Best-in-class battery life
Simple UI is easy to use
Accurate fitness tracking
Sleep monitoring is great
Laggy and janky UI
Limited watch face options
Some notification problems
Missing advanced features
Can't add more apps
Two of the most common complaints about smartwatches are that they try to do too much and that the battery life sucks, like, a lot. The Huawei Watch GT tries to address these problems, but with differing degrees of success.
The Huawei Watch GT was designed to do three main things: look like a regular watch; last up to two weeks on a single charge; and slim down the feature-set to only the most basic functions – health and fitness tracking and simple inbound notifications. On these three fronts, it succeeds.
Depending on what you’re looking for in a connected watch, the Watch GT will either feel gimped compared to a fully-featured smartwatch like the Samsung Gear S3 Frontier, or be the perfect compromise between features and battery life. This Huawei Watch GT review will explain what to expect – and what not to – from what could perhaps be best described as a fitness tracker in smartwatch clothing.
Huawei Watch GT review: Design and display
There’s nothing particularly remarkable about the look of the Huawei Watch GT and that was by design; it’s just a standard looking watch, meaning it’s stainless steel, a bit chunky and not for the slim-wristed.
It’s roughly the same size as the Samsung Gear S3 Frontier, just a little bit thinner at 10.6mm (vs 12.9mm) and noticeably lighter at 46 grams (vs 63 grams). Like the Gear S3 Frontier, the Watch GT has a 46mm watch face.
There's nothing particularly remarkable about the look of the Huawei Watch GT and that was by design.
The watch face is surrounded by a ceramic bezel that has a diver’s watch look but does not rotate. The 316L stainless steel body features two buttons on the right hand side, the functions of which we’ll cover further below. As with most Huawei products, the industrial design and build quality is up there with the best.
Presumably to keep the weight down, Huawei decided to use plastic on the rear of the Huawei Watch GT, which is where you’ll find the heart-rate monitor and two pogo pins for the small circular charging dock that uses a USB-C connection.
The 22mm watch strap will either be a black silicone band if you get the black stainless steel Watch GT Sport ($199.99) or a brown leather strap (that is actually just a silicone strap with leather on the outside) if you get the silver stainless steel Watch GT Classic version ($229.99). As far as silicone straps go, the Watch GT has a good one: it’s resilient, comfortable and doesn’t collect inordinate amounts of fluff. There’s also a gray silicone strap and a fluorescent green version, but I have not seen those in the flesh.
The 1.39-inch AMOLED display is easily one of the best screens on a smartwatch.
The 1.39-inch AMOLED display with 454 x 454 pixel resolution is the real stand-out here. It’s bright, colorful and crisp – easily one of the best screens on a smartwatch. I typically kept the screen brightness quite low to avoid searing my retinas in bed, but it gets plenty bright enough in the outdoors and has an auto-brightness setting if you don’t want to change it manually.
Unlike most smartwatches, you can’t shut the screen off by covering the screen with your palm, nor can you wake it by tapping the screen. If you don’t want to be annoyed by the screen lighting up when in bed or at the movies, there is a do not disturb mode. Because there are no microphones or speakers on the Huawei Watch GT, you’ll only get vibrations from the watch when notifications come in and there’s obviously little point talking to it unless that’s just a thing you like to do with your watch.
Huawei Watch GT review: Smartwatch features
The user interface is the first place you’ll notice how lean Huawei’s custom Lite OS is on the Watch GT. From the main watch face, you can swipe through three other screens horizontally: heart rate, weather, and an “activity goal” dashboard.
Besides these, there are only four other main areas available to you: quick settings, messages, the app list and the preset activity launcher. At the very least, the learning curve for Lite OS is pretty gentle, taking only a few moments to wrap your head around unlike some watch UIs which take much longer to familiarize yourself with.
You access the quick settings by swiping down from the top of the main watch face. Quick settings include do not disturb, find phone, settings, screen lock and “show time” which will keep the Watch GT display on for five minutes (there is no always-on setting). You’ll also find the date and battery percentage on this screen.
Swiping up from the main screen take you to your message notifications. Thanks to a recent update, you’ll now get the proper app icons for each message, but the Watch GT will only keep a half-dozen in memory. Lite OS doesn’t allow you to reply to messages and you’ll only be able to read the first few lines of them.
You'll either appreciate the simplicity of Lite OS or find it painfully inadequate.
The Huawei Watch GT will notify you of incoming calls and you can reject them via the watch but you’ll need to use your phone if you want to answer them. This perfunctory approach to inbound notifications will either strike you as just right or painfully insufficient. While I can see the value of some watches allowing you to answer calls entirely through the watch or respond to messages using canned replies or your voice, I actually kind of like the way the Watch GT does it. I simply get the notification on my watch and can use my phone if it’s that important, it’s simple, unobtrusive.
One other peculiarity of Lite OS is that it doesn’t allow you to install apps. Unlike Wear OS, which admittedly has a laundry list of its own issues to deal with, Lite OS is a walled garden, with only the “apps” Huawei has preloaded available on the watch. That means there’s no additional customization going on once you take it out of the box: you get what you get and that’s it.
I can’t say I’ve found myself wishing I could add more apps to the Watch GT but your mileage may vary depending on what you’re looking for in a connected watch. The “app” list, accessible via the top button, includes the following:
- Workout records
- Workout status
- Heart rate
- Activity records
- Find my phone
The settings menu is very spartan with just four options: Display, where you can set a watch face and change screen brightness; Do not disturb, System; and About. You can also change watch faces by long pressing the main screen, something I found myself regularly doing unintentionally. If smartwatches teach you anything it’s just how many often you put your face on your wrist.
Each new software update brings with it some new watch faces but you can’t add more manually, so you’ll just have to hope your favorite doesn’t get swapped out for something else unexpectedly. At the time of writing there were 14 watch faces to choose from, most of which were perfectly serviceable but also very data-laden. If you want a simple, classic watch face you’ll only have about two options to choose from.
Huawei Watch GT review: Fitness and health tracking
The primary function of the Huawei Watch GT is health and fitness tracking but it also includes some pretty sophisticated sleep tracking tech from Harvard Medical School. This watch is very clearly targeted at athletes, outdoor explorers and fitness fanatics, with a veritable decathlon of preset fitness tracking options accessible by pressing the bottom of the two buttons:
- Running courses
- Outdoor run
- Indoor run
- Outdoor walk
- Trail run
- Outdoor cycle
- Indoor cycle
- Pool swim
- Open water
Each preset has configurable settings for setting targets (laps/distance, time, calories) and handling training reminders during your activity. When you’re tracking an activity, you can cycle through various screens full of progress info including calories burnt, distance covered, elevation gain, pace, heart rate and elapsed time. You can pause or stop the activity by pressing the top button and lock the screen to avoid accidental touches during a workout by long-pressing the bottom button.
The Huawei Watch GT automatically tracks your step count and heart-rate and, depending which watch face you choose from the dozen or so presets, you’ll have these stats available at a glance. Huawei Truseen 3.0 heart-rate monitoring promises more efficient and accurate measurements because the watch learns where it sits on your wrist to get a better reading from the optical sensor array on the back.
The Huawei Watch GT is water-resistant to 5 ATM so it’s fine to take in the shower or pool. It will also provide you with a recovery timer so you don’t hit the pool or track again too soon. VO2 Max info will be displayed when you’re doing outdoor runs.
The Huawei Watch GT uses GPS, GLONASS, and GALILEO for precise location tracking and in my experience, it was very accurate without absolutely pummeling the battery. If you’ve ever used your smartphone to track an activity you’ll know just how bad it is for your battery life, so being able to get precise positioning on your watch without taking such a hit is great.
If you use GPS sparingly, you'll easily get two weeks of battery life from the Watch GT.
If you have GPS on constantly, you’ll get around a day’s usage out of the Watch GT, but use it sparingly and you’ll remain in two-week territory. Use the watch only for messages and fielding calls and Huawei says you can get a whole month’s battery life out of a single charge, although doing that would make me question why you bothered to buy a sporty smartwatch in the first place.
The Watch GT uses a new form of sleep tracking developed by the Harvard Medical School’s Center for Dynamical Biomarkers to monitor the quality of your sleep. Huawei Trusleep 2.0 then provides tips on how to combat common sleep-related problems to improve your rest. Expect commentary on how late you went to bed, recommendations for optimal sleep times, and breathing quality scores. You’ll even get in trouble if you slept too long (not that I’d know from first-hand experience, of course).
Huawei Watch GT review: Huawei Health app
While you can get basic activity info and records on the Huawei Watch GT, to make full use of its capabilities (including sleep tracking) you’ll need the Huawei Health app on your phone. You can enable or disable Huawei Trusleep and continuous heart-rate monitoring through the Health app. The app is also where you update the Watch GT’s software and control activity reminders for when you’ve been sitting for over an hour.
The Huawei Health app is divided into three tabs: Home; Exercise; and Me. The Me screen is where you can set basic profile info like your age, height, and weight. You can also set goals here and configure data sharing preferences if you want to share your Watch GT’s data with Google Fit or MyFitnessPal. The Exercise screen lets you start an activity or initiate a training plan; current options include 5km/10km runs as well as half-marathon and full marathon training.
The Home screen of the health app is where all of your activity stats live. You’ll get a dashboard up top showing the current day’s step count, distance traveled, calories burnt, and active minutes. Your latest activity is summarized below that and further down you’ll see little tiles displaying your sleep info, weight change, and heart rate. There’s a chronological graph at the very bottom that shows how many steps you took each day over the last month.
Tapping any of the sections (steps, sleep, heart rate etc) reveals more detailed information with options to view your stats by day, week, month or year. This helps contextualize your activity so you can see if you’ve been progressively walking more each week, if your heart-rate has been consistently higher at work this month, or how the quality of your sleep has changed in the last year.
I wouldn’t say the Huawei Health app is the best out there, but it certainly delivers the manifold information the Watch GT collects in easy-to-read and helpful ways. My favorite part of the app is the sleep tracking, as I find there’s something soothing about performing a nocturnal post-mortem the morning after a fitful sleep and trying to decode the secrets to a good night’s rest.
Huawei Watch GT specs:
|Huawei Watch GT|
|Display||1.39-inch AMOLED touchscreen
454 x 454 resolution
|Battery||14 days of 'typical' usage|
|Materials||Case: Metal + plastic + ceramic
Strap: Graphite Black Silicone Strap, Saddle Brown leather Silicone Strap, Glacier Gray Silicone Strap, Fluorescent Green Silicone Strap
|Sensors and components||Accelerometer
Optical heart rate monitor
Ambient light sensor
|Water resistance||5 ATM/50 meters|
|Compatibility||Android and iOS|
|Dimensions||46.5 x 46.5 x 10.6mm
46 grams (without strap)
|Colors||Black Stainless Steel, Stainless Steel|
Huawei Watch GT review: Performance and battery life
Huawei doesn’t disclose what chipsets it uses in the Watch GT, but there are two of them: a “low-speed chip” for better battery consumption and a high-performance chip for more demanding tasks. AI switches between the two cores depending on the current activity, using the low-power core when you’re at your desk or asleep and switching over to the high-performance core when you’re tracking an activity. While I do find the Watch GT to be a bit choppy and laggy, it is all in aid of delivering the best possible battery life. If you want a fluid and jank-free smartwatch experience, I’d advise you run for the hills.
Battery life is easily the best part of the Huawei GT, consistently lasting for two weeks with normal usage. The more often you use GPS tracking the shorter that lifespan will get, but for an average person tracking a run each day and perhaps a bike ride or two on the weekends, you can still easily get a week out of it. Run the GPS and heart-rate monitoring non-stop and you’ll only get a day or so before the battery is depleted.
Huawei Watch GT review: Pricing and final thoughts
The Huawei Watch GT has best-in-class battery life, providing the standard other smartwatches should aspire to. Yes, it comes with a few caveats, but if all you want from a smartwatch is an advanced fitness tracker with basic notifications and a battery that lasts for weeks instead of hours, the Watch GT is pretty unbeatable.
This raises the obvious question though: why not just get a fitness tracker? You can get very similar functionality from many fitness trackers, some of which have equally good battery life (if not a screen like the Watch GT’s). It’s a question I’d advise anyone considering this watch to seriously ask themselves.
Personally, I’ve never been a fan of the look of fitness bands, so the Watch GT serves my needs well: it looks like a regular watch, doesn’t try to do too much and does what it does very decently well. It’s basic to be sure, but for some, myself included, that’s perfectly fine. If you’re after something similarly sporty with a few more features (at the expense of battery life), check out the Fossil Sport. If you want a smartwatch with a great UI and more features than you can poke a stick at, the Samsung Gear S3 Frontier is still worth a look.
At $199 the Huawei Watch GT is far cheaper than most smartwatches, but it definitely does a lot less than most of them as well. Whether you consider that a positive or a negative will depend on what you want out of a “smart” watch – do you want it to do everything, or just do what you need it to?