to work with the most current firmware to ensure I'm not tracking issues that a vendor might have solved, so I set it to download and transfer the update over a reasonably nippy 250Mbps NBN connection.
Which should have been fine, even though the Huawei Watch GT 3 doesn't have any Wi-Fi connectivity of its own, so the actual transfer would be over slower Bluetooth.
Except – you can see this coming, right? – it wasn't. To be specific, the update process crashed.
Not just once.
A dozen times over more than 10 hours of fighting the Huawei Watch GT 3 to take a firmware update that should have taken minutes to apply. I eventually did get it to take the firmware update, and it hasn't asked for another one since. I'm not sure I'd have the patience.
Apple's strict control over the iOS ecosystem is well known, so things would be better on the Android side of the fence, right?
The issue here is that Huawei is (at the time of writing, and for some time now) subject to US sanctions that means it can't offer new apps on the Google Play store.
Huawei has its alternative Huawei AppGallery to cover distribution of its own apps, as well as apps to its own Google-blocked smartphones.
Installing AppGallery involves downloading it from Huawei, sideloading it – and accepting it as an installation source – and then searching out Huawei Health from there.
AppGallery itself will want to be permitted to install apps in order to do so. Because you'll most likely need updates in the future, you would also need to leave AppGallery with install permissions on your Android device when you do so.
Even if you're comfortable with that level of potential security risk – and to be fair, it's not as though Google Play hasn't had its share of malware over the years – it's a lot of hoops to jump through just to get a smartwatch up and running.
I didn't have access to a full Huawei smartphone to see what the install process was like there. I would hope it was easier if you're within the Huawei ecosystem. Still, most Australian phone buyers do buy full Android or iOS devices, and the install process is anything but smooth from there.
Performance: While there's lots of sports tracking, there aren't many smartwatch features
Prior Huawei Watch GT 3 smartwatches have straddled the line between simpler fitness watches and full on "smart" watches, tending more towards the former. Huawei's done some work here, with features like proper music control and integration with more of your app notifications working a lot better for this generation.
Still, fitness is the key platform that the Huawei Watch GT 3 sells on, with support for over 100 indoor and outdoor sport tracking routines. I lack both the time and, if I'm honest the interest and muscle tone to test every single one for accuracy.
However, I am currently trying to clock up 5km running or walking per day, and the Watch GT 3 does a lot to help out runners, with a multitude of running styles and an AI-led running coach that lets you set specific targets and creates a fitness plan from there to get you out on the track.
I tested the Huawei Watch GT 3's tracking both with outdoor runs and indoor treadmill runs. Outdoor runs were very well tracked, no doubt helped by the multitude of GPS systems the Watch GT 3 looks for in the sky.
It's worth noting that its congratulations on clocking up each kilometre are very loud if you're not hooked up to the watch over headphones. I'd like to apologise to the lady who I startled when my watch started shouting about my 2km run times the other day right here and now.
Running indoors was less accurate, with a significant gap of more than 500m between what my treadmill put me through and what the Huawei Watch GT 3 measured. One neat feature I appreciated here is that the Watch GT 3 will let you adjust the "actual" run distance for treadmill runs when you're finished, so that all systems stay at the same metric level. It didn't seem to improve its accuracy on the next run, but it meant that Huawei Health was agreeing with other health platforms when it came time to tot up my total distances.
Huawei wants to present its Health app as more than just a simple step counter, however. Using the Watch GT 3's integrated sensors, including SPO2 and an 8-element heart rate sensor it presents you with – and I swear I'm not making this up – the "Healthy Living Shamrock".
I can only guess that Huawei really badly wants to crack the Irish or Irish-aligned market somehow. The core idea here is that you set some kind of health goal, whether it's muscles, weight loss or less stress, and the app measures and rates your performance across exertion, mood and sleep metrics.
That gives you a quick visual reminder of where you are in your day relative to your stated goals, as well as offering up options for notifications to remind you to drink lots of water or move around more. As someone who drives a desk much of the day, being nagged is sometimes a genuinely good thing.
There are a few features that feel like they're missing in action, though. There's no capability on board for ECG readings, for a start. While the range of smartwatches that do cover ECG isn't huge, it's an important health factor for older Australians, and health tracking isn't just a young person's game.
The Huawei Watch GT 3 also doesn't support NFC, and that means it's locked out of any kind of contactless payments system. The Google ban might have stymied it there anyway, but if you're a fan of grabbing a sports drink from the corner store at the end of your run without taking your phone or wallet with you, the Huawei Watch GT 3 will leave you high and dry there. You can make calls over Bluetooth directly to the watch, Dick Tracy style, but there's no eSIM capability, so you'd need to have your phone in your pocket anyway.
Battery: Great endurance and super easy to charge
The defining feature of the Huawei Watch GT line right back to its original model has been its battery life. Where other smartwatches require daily recharging, it's always proudly worn multi-day battery life as a major selling point. The Huawei Watch GT 3 continues this tradition, with a claimed 7-day battery life for the smaller 42mm model and up to 14 days for the larger 46mm variant.
It's a bold claim, but it's one that does check out. With constant tracking enabled I managed around a week of battery life on the 46mm variant, but with it dialled down it ran through a week with more than 50% battery remaining, which bodes well for that longer term endurance claim.
Like prior Watch GT models, it manages this through a couple of sneaky battery-saving tricks. The default for the display is always off, with the screen only popping into view when you raise your wrist. While it has Bluetooth and GPS onboard, there's no Wi-Fi to sap the battery.
Huawei provides a simple disc charger on a USB cable with the Huawei Watch GT 3, same as most smartwatches. One of the neatest parts of the way it charges is that you might not need the charging cable at all. So many smartwatches utterly rely on their supplied chargers, which creates a big problem if it's broken or lost. The Huawei Watch GT 3 scoffs at that arrangement, because it's fully Qi compatible.
I tested it with a range of wireless chargers to see how it would go. The only real issues I hit were chargers with very small induction loops, or those in more unusual shapes, like titled chargers for smartphone display a la the Pixel Stand, but otherwise it worked very well. While Huawei may have "borrowed" a few UI ideas for the OS, this is one innovation I wish more smartwatch makers would "borrow" from Huawei.
Should you buy it?
- Buy it if you want a long-range fitness watch with a subset of smartwatch features.
- Don't buy it if you want an easy install or update process, or need contactless payments.
The Huawei Watch GT 3 has great hardware for the price, especially if you do want a smartwatch that you don't have to charge every day.
However, even more so than its predecessors, the blocks on Huawei's ability to provide the software needed to hook it up to your smartphone seriously detract from its value. It's easiest to hook up to an iPhone, but I'm not going to credibly suggest that iPhone owners step outside the Apple walled garden, because the Apple Watch is clearly the superior option there.
It should be a good option for Android owners, but the way you have to jump through so many hoops to get it installed, plus the lack of NFC for contactless payments means it can't help but compare unfavourably.
Pricing and availability
The model of the Huawei Watch GT 3 as tested retails in Australia for $499 with a brown leather strap; the 46mm black strap version costs $449, while the 42mm models cost $499 with a gold band, $449 with a white band or $399 with a black band.
How we tested
I tested the Huawei Watch GT 3 over a 2-week period, paired with an Apple iPhone 13 Pro, a Google Pixel 6 Pro and a Motorola Edge 30 Pro handset. The Watch GT 3 was evaluated across its ability to manage both fitness tracking and standard smartwatch applications (where available), as well as its ease of set-up, charging routine and battery life. The model tested was loaned to me by Huawei for the purposes of review.
The reviewer has more than 2 decades of tech product reviewing under his belt and is a multi-time Australian IT Journo award winner, including awards for best reviewer and best technical journalist.