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huawei watch gt runner app menu
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Huawei Watch GT Runner review: A premium watch in athletic clothes

It's Huawei's sportiest watch yet, but setup is a workout.
By
February 24, 2022

Huawei Watch GT Runner

The Watch GT Runner packs a full suite of fitness features and impressive battery life contained in a lightweight, sporty design and simple controls. The setup process is challenging and the feature-set has serious limitations outside the Huawei ecosystem, but if you're willing to jump through the hoops it's a great running watch.

What we like

Impressive 14-day battery life
Bright, crisp display
Loud real-time voice guidance
Fast GPS lock
Accurate heart rate data

What we don't like

Limited third-party app support
Only one size — large
Challenging setup process
Complicated health data export

Huawei Watch GT Runner

The Watch GT Runner packs a full suite of fitness features and impressive battery life contained in a lightweight, sporty design and simple controls. The setup process is challenging and the feature-set has serious limitations outside the Huawei ecosystem, but if you're willing to jump through the hoops it's a great running watch.

Solid features, refined design, and excellent battery life have helped set Huawei’s Watch GT series apart from the smartwatch crowd. However, the steel and leather designs don’t always feel like they’re ready for your next workout. Now, Huawei has its sights set on the fitness junkies with a reimagined version of its Watch GT 3. This is Android Authority’s Huawei Watch GT Runner review.

Huawei Watch GT Runner

What you need to know about the Huawei Watch GT Runner

Huawei Watch GT Runner training plans
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority
  • Huawei Watch GT Runner (46mm): £259 / €299 (~$340)

The Watch GT Runner arrived in January 2022 as the fitness-first member of Huawei’s GT smartwatch series. As reflected in the spec sheet, it shares nearly all of its DNA with the 46mm Huawei Watch GT 3 that it’s based on. The Watch GT Runner and 46mm Watch GT 3 use identical 1.43-inch AMOLED displays with 466 x 466 resolutions. You’ll also get 5ATM water resistance, suitable for up to 50 meters of submersion.

Taking the similarities further, both the Huawei Watch GT 3 and GT Runner offer 4GB of storage and run on Huawei’s Harmony OS platform. The 455mAh battery charges wirelessly and boasts a remarkable 14 days of battery life in average usage.

See also: The best running watches you can buy

Perhaps the best way to describe the Huawei Watch GT Runner is that it’s a Watch GT 3 dressed for the gym. Huawei’s metal finish is mostly gone, save for the bezel, and a silicon band has replaced the leather options.  In place of the metal design, Huawei chose a durable polymer fiber material that drops the weight to 38.5g when weighted without the band. You can currently choose from a black finish or a gray finish with bright yellow accents.

The Huawei Watch GT Runner connects to most Android devices via the App Gallery version of Huawei Health. You can also connect the Watch GT Runner to your iPhone through Huawei Health, though there are other limitations in place, including the lack of premium watch faces. Depending on your location, Huawei Health offers various features, including athletic performance metrics like a Running Ability Index and VO2 Max.

Although the Watch GT Runner is compatible with non-Huawei devices, some features remain restricted. For example, non-Huawei devices cannot use the remote shutter camera feature. Unfortunately, Huawei’s Celia assistant is yet another feature reserved for its own devices. There’s no NFC support either for contactless payments  — Huawei Health has a new Huawei Wallet integration, but the Watch GT Runner doesn’t support it.

Huawei’s Watch GT Runner first launched in select parts of Europe and Asia. It’s scheduled for launch in the UK on March 22, 2022, but there’s no plan for a US release at this time.

What’s good?

huawei watch gt runner heart rate
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

While the Huawei Watch GT Runner will be a bit too big for some wrists — more on that later — a few of its best features rely on that size. For starters, the 1.43-inch display is easy to glance at while you’re working out. The size means that Huawei can pack in a lot of information at one time to give you your pace, distance, heart rate, and more. The Watch GT Runner is also impressively loud if you don’t want to look down at your wrist. The real-time voice guidance announces your current pace, average pace, and heart rate at each interval so you can keep your eyes up.

As far as everyday features go, I found Huawei’s sleep and stress tracking to be reasonably accurate. I’m usually wary of a watch telling me my sleep phases, but I’m content with the watch understanding how long I was asleep and if I was restless. The stress testing involves a little bit of setup in the form of a survey followed by a period of sitting still. It measures fluctuations in your heart rate, ultimately offering a number from zero to 100.

The final, and maybe most important, benefit of the watch’s size involves battery life. Huawei packed a 455mAh cell on its Watch GT Runner with claims of 14-day battery life. So far, I’ve seen the bold claim hold true, and I’ve only had to charge the watch once during my testing. It charges wirelessly with an included cradle, not unlike the Apple Watch or Samsung Galaxy Watch series.

Huawei's large watch offers a bright, crisp display, and impressive battery life.

Although Huawei’s move to a composite fiber construction didn’t shave too much weight overall — just about four grams — the sporty design feels just right. It’s light enough that you can forget it’s on your wrist, yet the display and speaker mean your workout is never out of sight. Huawei could have kept a little more metal to improve the durability, but the material matches my own dedicated running watches, the Garmin Forerunner 55 and Coros Pace 2.

One of the more useful features is Huawei’s race projections. These offer an idea of your goal pace at maximum effort, and I’ve found that they improve significantly over time. My projections were unrealistic following my first run, but they moved to a spot-on range after a few more efforts. The watch also offers VO2 Max data and a Running Ability Index, which lets you know how your stats compare with other users.

Huawei’s race projections are only one part of the AI coaching feature. You can also use the Watch GT Runner to build a custom running plan that adapts to your ability level over time. It takes the same data into account in order to adjust your workout intensity and distance as you build a running base. Huawei offers three tiers of training plans — beginner, lifestyle, and competitive — in order to make running feel a bit more accessible.

pace 2 vs huawei watch gt runner vs apple watch 7 gps
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

As for the running metrics, Huawei impressed me once again. Not only did the Watch GT Runner pick up a signal quickly, but it also stayed pretty close to the Coros Pace 2 and an Apple Watch Series 7. As you can see in the map above, the Watch GT Runner had a few deviations that showed me across the street from where I was, but it generally lined up nicely.

I’m using data from a recent 10k easy run, which the Pace 2 and Watch GT Runner measured accurately. Both recorded the same distance, though there are slight time deviations since it took a second or two to stop both watches. While I stuck to running for most of my testing, the Watch GT Runner supports a good selection of workouts. You can run, swim, cycle, hike, ski, and even triathlon with dedicated settings.

Check out: The best fitness trackers

As for heart rate data, I found that the Watch GT Runner took accurate readings once again. It didn’t refresh quite as often as a Polar H10 chest strap, but the two lines follow each other for the entire length of the run, as seen below. As you can see, the Huawei readings look a bit more like steps, while the Polar H10 (paired to the Coros Pace 2) offers more jagged results.

pace 2 vs huawei watch gt runner hr data
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

The Huawei Watch GT Runner also carries over the TruSeen 5 Plus sensor from the Watch GT 3. This means you get eight photodiodes with an additional light source for more accurate heart rate readings. Also, like the Huawei Watch GT 3, the fitness-focused version sports all-day SpO2 monitoring, though it’s not a certified medical device, so you shouldn’t completely rely on the readings.

What’s not so good?

huawei watch gt runner buttons and activities
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Not all wrists are created equal. Most smartwatches understand this, offering smaller and larger sizes to suit most users. However, the Huawei Watch GT Runner is not among them. It’s only available in the larger 46mm configuration despite the original Watch GT 3 coming in 42mm and 46mm sizes. Unfortunately, I had to tighten the strap almost as far as it would go for a snug fit. Even when I reached a tight enough point, the width of the watch meant that I still had a space the size of a pencil between my wrist and the band. It would have been a simple enough fix to offer a smaller size of the Watch GT Runner for smaller wrists, even at the cost of display size and battery life.

See also: The best cheap fitness trackers

Although I detailed the watch’s impressive features above, the setup process might be enough to turn some users away. You can pair the Huawei Watch GT Runner to just about any Android device, though unless you have a Huawei phone you’ll have to sideload the Huawei App Gallery This is a result of the rocky Google-Huawei relationship as a result of the US trade ban. The knock-on is that the Play Store’s version of Huawei Health hasn’t been updated since 2020, so you need the most recent version from App Gallery to make everything tick.

Unfortunately, the challenges don’t end once you have Huawei Health installed. As a US-based user, I had to set my location to the UK to take advantage of all of Huawei Health’s features. Selecting the US as your location offers a pretty bare-bones menu instead. Obviously, the watch isn’t intended for sale in the US, but it’s still an odd quirk if you’re thinking of importing one.

You also won’t find too many options if you want to add apps from the App Gallery. There are a few music control apps and a few puzzle apps, but you won’t find the same variety as you would with Wear OS or watchOS. Huawei watches don’t natively support Strava or Google Fit, for example, which leads to a further host of issues.

Expect to jump through quite a few setup hoops, and even more to export health data.

Once you get the basics up and running, there are even more hoops to jump through if you want to export your data. You first have to install the third-party workaround app Health Sync from the Google Play Store and then grant a complete list of permissions. Be careful to make sure that your location matches in both Huawei Health and Health Sync; otherwise, you end up in a loop trying to verify your identity. When you do finally pair Strava or Google Fit and Huawei Health, the sync works just fine, but it may take some trial and error to get there.

One more problem with the Huawei Watch GT Runner is the lack of a back button. It’s part of the cost of excellent battery life, but the watch doesn’t store apps in the background. That means if you enter the wrong menu, you’ll have to start from scratch to get to the feature you need.

Huawei Watch GT Runner specs

Huawei Watch GT Runner
Display
46mm: 1.43-inch AMOLED, 326ppi,
466 x 466 resolution
Dimensions and weight
46mm: 46.4 x 46.4 x 11mm
38.5g w/o strap
Fits wrists 140-210mm
Colors and materials
46mm
Color: Grey or Black
Material: Durable Polymer Fiber
Watch straps: Grey or black silicon strap
Battery
46mm: Up to 14 days of "typical" use, 8 days with heavy use

Wireless charging
Processor
ARM Cortex-M (unspecified)
RAM
32MB
Storage
4GB
Hardware
Speaker
Microphone
Connectivity
Dual-band GNSS
GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, Beidou, and QZSS
Bluetooth
NFC
Sensors
Accelerometer
Gyroscope
Geomagnetic
Optical heart rate sensor
Air pressure
Durability
5ATM
Software
Harmony OS
Compatibility
Harmony OS 2 or later
Android 6.0 or later
iOS 9.0 or later

Huawei Watch GT Runner review: Should I buy it?

huawei watch gt runner with box
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

The Watch GT Runner is a feature-packed fitness smartwatch for runners. It’s bright, it’s loud, and the battery life lives up to the lofty expectations. Huawei’s fitness-focused smartwatch is also light enough that you’ll just about forget it’s on your wrist while you work out — as long as you have large wrists.

However, the watch becomes much harder to recommend to US-based runners, or those looking for a simple out-of-the-box experience. I had to jump through several hoops to connect the Huawei Watch GT Runner to my Android phone and even more hoops to export health data — something many dedicated fitness enthusiasts will want to do. In addition, the single 46mm size will be too large for those with smaller wrists, even though the included watchband offers an impressive selection of holes to choose from.

Ultimately, the Huawei Watch GT Runner does well enough to separate itself from the pack for dedicated runners who can get past the compatibility hiccups. Of course, if you have Huawei devices already, this won’t be an issue. Though it’s worth considering that the Runner is more expensive than the Watch GT 3 (£209), so it may not be worth the extra investment if you only work out occasionally. If you’re interested in your workout data and trends, AI coaching can be useful, but it might be more than casual users are after.

With tons of fitness features to play with, the Huawei Watch GT Runner is a great watch for fitness fanatics who can overlook the software struggles.

Those coming from an iPhone or non-Huawei Android device that want a running companion that “just works” will definitely want to consider the competition. The Apple Watch Series 7 ($399) won’t hold a candle to the Watch GT Runner’s battery life, but it integrates seamlessly with all iOS features for iPhone users. Likewise, the Galaxy Watch 4 ($249) offers easier access for Samsung users and Wear OS fans in general. Both make life easy for exporting health data, and you can tap into Google apps as needed.

The third option for all users would be to check out a dedicated running watch like the lightweight Coros Pace 2 ($199) or the excellent, but pricey Garmin Forerunner 745 ($499), as these tend to emphasize fitness over smartwatch features and usually offer even better battery life. There are also other fitness-first smartwatches to consider like the Garmin Venu 2 ($399) or its upgraded sibling, the Garmin Venu 2 Plus ($449).

Huawei Watch GT Runner
Huawei Watch GT Runner
THE Huawei watch for runners
If you're a runner, the Huawei Watch GT Runner is your best option from Huawei's smartwatch lineup. It boasts an upgraded heart rate sensor, dual-band GNSS, advanced training features, and two-week-long battery life.