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Aiming to create smartwatches that allow for the look and feel of a classic watch, more and more OEMs have been adopting a circular design when it comes to their wearable devices. One such Android Wear smartwatch that has piqued our interest since its introduction has been the smart wearable from HUAWEI, and the beautifully-designed device is certainly one that a lot of people have been clamoring for. Does this smartwatch manage to be more than just all about looks? We find out, in this comprehensive HUAWEI Watch review!
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Not surprisingly, the design of the HUAWEI Watch is the most important part of the entire experience, and given that the unboxing of the device was also a pretty luxurious affair, its obvious that this is a watch made for both the executive, business dress, as well as for the casual, everyday style.
With a leather strap with the base model and a metal construction, HUAWEI has definitely hit a lot of the right notes. The screen is completely round, and without any breaks in the shape, and found at the 2 o’ clock position is a single button. The button is nice and solid, with good tactile feedback and a bit of a spring action to it, and while not jarring in its appearance, HUAWEI certainly hasn’t attempted to hide it away. At the top and bottom are nubs with some curve to them, that houses the standard 18 mm straps this version comes with. Speaking of straps, it is very easy to replace them as well to any of the numerous options that HUAWEI has available, with the presence of quick release pins.
There’s no doubt that this executive design checks all the right boxes, with the tuxedo color scheme fitting in with everything from suits to a more casual attire. That said, if your getup isn’t all that presentable, the shiny, silver watch may look out of place, and it also quite difficult to take advantage of the fitness capabilities of this Android Wear device, given its more formal design. Another point of note is that while the 42 mm size is pretty standard for watches in general, the thickness, of just over 11 mm, exacerbates its size, and if you have small wrists, it will unfortunately look strange.
As mentioned, there are quite a few different color and strap options available with the HUAWEI Watch, even if it isn’t at the level as what is possible with the Moto 360 (2nd Gen.) and Moto Maker. Silver, black, or rose gold finishes are coupled with a number of watch bands, ranging from leather, to full deployment clasp metals in different colors. Of course, you will have to shell out a little more to get the look that fits your wants.
We do think that the HUAWEI Watch is one of the first Android Wear devices to get the classic round watch design right, but that is important only if you really want your smartwatch to look like an old timepiece, but with a whole lot of extra capabilities baked in. To that end, you do get the sense that the HUAWEI Watch tried just a little too hard to be everything, and while it knows what makes a watch a watch, it then has to contend with the tropes of a smart device. The curves of the top and bottom nubs feel just a touch out of place from the rigidity that is the flat AMOLED display, and the leather watch strap, though a prerequisite of typical luxury, isn’t anything too special.
There’s no denying that the HUAWEI Watch is one of the new Android Wear devices that melds the worlds of watches and smart devices together in a seamless way, but that looks to result in as many disadvantages as there are positives.
One of the best displays on a smartwatch to date
The HUAWEI Watch comes with a 1.4-inch AMOLED display, with a 400 x 400 resolution, and allows for one of the best smartwatch display experiences available right now. Sapphire Crystal covers the display, which is another classic timepiece note that HUAWEI manages to hit. Text is really crisp on this screen, and the high resolution makes the otherwise rather cut and dry Android Wear software look smooth and snappy.
There are also benefits from having the perpetually on screen with an AMOLED display, as it helps keep the watch from using too much power, and the contrast does help things pop. While the screen does make viewing quite great, it does again seem to be trying just a little too hard however. Without an ambient light sensor available, the screen is left at the user defined brightness, which will ultimately require a little more micromanagement of the watch than might be desired. Thankfully, the brightness is otherwise good enough to allow for comfortable outdoor visibility.
Under the hood, the HUAWEI Watch packs a Snapdragon 400 processor, backed by 512 MB of RAM, which is pretty standard fare as far as Android Wear devices are concerned. 4 GB of on-board storage is also available for those looking to locally store some music on the watch for phone-less workouts, even though we stand by the fact that a watch like this doesn’t really fit in with gym attire.
It is of course, quite difficult to really push an Android Wear smartwatch through its paces and really test the performance, as there isn’t much to do on one, other than swipe among cards, and occasionally perform some input within installed applications. In our daily usage, there weren’t any problems with getting applications to load, checking or dismissing notifications, and also keeping track of our fitness activities. In a way, one of the benefits of Android Wear is that things remain pretty reliable across the board no matter what watch you get, and the HUAWEI Watch is no different.
Typical Android Wear smartwatch features are found on the hardware side of things as well, including a heart rate sensor on the back, but HUAWEI tries to make it more accurate by adding a second one. When comparing this to my Polar heart rate monitor, it did stay within a smaller margin of error than what is seen with some other smartwatches out there.
An IP67 certification keeps the watch safe from the elements, and you won’t have to worry about it breaking down under water contact. That said, you will probably feel like taking a watch like this off before any kind of contact with water happens anyway, regardless of the fact that nothing would go wrong with it.
The built-in microphone is one of the main methods of input for Android Wear, and it performs as well as expected, even if taking to the watch takes some getting used to. Really noisy environments can stifle recognition of your voice however, which can be annoying primarily when in the car, but this isn’t an issue seen with only the HUAWEI Watch, but most other Android Wear devices out there.
Battery life on the HUAWEI Watch is very impressive
On the battery front, we have to give the HUAWEI Watch some credit for being one of the more impressive devices in this aspect. HUAWEI claimed a day and a half of battery life, and that is what was actually observed in our testing as well. Having to plug in the watch every other night is a marginally better situation to be in, and also a big plus, given the fact that HUAWEI takes an unfortunate step back with their charging solution.
The HUAWEI Watch requires usage of a contact-based charger, instead of the more preferred wireless solutions, which means that you have remember to keep this charger on hand, and what is disappointing is that the magnet doesn’t always make the pins line up properly, which can become annoying.
Finally, Android Wear is the cusp of the experience surrounding the HUAWEI Watch, and as mentioned many times before, this watch manages to check all the right boxes, but without really excelling, or being truly exciting. The is what is expected from the Android Wear experience though. There are cards that require a lot of swiping around, certain shortcuts are available, including voice input, and unless specific applications are installed along with your smartphone apps, that is essentially all there is to it.
Android Wear is still best described as a notification center, and gives you the ability to respond or control plenty of them as they come through. Certain applications, like being able to have directions and maps on your wrist prove the usefulness of Android Wear, but the very nature of looking at and controlling another touchscreen makes it less than ideal for some situations, like when you are driving.
HUAWEI does try to inject what it can to the typical Android Wear formula, such as the availability of plenty of custom watchfaces, and its own health suite, but ultimately, the general feel is the same, and as far as the software aspect of the HUAWEI Watch is concerned, it all boils down to whether you love or hate Android Wear.
Pricing and final thoughts
As far as the price is concerned, the HUAWEI Watch does fall at the higher end of the price spectrum, with the potential to get quite expensive depending on which version of the watch you want. The base silver model with the leather band will set you back $349, the addition of a clasping metal band will bring that up to $399, and if you want to go completely gold, $799 is what you will have to spend.
So there you have it for this in-depth look at the HUAWEI Watch! A good bit of money will be needed to pick up a watch that does succeed in adding luxury to the equation, but it is otherwise bogged down by what is currently a cut and dry Android Wear platform. The HUAWEI Watch may be the first device to get the “watch” aspect of a smartwatch right, but it does so at its own peril. Unless you’re really looking for a classic look, this device could actually be a little boring, made only slightly better by one of the other color and watch band options available, which also be more expensive. In an increasingly round smartwatch landscape, HUAWEI should be lauded for being the first that got it right, but it isn’t going to be alone for much longer, and that might be its biggest problem.