Huawei Watch GT 3 SE review: Great battery life but limited smartwatch appeal
- Excellent battery life
- Water resistance
- Wide range of workout modes
- Android users will need to sideload via AppGallery
- No onboard NFC
- Distance speaker is embarrassingly loud
The existing Huawei Watch GT 3 is a fine smartwatch device with some notable limitations, especially around mobile payments and how it connects to most Android phones.
For most users, the Huawei Watch GT 3 SE will present as the same smartwatch but at a lower and more appealing price point.
If you're after a smartwatch with exceptional battery life, it's an easy recommendation. However, you do have to jump through a few hoops to get it working in the first place whereas rival products from the likes of Apple, Google or Samsung are much easier to set up.
Buy Huawei Watch GT 3 SE products
Design: Big and bold, but limited styles available.
Like the full-fat Huawei Watch GT 3, the Huawei Watch GT 3 SE is built around a circular watch body with a numbered face ring around the outside.
Unlike the regular model, there's no choice in sizing, with a single 46mm body available in either Wilderness Green or Graphite Black, which was the colour Huawei sent me for review.
There are also fewer choices in watch bands because this isn't a style play. It's an affordability one for those who might want more than Huawei offers through its more sport-centric Huawei Band products.
It's a bit of a design classic that's meant to look, for want of a better term, "watchy", in that style of rather bold and chunky models.
Nobody's going to think you're rocking a Rolex, but equally, you won't have the pure "this is a tech-centric watch" look that you get from models such as the Apple Watch. Style being what it is, what appeals to you may differ quite a lot.
The Huawei Watch GT 3 SE's 1.43-inch AMOLED display is bright and clear enough to use, with good touch sensitivity for most functions.
There's definitely a learning curve when you need to swipe, tap or use the dial or single button on the side, but it's nothing that you can't muddle through with just a little persistence.
While the side power button spins a la the Apple Watch's Digital Crown, I couldn't find a use case where it actually scrolled as you might expect it to.
Tap it to bring up the very watchOS-styled App list – I see what you did there, Huawei, and you did it before with the Watch GT3 too – and you'll have to manually scroll by sliding your finger down the screen like some kind of troglodyte.
While the feel of using the Huawei Watch GT 3 SE's user interface is a little shamelessly Apple-cloned, one area where Huawei does go a lot further than Apple is in watch faces. There's a huge array of watch faces whether you prefer your style classical or rich with information.
Set-up: The same old ugly Android problems persist
Huawei makes good hardware, but for the past couple of years, it's been stymied by US trade sanctions that mean it can't work with US companies to any appreciable extent.
There are some truly weird workarounds for this – I have no idea how it's still able to sell Matebook laptops locally with Windows installed, but it can – but where it hurts its wearables is in device compatibility.
If you're using a Huawei phone with its own EMUI-on-top-of-Android interface, you should be fine, though I've not been able to test that for this particular phone.
Oddly, if you're using iOS on an iPhone, the set-up also isn't too tricky, with the Huawei Health app used for pairing and tracking and updating.
With the Watch GT3, I did hit issues with very slow firmware updates on iOS. For the Huawei Watch GT 3 SE, there were no updates during my review time with the watch, so I can't comment there.
Then there's regular Android, as you'd find on any phone from Google, Samsung, Motorola, Oppo, Nokia and basically everyone else.
Huawei doesn't have access to Google Play and can't place a compatible version of Huawei Health onto Google Play as a result.
Its solution for this is to use its own AppGallery, which you'll need to sideload along with granting it app install permissions along the way.
I get that AppGallery is Huawei's way to keep its phones relevant, and in some ways, it's admirable to have actual app store competition in the Android space. However, AppGallery is still messy and the warnings that Android gives around it may be enough to scare off many everyday consumers from even trying.
Performance: Still best as a fitness watch, not a full smartwatch
The style of the Huawei Watch GT 3 SE certainly suggests that it's a full smartwatch competitor, replete with all the apps that you'd expect on competing platforms such as Apple's watchOS or Google's Wear OS.
That's not quite the story of the Huawei Watch GT 3 SE. Its best feature set is the vast array of sports that it claims it can track, with more than 100 sports tracking routines.
I lack the skill, time and to be honest interest to track all of them for the purposes of review, but in any case, when you do open up the workouts section of the Huawei Watch GT 3 SE, you're not awash with too many choices, with the obvious candidates of running, swimming, skiing and the like topping the list.
On the swimming front, it's rated for water resistance at up to 50 metres, though it's not explicitly clear how far Huawei's warranty will cover you for water ingress issues. You certainly shouldn't go scuba diving with it.
Having used the Huawei Watch GT 3 SE for a couple of weeks to measure my running and walking activities, I've got a few complaints here aside from the same ones I had with the original Watch GT3.
I do like the fact that the Huawei Watch GT 3 SE provides in-depth stats including the intensity of workouts, so I can see whether I'm pushing harder on a given run than I have before.
I don't like the fact that its default is to announce milestones very loudly from the watch speaker when you do so. The lady with the dog who learned my 1-kilometre time while I jogged past her did not look impressed, and I was embarrassed to be honest. You can silence it from a sub-menu, but that should be the default.
Huawei absolutely optimises for battery life and that means that if there's a function that it thinks you no longer need, it kills it very promptly.
This means if you start a workout and have to stop momentarily, restarting will require a fresh start of all services, including GPS functionality. For example, that means waiting around if you do want to very precisely measure a run.
However, outside of fitness functions, you very much do revert just to the basics. As an example with the Huawei Watch GT 3 SE paired to an iPhone 14 Pro, I couldn't get the music controls to work, though I could have loaded music onto the watch if that was my preferred listening set-up. There's no onboard NFC, but then again Google wouldn't be able to offer Google Pay through Huawei anyway.
So what about apps? That depends on which phone you're pairing to. For iPhone users, there's no AppGallery access to add anything to the Huawei Watch GT 3 SE at all beyond paid-for watch faces, which load very slowly if they load at all.
It's definitely a sub-par experience, but honestly, I'd advocate for the Apple Watch SE 2nd Gen for any iPhone users anyway.
For Android users, you do get AppGallery access to install additional apps onto the Huawei Watch GT 3 SE.
Just not that many of them.
At the time of writing this review, AppGallery on a paired Android phone offered up a paltry 40 different apps with a lot of notable heavy hitters absolutely not present, and more than a little junk in there too.
I would say that this might be a function of the Huawei Watch GT 3 SE's moderate price point. Again, it's not that hard to track down a Wear OS watch near this price, and Apple's Watch SE 2nd Gen isn't much more expensive again.
Even if you wanted to keep it in the Huawei family, you could get much of this approach from one of its cheaper fitness bands.
On the sensor side, the Huawei Watch GT 3 SE has an optical heart rate sensor for the usual heart rate and blood oxygen sensing, though there's no ECG support built in as you find on fancier Huawei smartwatches.
You do get advanced sleep tracking if you like that sort of thing, though I found the Huawei Watch GT 3 SE a little too large to comfortably wear to bed.
Battery: Days and days of battery life
Huawei's big claim to fame for its wearables is that they leave the competition in the dust regarding battery life. The Huawei Watch GT 3 SE is quite lightweight at just 35.6g (sans strap) and it doesn't state a battery capacity.
What it does state is a claim of up to 7 days for heavy usage and 14 days for lighter usage. Having tested it over the last fortnight, Huawei isn't telling too many fibs here.
Now, sure, it manages that by aggressively having the screen and other radio functions shut off whenever and as quickly as it can unless you tell it otherwise. If you want an always-on smartwatch, this isn't going to be for you.
Huawei provides a simple wireless charging puck on the end of a USB-A-type cable, but no charger in the box.
One very nice touch here is that if you do forget it before heading off on a presumably quite long work trip, you're not necessarily going to be stuck with a non-functional smartwatch after a while.
The Huawei Watch GT 3 SE is Qi-compatible, and I was able to get it to happily take a charge from a wide variety of wireless chargers as long as I could get it to sit stable on them. You could even use the reverse wireless charging function found in many Huawei and some Samsung phones to top up the Huawei Watch GT 3 SE.
Should you buy the Huawei Watch GT 3 SE?
- Buy it if you want a light and simple smartwatch with excellent battery life.
- Don't buy it if you need wider app compatibility.
The Huawei Watch GT 3 SE is a decent smartwatch for its price, but that's as far as I'd go in praising it. If you want the basic functions of a smartwatch in terms of fitness tracking and you hate the idea of having to charge your watch on a daily or near-daily basis, there's some value here.
However, it's still lacking in the app department, and I can't see too much reason for iPhone users to opt for it over the Apple Watch SE 2nd Gen, even though that model's a little more pricey than the Huawei Watch GT 3 SE. On the Android side, the set-up is a kludge and alternate options including Google's Fitbit lines may meet your needs just as well.
Pricing and availability
The Huawei Watch GT 3 SE retails in Australia for $329.
How we tested
Huawei Australian loaned me a Huawei Watch GT 3 SE for a 2-week testing period. I tested the Huawei Watch GT 3 SE paired to an iPhone 14 Pro and an Asus Zenfone 9 during the review period, testing it for fitness tracking, notifications, comfort, battery life and other smartwatch functions.
As a product reviewer, I've got more than 20 years of experience covering the consumer tech space including a wide array of smartwatches released in that timeframe. I'm a multi-time Australian IT Journo award winner, including the winner of the 2022 Best Reviewer award.
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