While the smartwatch segment has yet to pick up steam, that hasn't stopped most smartphone manufacturers from trying their luck. It's safe to say that Samsung is the most visible in this space, with its early start and aggressive marketing campaign for the recently launched Gear S2. That aside, the Samsung Gear S2 is actually one of the better premium smartwatches currently available, if not the best.
Huawei has gained some much-needed recognition in India after the successful launch of the Google Nexus 6P (Review), and now the company has finally announced its first smartwatch in the country, simply called the Huawei Watch. Based on Android Wear, the Huawei Watch was first announced at last year's MWC so it's not exactly brand new. Priced at Rs. 22,999, it competes directly with the Motorola Moto 360 (2nd Gen) and the Samsung Gear S2. Let's find out how good Huawei's debut watch really is.
Design and display
There are multiple options for the case and straps internationally, for both men and women, but for now, we in India have to settle with a single model which has a stainless steel case and a black leather strap. The watch is designed to be unisex, and the 42mm diameter could work for anyone. It is a bit thick at 11.3mm but then so are most smartwatches out there.
The Huawei Watch looks smart thanks to the metal frame and leather strap, and goes well with either casual or formal attire. The build quality is great and the watch is comfortable to wear. The leather straps are secured well and can be easily detached with the help of a metal latch. This is similar to the system used by the Moto 360 as well, so theoretically at least, you could use straps designed for other 42mm smartwatches. The bezel doesn't sit flush with the display and is raised a bit, so it does get in the way when you're swiping through menus. It's not a big issue, to be honest, and we got used to it in a couple of hours.
The display is a 1.4-inch Amoled panel with a 400x400 pixel resolution. Due to the dense pixel count of 286ppi, pictures and text are sharp, with barely any noticeable pixellation around the edges. The screen is also scratch-proof thanks to the use of sapphire crystal. Colours are also pretty vibrant, and sunlight legibility is decent. The Huawei Watch has a fully circular display, but that comes at the cost an ambient light sensor. Having that sensor saves you the headache of manually adjusting the brightness when you move between light and dark places, but we guess that's the price you pay for aesthetics.
There's a single button on the side which is positioned slightly higher than the centre, like the one on the Moto 360 (2nd Gen). A single press lets you wake or dim the display; a double press will turn the display off; and a long press takes you to the app drawer. The button is comfortably stiff in order to avoid accidental presses.
Underneath, we have the heart rate sensor and contact points for the charging cradle. The watch also gets IP67 certification for water resistance, but that doesn't apply to the included leather straps, which you will have to protect. The charging cradle is magnetised so the watch latches onto it easily. Contact points are not the best way to charge devices as the leads on the watch will inevitably wear off which could be a problem in the long run. Inductive charging would have been ideal here but as some consolation, the watch does support fast charging and Huawei promises an 80 percent charge in about 45 minutes. The charger is modular but its cable is fixed to the cradle, which means you can't replace it, should it develop a fault in the future.
Specifications and features
The Huawei Watch is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor and has 512MB of RAM. There's 4GB of internal storage for apps and data, as well as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1 Low Energy, and a 300mAh battery. Other than the heart rate sensor, you also get an accelerometer, gyroscope, and a barometer. The watch runs on the latest version of the Android Wear platform, which is 6.0.1, and is compatible with Android smartphones (obviously) and iOS devices as well.
Unlike with their Android smartphones, manufacturers can't mess about too much with the interface of Android Wear devices, which means if you've used one such watch, you've pretty much used them all. Companies can however add their own watch faces, and the Huawei Watch comes with some pretty cool looking ones out-of-the-box. A total of 43 watch faces are pre-installed so there's usually something for every occasion. Huawei uses the Android Wear app on your phone to keep track of watch faces, discover new watch apps, and control which apps need to be triggered for certain actions. You can also monitor the watch's battery and storage.
Thankfully, there are Android Wear equivalents for most of the common messaging, fitness and productivity apps. If you already have the main apps installed on your phone, the watch will automatically install the Wear equivalents when you first sync it.
Setting up the Huawei Watch is simply a matter of pairing it with the Android Wear app on your phone - the watch does the rest. Performance is speedy with very little lag when swiping through screens or launching an app. There were times when the interface froze up, but this only happened once or twice during our week-long review period.
The latest version of Android Wear holds a steadier connection to your phone then before, and we seldom faced arbitrary disconnections. It's sadly still a bit buggy; certain functions don't always work as they should and the only way to fix it is to reset the watch. For instance, the always-on display feature simply decided to stop working even though it was enabled. This behaviour usually kicks in when the battery is low but it failed to go back to its normal behaviour even after a reboot.
You are alerted of notifications with a slight vibration and you can answer or reject a call too, although you'll have to use your phone or a Bluetooth accessory to actually converse, since the watch's built-in speaker is only barely audible even if you're indoors and there's very little ambient noise. The speaker was inactive when we first received the watch due to an Android Wear limitation. The update to Android Wear 1.4 enabled it, but in our experience it took a few reboots to begin working. You can also use the microphone for voice searches using the 'OK Google' trigger. This didn't work really well in our experience.
The Huawei Watch also doubles up as your fitness companion, and comes with the Google Fit app pre-installed. There's a tracking app which helps you set daily goals for walking and lets you know the number of steps you've taken and calories you've burnt. It isn't very accurate but you do get a rough idea of the extent of your activities. The heart rate sensor works well though, giving seemingly accurate results.
It doesn't take long to familiarise yourself with the interface as you get a quick tutorial in the beginning for basic functions. Some of the stock apps include Alarm, Agenda, Find my phone, Fit, Fitness tracking, Hangouts, Maps, Play Music, Reminders, Stopwatch, Timer, Torch, and Together. The last of those lets you send quick messages directly to nearby Android Wear smartwatches, once paired.
Huawei claims a one-and-a-half-day battery life but during our testing period, we found that the watch lasted only a little over a full day, falling short of the claimed duration by about 8-9 hours. You get a prompt to turn on the battery saver mode once the charge reaches 15 percent. In this mode, vibrations are disabled and the screen turns off when not in use. Charging it is pretty quick and there's a nice screen gesture that shows you the charging status.
The Huawei Watch is currently available at Rs. 22,999 on Flipkart, which feels too expensive considering the Gear S2 costs just slightly more and is much better. The problem is not so much on Huawei's part as it is Android Wear itself, which even in its latest iteration, feels like a work in progress. The Huawei Watch is beautifully crafted and can look just like a regular watch with the right face. Performance is good, and the display is sharp and vibrant too.
The software is a bit glitchy and there's no telling when certain functions will stop working, requiring you to reset the watch and re-pair it with your phone. There isn't much you can do to personalise the watch either, as you can only get the stainless steel case with a black leather strap as of now.
The Huawei Watch will be a good pick once the price drops closer to Rs. 15,000, as it's a good alternative to the Moto 360 (2nd Gen). But at its current price, you're better off with the Samsung Gear S2.
Price (MRP): Rs. 22,999
Ratings (Out of 5)
Value for money: 2.5