Excellent battery life
Granular fitness data
Good looking design
Lack of actionable notifications
No third-party apps
Erratic heart rate tracking
Update: December 17, 2019 at 11:55 a.m. ET: The Honor Magic Watch 2 is now available for pre-order from eBay in the UK for £139.99. The price will go back up to its original price of £159.99 soon, so you may want to pre-order sooner rather than later if you want to save £20. Pre-orders are also available at full price on Amazon UK. It’s also available in the Netherlands from HiHonor.com for €189.
The watch officially goes on sale on December 20, which is presumably when these devices will ship if you pre-order today. Honor says other European markets will get the Honor Magic Watch 2 starting in January 2020.
While the Apple Watch turned out to be a resounding success as far as wearables go, things have been lackluster on the Android side of things. Wear OS watches have been rather hit or miss, and the Tizen-powered Galaxy Watch series is one of the few good alternatives. Meanwhile, Huawei and Honor’s offerings have positioned themselves as interesting options that strike a delicate balance of just enough utility with none of the fluff. Indeed, wearables are shaping up to be a key growth area for the company.
Now in its second generation, did the Honor Magic Watch 2 take meaningful steps to improve the user experience? Or is it yet another missed opportunity to deliver a powerful companion to the Android-toting crowd? We find out in the Android Authority Honor Magic Watch 2 review.
Honor Magic Watch 2 review: The big picture
The Honor Magic Watch 2 is the company’s second attempt to merge a fitness wearable with a smart companion. As such, it improves the design with a more elegant look that would be at home in an office environment, as well as when you are out and about. Honor didn’t improve its capabilities drastically compared to the previous generation, but the Honor Magic Watch 2 makes strides in all the right places. From the design to the battery life, there are meaningful enhancements that should make it appealing to existing users, as well as anyone looking for a reasonably priced wearable that covers the essentials.
However, it competes against formidable wearables such as the now discounted Apple Watch Series 3, Garmin Venu, as well as the Fossil Gen 5. Is the limited skill set of the Honor Magic Watch 2 enough to beat the competition?
Design and hardware
- 1.39-inch circular AMOLED display
- 454 x 454 resolution
- 46mm case
Honor has built a reputation for its focus on pushing design with its smartphones, and it is easy to see the same focus here. The Honor Magic Watch 2 is a fantastic looking wearable that perfectly marries appealing aesthetics with excellent build quality. We reviewed the 46mm variant, which is inspired by chronograph-style watches. The smaller 42mm variant eschews the outer bezel of the larger version for a simpler design.
The Honor Magic Watch 2 perfectly marries appealing aesthetics with excellent build quality.
On the 46mm variant, the display’s bezel has a bevel both inwards and out. The glass on top, however, levels it out. Time notations are marked out on the outer bezel which makes the wearable appear even more watch-like, and even more so with the always-on display switched on. The two-button layout is easily accessible during workouts. The top button pulls up a list of apps and settings, while the bottom one can be customized to launch a fitness routine or any of the other pre-installed apps.
Construction is plastic and metal. While you can get a variant with a leather strap, ours shipped with a standard silicon sports band.
All said and done, the Honor Magic Watch 2 is a great looking wearable that channels analog watches discreetly without being over-the-top.
Fitness and health tracking
The Honor Magic Watch 2 ships with a veritable arm full of sensors that should make it a great fitness wearable. While more serious athletes should still opt for a GPS fitness watch, there is enough here to excite some on a fitness journey. The fifteen tracking modes built-in are comprehensive enough to cover a wide range of potential workouts. These include the standard indoor and outdoor running routines, cycling, swimming, trail running, and hiking, as well as some rather unique ones like a specific mode for running a triathlon. From the common heart rate measurement to VO2 max calculations, it was the speed and accuracy of GPS tracking that really stood out for me.
See also: The best Garmin watches you can buy
I’ve used a Fitbit Ionic for the last two years. While it’s been a reliable companion, the GPS performance has been rather hit or miss. From a cold start, the Fitbit Ionic took a patience-testing five minutes to get a fix. Meanwhile, the Honor Magic Watch 2 was able to latch on to GPS signals with a full-strength bar in less than 30 seconds. Impressive.
As for step tracking, the two wearables were within a hundred steps of each other when I took them out for a short run. Moreover, the GPS tracked distance to within a few meters of the known length of the track. The watch displays granular data, such as heart-rate zones during the workout, and can also help you maintain a pace. I found this to be incredibly helpful while training for a marathon. The watch includes a workout assistant that blares out milestones and advice during the workout. I found this to be jarring and I’d recommend you switch it off.
Heart rate sensors on fitness trackers can be iffy, so if you want the best possible reading you’ll want to rely on a chest-mounted sensor. While running a comfortable pace, the watch often measured my heart rate to be at near-peak levels, which was definitely not the case. If accurate heart rate tracking during workouts is a key criterion for you, the Honor Magic Watch 2 might not be the best option. Compared to my Fitbit Ionic, my heart rate seemed to spike a few times during workouts. I’m reasonably sure that I was running nowhere close to peak capacity and this is likely an anomaly in how the watch tracks heart rate.
The Honor Magic Watch 2 is really more of a smart companion than a smartwatch. Lite OS is, well, light enough to keep things speedy all around, but it doesn’t have the extensibility that comes with Google’s Wear OS. A custom-built, wearable-oriented operating system, it gets all the essentials right. From the interface, to speedy interactions, reliable notification syncing, the operating system helps you get the job done and then gets out of the way. There are no third-party apps and no support for actionable notifications, and I couldn’t find any option to add extra watch faces either.
The basic interface is simple and follows standard interface paradigms. Long pressing the default watch face opens up an option to switch it out for one of the included watch faces. Some of the faces have customizable options, but for the most part you are stuck with the what’s on board. Honor claims you can load additional watch faces using the accompanying app. However, there was no such option in our case. I reached out to Honor and was told this feature should be added later in the month.
The ability to import additional watch-faces isn't available yet.
Swiping up from the bottom brings up a list of notifications — but you cannot interact with or act on them. Swiping down from the top gives you access to toggles for alarms, settings, find my phone, as well as the do-not-disturb mode.
Swipe across the watch face to access additional display panels. This includes activity rings similar to what you would see on the Apple Watch. You can also control music that’s playing on your phone from your wrist, which is a pretty handy feature to have.
Elsewhere, there is a standard weather widget, a dedicated panel to see heart rate measurements, as well as Honor’s stress measuring app. With no obvious methodology, it is hard to gauge just how the watch measures stress levels. The watch provides granular data on sleep patterns and assigns a sleep score each morning. I found sleep tracking to be on point, and the data more or less matched with how well I’d slept the night before.
Unfortunately, as it turns out, that’s pretty much all that you can do with the watch. There’s no NFC support for payments, nor can you add additional apps to expand basic functionality. On the other hand, battery life legitimately lives up to the promise. While it won’t quite do the two weeks that Honor claims, it gets plenty close depending on your use case. With dozens of notifications popping up every day, a few workouts and all the sensors — sans GPS — switched on, I got about a week and a half of usage time on a single charge. This gets halved if you have the always-on display turned on.
As the name suggests, the accompanying Health app for the Honor Magic Watch 2 focuses almost exclusively on fitness features. Workout data from the watch is well presented here, and there is a lot of data for the avid fitness enthusiast.
If you want to store music on your watch, the Health app makes it easy enough to transfer local music files. Unfortunately, there is no support for Spotify or other streaming services.
It is possible to adjust settings for continuous heart rate monitoring, as well as sleep tracking. All this is par for the course for fitness-focused wearables.
Finally, you can set the app to share data with Google Fit or MyFitnessPal. I would have liked a few more partners, such as Strava or even the Fitbit platform, as well as the ability to export GPX files from GPS-based workouts. The company confirmed that it is looking at additional data sharing options, but has nothing to announce at the moment.
- Honor Magic Watch 2: 42mm — 1099 yuan (~$156, ~Rs. 11,000)
- Honor Magic Watch 2: 46mm — 1199 yuan (~$170, ~Rs. 12,200)
While international pricing hasn’t been announced yet, Honor is known to position its products aggressively. In China, the watch costs between 1099 yuan and 1199 yuan, which is a steal given the sheer amount of hardware you are getting for your money. As a fitness wearable, it positions itself well against Fitbit’s trackers in terms of capabilities, reliable notification syncing, granular data, battery life, and aesthetics.
The Honor Magic Watch 2 goes on sale globally starting December 12, and will be available in the Czech Republic, Egypt, France, Finland, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Poland, the Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, the UAE, Ukraine, as well as the UK.
Honor Magic Watch 2 review: The verdict
The Honor Magic Watch 2 is an excellent step forward for the brand. Sure, the lack of third-party apps limits the wearable in terms of smart capabilities like actionable notification, but it works wonderfully as a smart companion to quickly glance at notifications, adjust music on your phone, and provides granular (and accurate) data for all your workouts. Add to that an aggressive price point, and you’ve got all the trimmings necessary for an excellent fitness tracker with a reasonable amount of smarts thrown in for good measure.
More posts about smartwatches
We hope you enjoyed our Honor Magic Watch 2 review. Thoughts? Are you picking one up?