We’ve been using the HUAWEI Watch GT2 as our daily driver for life in general, working and training with it primarily for two months.
When it comes to smartwatches, the general conception is that there’s the Apple Watch, and there are the rest. The market share and sales numbers definitely back this up, but then again, on the flip side, there are many more Android smartphones out there than there are iPhones. And, since the Apple Watch doesn’t work (well) with Android phones, there’s a huge opportunity for a manufacturer to tap into that immense market with a top smartwatch for the Android user.
However, there’s no real shortage of watches not made by Apple. The competition is fierce, as almost every major Android smartphone manufacturer has a wearable line-up. Can HUAWEI, and its second generation Watch GT2, potentially take the crown this year? That’s what we’re trying to answer, in our HUAWEI Watch GT2 review.
HUAWEI Watch GT2 specs
|Dimensions||45,9 x 45,9 x 10,7mm — 41gr. without strap|
|Case||46mm, black stainless steel|
|Chipset||HUAWEI Kirin A1|
|Display||1.39-inch OLED, 454 x 454 resolution|
|Sensors||Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Geomagnetic, Optical heart rate, Ambient light, Air pressure, Capacitive|
|Connectivity||GPS, Bluetooth 5.1|
|Battery life||14 days|
|Buttons||Power button, function button|
Hardware and Design
When HUAWEI introduced the Watch GT2 on September 19, 2019, in Munich, at the Mate 30, Mate 30 Pro, and PD Mate 30 RS launch event, the company said it was ready to “Rethink Time”. The Watch GT2 gets a new “Purified Design”, with what it calls a Uni-Piece Crystal-Bezel Design. This all translates in real life to narrow bezels, and a gorgeous display that is so close to the surface that information displayed seems to be floating right on top of the 3D glass.
That OLED display not only has beautiful colors, but it’s also very bright, at 1,000nits, making outdoor readability effortless. This is key, as most of your workouts will be outdoor.
There’s also, new with the HUAWEI Watch GT2, an always-on display mode, but not without its limitations. You can only choose between two watch dials, an analogue or a digital one, without the option of having your current dial, or a variation of it, used during always-on.
While you are able to adjust some pre-configured color settings for the always-on display, it will disable raise to wake, requiring the user to tap the screen or push a button in order to wake the watch. It also only just displays time, and comes with a big warning that it will decrease battery life by 50 percent.
Inside the HUAWEI Watch GT2 lives the same Kirin A1 chip that is at the core of the new Freebuds 3. It’s the world’s first BT & BTLE 5.1 wearable chip that is power efficient and also increases the Bluetooth connection range (up to 150 meters).
With the built-in microphone, and rather loud speaker, you can take calls on your watch. This definitely comes in handy when your phone is in the car, or in your bag, and you’re on the court shooting basketball. You can also listen to music with the embedded speaker, if that’s something that you’d want to do, as you’ve got 2GB of storage (only about 2GB out of the total 4GB are available to the user) you can fill up with your favorite tunes. We preferred to do that with the Freebuds 3 paired to the watch.
While HUAWEI advertises 14 days of battery life for the 46mm Watch GT2, we “only” managed to squeeze out 7. However, in those 7 days, we used it heavily during our workouts, with the occasional on-the-wrist phone calls, and listening to music (more on that in the Fitness section below).
We didn’t use the always-on display, but we had continuous heart-rate monitoring enabled, to facilitate sleep tracking and stress tests.
According to HUAWEI, battery should be good for 24 hours of music playback, 30 hours of continuous GPS tracking, or 10 hours of calls via Bluetooth. Disclaimer: we didn’t do any of those, we just used it as you regularly would.
Compared to its main competitor, the Apple Watch Series 4 and 5, that’s still huge. It’s a real relief to only have to charge the Watch GT2 once a week, compared to every day, in the case of Apple’s smartwatch. Your mileage, of course, will vary, depending on the number and duration of your workouts, and your typical usage scenario.
Software and Features
What makes a smartwatch a smartwatch? It’s the same question we asked a decade or so ago: what makes a smartphone a smartphone? Back then, the answer was that “it’s a phone that is capable of running apps”. Similarly, logic dictates that a smartwatch is a watch which is capable of running apps.
The HUAWEI Watch GT2 can run apps alright, but you can’t download or add apps to it. You’re stuck with the out-of-the-box experience. It’s a smartwatch and it’s not, at the same time. Schrödinger’s cat theory could easily apply in this case.
Without an app store or any other way to expand the user experience, HUAWEI threw in the apps the company thought would be most useful.
The device runs LiteOS, initially introduced with the original HUAWEI Watch GT. One of the main reasons for the killer battery life is LiteOS itself, which is easier on the power consumption than Wear OS would be (if it ever becomes possible again with the current status quo).
There are 21 apps on the watch, in the below order, with no way of customizing:
- Workout records;
- Workout status;
- Heart rate;
- Activity records;
- Breathing exercises;
- Call Log;
- Air pressure;
- Find my phone;
While the apps work well, and do exactly what they’re advertised, the Notification system could benefit from a little extra polish. You can choose what apps get notifications on the watch (forwarded from the phone), but you won’t get their corresponding app icons. A WhatsApp message and a banking app notification will look the same.
You can’t action on the notifications, aside from clearing them, and the previews often times are off.
You can swipe up from the bottom to see a list of pending notifications. Swiping from the top brings you to the quick controls, and swiping left and right cycles through home, heart rate, stress, weather, music, and your fitness activities for the day.
HUAWEI Health app
The rest of the experience software-wise resides on the phone, in the HUAWEI Health app, which is used to pair and control the watch. It is also the main hub where all your fitness, sleep, and other health data is collected.
Here you can manage your watch dials, set notification access, sleep tracking, heart rate monitoring, and other settings related to how the watch behaves.
The app itself is easy to navigate and offers tons of insights into what it tracks. It contains explanations on each metric, hands out advice and tips, as well as warnings, related to almost everything. It’s a nice, complementary, experience.
Sadly, it doesn’t integrate with all calorie counting apps, so you’ll have to manage your intake in a different app to which it likely won’t sync. It’s also only compatible with a handful of smart scales. I currently track my weight, BMI and body fat in the Fitbit app (I own a Fitbit smart scale), I track my intake on MyNetDiary, and I track my activities in the Health app. It’s a sweet, hot mess…
There are a total of 15 smart workout modes on the Watch GT2, of which one contains 13 running courses, and an extra, “open” workout mode called Other, you can set your own goals to.
- Running courses (13);
- Outdoor run;
- Indoor run;
- Outdoor walk;
- Indoor walk;
- Outdoor cycle;
- Indoor cycle;
- Pool swim;
- Open water;
- Trail run;
During a 7 day week, we usually averaged 8 workouts, of which 3 indoor 90-minute cross training sessions, 3 outdoor 30-minute running sessions with GPS enabled, and 2 outdoor 90 minute long basketball games, also with GPS enabled.
Heart rate monitoring in real time, while training, is accurate, but with a couple of caveats. The sensor is very sensitive and can be easily thrown off by moisture (sweat) accumulated between it and the skin. At one point, during a HIIT training, my heart rate was close to 180bpm (those who train long enough know how to estimate their own heart rate) and the watch was showing 112.
A quick repositioning and wipe fixes the problem, but, by the time the readings are accurate, your heart rate starts to recover. If you’re serious about peak performance, recovery times, interval training, pay attention to this detail.
Otherwise, comparing session to session, and day to day, its numbers are more or less within the 10 percent range compared to another smartwatch you’re wearing in parallel. In our case it was the Apple Watch Series 4, and, while the Apple Watch accurately measured our heart rate, at the end of the workout, they both showed the same amount of calories burned, give or take a dozen or so.
While not related to fitness, the automatic stress test, which you can enable or disable in the settings, shows you variations in your heart rate during the day. You calibrate it by setting its baseline (standing still, and answering a couple of questions), and it will show you a graph of how calm, relaxed, normal, or stressful your days are.
Pros and Cons
- great design
- beautiful display
- exceptional battery life
- accurate heart-rate monitoring
- good fitness tracking
- always-on display
- no NFC
- no third party apps
- notification interface could be better
- sometimes moisture/sweat throws off heart rate sensor
At €249, its less than half the price you’ll pay for an Apple Watch. Granted, you’re giving up on third party apps, in favor of charging it once a week, or even less often.
A smartwatch will never appeal to everyone, as they’re a tricky product. Some prefer battery life, others fitness tracking, while some want it to be a fashion statement, and others want an entire ecosystem on their wrists.
But, considering everything that the HUAWEI Watch GT2 is, and what it isn’t, we think that it delivers on all of its promises. You can customize it with elegant or sporty bands, its fitness and activity tracking is spot on, and, while the ecosystem bullet point remains unchecked, it definitely delivers on battery life.
By tackling three out of four, we think that this watch must be on your very short list if you are an Android user (it even works identically on an iPhone) and are looking for a smartwatch. For all of the above reasons, we grant the HUAWEI Watch GT2 our Editor’s Choice for an all-around smartwatch compatible with both Android and iOS ecosystems.
It is elegant, accurate, has a great display, killer looks, awesome battery life, and it fixes most of the problems with its predecessor. We’ve already received three updates since using it, and that’s a testimony to HUAWEI’s commitment to constantly improve the product, and the user experience.