Huawei Watch 2 review

Huawei took to the stage on Sunday 26 February 2017 to announce not only its flagship for 2017, the Huawei P10 and P10 Plus, but also its second generation smartwatch, the Huawei Watch 2. However, while the original Huawei Watch was for the fashion conscious, the Huawei Watch 2 has more of a focus on exercise and fitness.

Can the Huawei Watch 2 offer something different to a sea of other fitness-focused smartwatches on sale in 2017? Read our Huawei Watch 2 review and find out.

Interested in other smartwatches available this year? Take a look at our list of the best smartwatches of 2017.

UK pricing and availability

Although Huawei never announced an official UK release date at the launch event, the new smartwatch is now on sale not only via Amazon, but also the likes of Very and Watch Shop.

The Huawei Watch 2 is priced at £329 for the regular model and jumps to £379 if you want 4G LTE connectivity. This puts Huawei’s second-generation Watch in line with the £369 Apple Watch Series 2, although there are differences between the two (Apple’s smartwatch doesn’t offer 4G connectivity, for example).

Meanwhile, the Huawei Watch 2 Classic is £409, but is yet to go on sale in the UK.

Read next: Best new smartwatches and fitness trackers coming in 2017

Design and build

In terms of design, the Sport variant of the Huawei Watch 2 is quite a step away from the fashion focused first-generation Huawei Watch – although that’s not to say it’s not an attractive wearable. Gone is the silver stainless steel body of a traditional watch, as the Huawei Watch 2 boasts a rather generic sporty smartwatch design, complete with a plastic body and a double chrome design.

In terms of dimensions, the circular display of the Watch 2 is fairly large at 1.2in with only one case size available (45mm), meaning it may look a little bulky and awkward on smaller wrists – especially with a height of 12.6mm. It’s also fairly heavy at 57g – for comparison, the second-generation Apple Watch measures in at 45g.

Huawei claims that the ceramic bezel used on the Watch 2 is six times harder than stainless steel, making it resistant to abrasion whilst still being relatively lightweight. While we were initially concerned that the mirror-finish bezels would be prone to light scratches, we can confirm that after five weeks of wear, it’s still scratch-free.

The lugs are also lower than other smartwatches available on the market, and this provides a more comfortable fit around the wrist. It’s not the only benefit either, as it also provides better stability to the watch during heartrate monitoring (especially when moving quickly during exercise).

In terms of colour options, Huawei offers the Watch 2 in three colours: Dynamic Orange, Carbon Black and Concrete Grey. The latter two are fairly similar in look, although with a key difference: the Concrete Grey Huawei Watch 2 has silver buttons, while the Carbon Black variant has black buttons. The Dynamic Orange colour option is also exclusive to the 4G variant of the Huawei Watch 2. 

While admittedly the colour options aren’t as ‘out there’ as what is offered with the Huawei P10, the Watch 2 straps can be swapped out for any standard 20mm watch strap, allowing for limited customisation.  

Overall, the build quality of the Huawei Watch 2 is around what is expected of a £330 smartwatch. Despite featuring a plastic body compared to the stainless steel first-generation Watch, the mirror-like double-chrome design provides a more premium look than other fitness-focused smartwatches. The lowered lugs also make a huge difference in comfort, especially when worn over long periods.

Read next: Huawei P10 vs Huawei P10 Plus comparison review

Features and spec

Before we get into what the Huawei Watch 2 can offer, let’s first take a look under the hood to see what powers it.

Internals

Inside the second-generation Huawei Watch is a quad-core Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor with 768MB of RAM. The Wear 2100 brings various improvements over the Snapdragon 400 used in older smartwatches beyond a speed bump, including improved battery life and a smaller design.

In use, the Watch is responsive to the touch with no signs of lag when navigating between menus, swiping between notifications or running third-party apps.

As part of the standalone nature, the Watch 2 features 4GB of storage that can be used to store music. Alternatively, the Watch 2 comes with Google Play Music support, and even offers users a two-month free trial to the service when they buy the Watch, allowing users to browse and download music to the Watch on the go.

Display

In terms of the screen, the Huawei Watch 2 features a 1.2in circular AMOLED display with a 390 x 390 resolution, equating to around 326ppi. While the resolution is nothing to be sniffed at, it can’t quite compete with the 480 x 480 resolution of the LG Watch Sport – and it shows. Not all watch faces are as well defined as we’d like, although it’s a small issue that only the more eagle-eyed amongst you will notice in day-to-day use.

Aside from the issues with resolution, we thought the Huawei Watch 2’s AMOLED display was bright and vibrant, with no complaints with use even in direct sunlight.

Fitness

So, what can the Huawei Watch 2 offer that the original didn’t? Like many other smartwatches, the Watch 2 has a heavy focus on fitness, and aims to be your fitness companion, offering helpful stats and professional fitness advice.

While the Watch 2 features preset exercises (cardio, fat burn, bike ride, etc) that you can select on-the-fly, you can also use the Huawei Health app on your smartphone to create your own custom workout plans based on your goals. It’ll coach you during your exercise, giving you stage guidance (warm up, high intensity, low intensity, etc), speed guidance, lap reminders and of course, goal process reminders and more. 

The Watch 2 boasts a heart rate monitor that provides a real-time heart rate zone to keep your heart rate in check while exercising, as, contrary to popular belief, having a high heart rate can have a negative effect on your workout. If your heart rate is too high during your workout, the Watch 2 will let you know.

It doesn’t stop there though, as it also offers in-depth stats following your workout, available on your smartphone. It’ll break your workout into different areas, offer post-workout reports for VO2Max, training effect evaluations (for long term comparison) and recovery time advice depending on how hard you’ve pushed yourself.

Don’t worry about sweat damaging the smartwatch either: the Huawei Watch 2 offers IP68 dust and water resistance, meaning it should survive for up to 1m of water for 30 minutes.

Our only annoyance? It doesn’t make any attempt to automatically detect fitness activities. While this may not affect those that plan on going for a run or a bike ride, it means that those who take walks that turn into brisk exercise and forget to turn on the walking activity on the Watch miss out on all that data.

Equally, we found that on occasion we’d forget to end the tracking on the Watch and that it’d still be tracking us hours later – not good for our battery life or our health data.  

Read next: Best fitness tracker deals

Connectivity

The Huawei Watch 2 features not only a built-in heart rate monitor, but also GPS, Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n), Bluetooth 4.1 and optional 4G connectivity, allowing for standalone use.

This means that you can use the Watch for exercise and even to make and receive calls without your smartphone being in range. It’s worth mentioning that the 4G connectivity is exclusive to the Sport variant, and isn’t available as part of the Classic range.

In terms of sensors, the Huawei Watch 2 boasts an accelerometer, three-axis gyroscope, barometer, compass and a capacitive sensor in addition to the HR monitor mentioned above.

Battery life

In terms of battery life, Huawei claims that the 4G-connected Watch 2 will last for two days on a single charge, while the non-4G variant will last an extra day with a three-day battery life with average use (both feature the same 420mAh battery).

While we can’t confirm the battery life of the 4G-connected Watch, we can say that the standard Huawei Watch 2 lasts around two days on a single charge – it’s only when we toggle on the smart power saving mode that we see three-day battery life.

There’s also a Watch Mode for those that only want to use the smartwatch to tell the time. While it disables most of the functionality of the Watch, it also allows it to be powered on for a whopping 30 days on a single charge.

Huawei claims that if everything is in use constantly (GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 4G connectivity) like when using it to track workouts, the Watch 2 will reportedly last 11 hours before needing some juice.

The good news is that when the time does come to charge the Huawei Watch 2, it’s pretty fast: we found that it would charge from empty to full in little over an hour.

Read next: Best fitness trackers of 2017

Software

In terms of software, the Huawei Watch 2 boasts the latest version of Android Wear, aka Android Wear 2.0. It’s a huge improvement over the original Android Wear, providing a more intuitive and easy-to-use user interface.

Due to the standalone capabilities offered by the new version of Android Wear, the Huawei Watch 2 features its own built-in Play Store for users to browse and download apps directly to the Watch without the need for a paired smartphone.

While there are a handful of apps for Android Wear that allow for standalone use, many (at the time of writing) still require a connected smartphone to work. While Google Play Music can stream music to the smartwatch via Wi-Fi only, Spotify requires a smartphone to be connected for playback.   

Of course, the Huawei Watch 2 also includes Google Assistant support, with users able to long press one of the two buttons on the Watch 2 to activate it. It’s quicker and more responsive than on older smartwatches we’ve used, making it a decent option for text input when replying to texts and emails. For those that don’t enjoy dictation, you can swipe on-screen using the new keyboard.

For more information on what Android Wear 2.0 offers, take a look at our explainer: Android Wear 2.0 release date, features and more

OUR VERDICT

The Huawei Watch 2 is no-doubt a huge improvement over the first-generation Huawei Watch despite trading in the classic look for something a little sportier. The double-chrome design gives it a premium look, although it’s let down a little bit by cheap-looking removable plastic straps.

It’s the hardware that really sets the Watch 2 apart: it boasts optional 4G connectivity, GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, allowing for use without a connected smartphone. The array of built-in sensors provides in-depth fitness tracking, allowing for a more holistic view of your exercise regime, although there are small issues that need ironing out.