Huawei Watch GT review

2020-05-12

OUR VERDICT

Huawei has dropped the Wear OS software it normally runs on its smartwatches, instead switching to its own OS – and that’s mostly to the detriment of the Watch GT. That said, the battery life and price of the Watch GT will make it an appealing choice for some.

+FOR

Incredible battery life

Solid design

Affordable price

-AGAINST

No third-party app access

Not built for contactless payments

Limited phone app

The first two Huawei Watch products were a big part of the initial success of the Android Wear operating system, so it came as a surprise when the company backed away from Google's wearable platform for the Huawei Watch GT.

Instead the company decided to use its own software for its latest smartwatch, which seems to sit adjacent to the Wear OS-toting Huawei Watch 2 in a separate line of products, rather than being a ‘Huawei Watch 3’ of sorts.

The Watch GT has pared back software to increase battery life, and the good news is that this has worked – although at the cost of compromises elsewhere. 

Since the Watch GT's introduction, the company has also unveiled the Huawei Watch GT 2 that comes with underwater heart rate tracking as well as music storage and a few design tweaks as well.

Below you’ll find our full verdict on the original Watch GT from Huawei.

There are two variants of the Huawei Watch GT that you need to know about, and Huawei calls them the Sport and the Classic.

When it was first released, it was difficult to find the more expensive Classic version. It's now a lot easier to find, but in our experience we’ve often found retailers don’t specifically refer to them by their Sport and Classic names. The way to tell which version you're looking at is the black body edition is the Sport variant, while the silver body is the Classic.

Originally released in the UK in November 2018, the watch has an RRP of £199 for the Sport variant but we've often seen the price as low as £140. The Classic is meant to cost around £220, but again we've seen it on sale for around £40 less at £180.

In the US, the watch originally cost $199.99 for the Sport edition, but we've seen the prices drop to £160. The Classic version is on sale in the US for $229.99.

After a bit of a wait, Huawei also introduced the watch in Australia where its RRP was set at AU$349 but we've seen the price drop down to AU$249 at certain sales periods.

Design and display 

This is a thin and light smartwatch with a full-color display, and we found it comfortable to wear throughout our time using it; we also had compliments on how the watch looked on our wrist.

The design is similar to that of the Huawei Watch 2, although it is slimmer. It's 10.6mm thick, and that helps it to sit on your wrist comfortably, without weighing it down like some smartwatches can.

There's a 1.39-inch AMOLED display, which we found to be bright and clear. All of your stats appear clearly on the display, and it’s easy to interact with the touchscreen. That clarity is likely down to the resolution of 454 x 454 pixels, which is higher than we’ve seen on a lot of other smartwatches.

This is one of the best screens we’ve seen on a smartwatch, which is why it’s a bit of a shame there’s no Wear OS software on the watch to  provide apps other than Huawei's default selection. But let’s keeping focusing on the design of the watch for now…

There are two buttons on the right-hand side of the watch that enable you to navigate around its interface when you’re not using the touchscreen itself.

The top button works to wake the watch and then take you back to the main menu, while the lower one is designed for you to set up your own shortcuts. This enables you to easily boot up your favorite apps without having to head into the main menu, which is useful if you’re often running with the watch. 

If you own a Huawei Watch 2 you’ll recognize a lot of the design elements here. The GT is made of a combination of ceramic and metal that looks premium on the wrist. The bezel has numbers around is to make it look a touch closer to a traditional watch, and that ceramic gives it a classier feel than some other smartwatches.

Everything else around the outside of the watch is metal, and we really like the look of the one we’ve been using for this review.

You've got the choice of a silver watch body with a brown leather strap (which has silicone on the inside to make it comfortable while you're exercising), or a black body with a black silicone strap. We preferred the silver and brown option, but both look good on the wrist.

Specs and performance

Exactly what’s running the Huawei Watch GT is currently a little unclear. Previous smartwatches from the company have been powered by Qualcomm wearable chipsets, but that doesn’t seem to be the case for the latest iteration of its wearables.

Instead Huawei has opted for its own system under the hood, and the exact chipset on offer here hasn’t been made clear by the company.

When we initially tested the Huawei Watch GT at its launch in late 2018 we found it prone to stuttering and slow to boot up apps, but things have been improved considerably for the full release. Everything moves smoothly under the finger, and we were never left waiting for a specific app to boot up.

In particular, we found the GPS on this watch connects and syncs pretty much instantly, allowing you to press the button and take off on your run or cycle immediately.

We’re impressed with the speed of everything on the Watch GT, but it’s worth noting that the watch isn’t being called on to do a great deal, as the software is limited. It’s as quick as products we’ve seen from the likes of Garmin and Suunto that also offer limited functionality.

Software and app 

Here's where the Huawei Watch GT appears to struggle, and it's because the company has included its own LightOS software. This isn't Wear OS or Tizen, like a lot of smartwatches from Android phone manufacturers use.

That’s not inherently a bad thing, but Huawei’s software here is particularly limited when compared to some of the more comprehensive smartwatch operating systems you can get right now. This is much more like a watch made by Garmin than it is the Huawei Watch 2, which comes with Wear OS onboard.

There's no support for third-party apps, and when we asked Huawei whether it was looking to introduce that support at a later date we got the impression it had no intention of doing so. That could still change, but at the moment what you see on the Watch GT is what you get.

What you do get includes lots of fitness tech, and customizable watch faces and notifications – but apart from that it's quite limited. For example, there's no Google Pay support here, as there's no NFC chipset or supporting software on the watch.

Payments from your wrist is something the likes of Garmin does offer through its Garmin Pay solution, so you may find that a bugbear of the Watch GT.

The software that comes with the Huawei Watch GT is perfectly adequate, but it isn’t going to excite anyone looking for a fully-fledged smartwatch. There’s a workout app that we’ll explore in the next section, but alongside that you’ll get apps like a compass, weather, stopwatch, timer, alarm, flashlight, a way to find your phone and more.

The Huawei app on your iOS or Android phone connects you to the watch and allows you to choose your specific settings, such as which apps send notifications through to your wrist. We found ourselves setting this up, and then not using the app again much.

It’s useful for setting up your watch, but it doesn’t offer particularly great insight into your fitness stats – instead you’ll be doing that a lot from the watch itself.

Notifications for third-party apps aren’t particularly well optimized for the watch, but it’ll let you know what the notification is, as well as a brief preview of the message. If you’ve missed them, you can swipe up from the bottom to see your full notifications, but there’s no way to reply to them from the watch, so you’ll have to get your phone out.

Fitness

The central app on the Watch GT is called Workouts, and this offers most of the tracking capabilities outside of the normal step tracking and heart rate monitoring that’s working at all times in the background.

There are easy modes to set up called Outdoor Run, Indoor Run, Outdoor Walk, Climb, Trail Run, Outdoor Cycle, Indoor Cycle, Pool Swim, Open Water and other. The GT is 5ATM waterproof, so you can confidently wear it to track a swim.

It comes with GPS onboard too, which, as mentioned, we found connected extremely quickly.

The interface while working out with the Watch GT is also intuitive to use with your stats clearly displayed and easy to interact with. We found the tracking to be suitably accurate and in line with other smartwatches.

Battery life 

Battery life is where the Watch GT gets truly exciting though. Huawei believes this watch should be able to last almost a whole month on a single charge, and we found exactly that in our testing, with the GT dropping to 50% after around two weeks of use.

We then recharged the watch, and after 10 days of solid use we found it still had 72% left in the tank.

Considering the Huawei Watch 2 needs recharging once every couple of days, this is a seriously impressive stat. Some other smartwatches can last for a similar amount of time, but it’s not something every piece of smart wristwear can achieve.

Your mileage will of course vary depending on what features you’re using. Estimates from Huawei include two weeks for mixed usage, but only around a day with full use of the GPS feature.

Verdict

It’s hard not to compare the Huawei Watch GT to the company’s previous smartwatch efforts, but Huawei is trying to do something different with the GT, and it seems to have achieved its goal.

The Watch GT doesn’t offer the most fully-featured software we’ve seen on a smartwatch, but it does offer a lot considering its price.

Who’s this for? 

The Watch GT is designed for those looking for a fitness-focused device that also looks good on the wrist – and if that’s all you want you’ll likely be a fan of the Watch GT, as it offers an accurate heart rate tracker, fast GPS and a lot of tracking modes in a premium-looking package.

This isn’t, however, a watch for anyone who wants access to lots of useful apps and notifications directly from their wrist; you’ll be better off going for an Apple Watch, or a Wear OS or Tizen device, for that.

If fitness is your main aim, but you don’t want a plastic fitness tracker or an unattractive running watch, the GT may just be perfectly suited to you.

Should you buy it? 

The Watch GT is available for an affordable price – at least in the UK – so it may be a good choice for you when you compare it to a lot of other smartwatches available right now.

If you’re after the features we’ve listed above, this is a solid choice – just be aware that it isn’t going to offer lots of customization and third-party features, like a lot of the best smartwatches available do.

The main reason you may want to buy this watch is if you don’t like having to charge your watch every night. The Watch GT offers seriously impressive battery life, and that’s a big selling point for anyone who’s irritated by having to remember to recharge their wristwear.