This year has been a great year for smartwatches and especially for Android Wear. This was always likely to be the case as it was the first real year the manufacturers could showcase what they could do with a smartwatch. 2014 saw the debut of Android Wear and the first generation of smartwatches that emerged, were more of a proof-of-concept than anything else. Since then, the major players have all released what is being commonly thought of as the true second generation Android Wear devices. Although, for some who decided to take their time (most notably Huawei), this year has seen the release of their debut watch. In Huawei's case, this is the simply named Huawei Watch and a smartwatch which has attracted significant attention in the build up to its release. As such, this is currently one of the most highly sought after smartwatches. But was it worth the wait?
The Huawei Watch is a device which has been highly coveted over the past few months and as such, many will already be familiar with what the device has to offer. That said, to briefly recap the Huawei Watch comes equipped with a 1.4-inch AMOLED display with a 400 x 400 resolution. Inside, the Huawei Watch is equipped with 512MB RAM, 4GB internal storage and powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 quad-core processor that clocks at 1.2 GHz. The watch measures 42 mm in diameter, 11.3 mm in thickness and comes equipped with Bluetooth 4.1,Wi-Fi, as well as a heart rate monitor, barometer and accelerometer. Lastly, the Huawei Watch is powered by a 300 mAh battery and comes running on Android Wear, version 1.3 (Android 5.1.1).
Design & Hardware
With Android Wear devices generally being the 'same' at their core level, there can be little arguing that the design is one of the more obvious differentials and Huawei is certainly hoping that their Watch design will make the difference for them. In short, it does. This is a very attractive watch and is one of the watches which really does begin to bridge the gap between a more traditional watch and a smartwatch. If you are one of those who have been hanging on for smartwatches to reach a level which more represents a watch than a gadget, then this is certainly one to consider.
The main watch face comes encased in stainless silver and does have some rather large sides to enclose all the components. However, the overall size of the Huawei Watch main face, does feel smaller than on the Moto 360, for instance. The body of the watch comes with a single physical button, which like the new Moto 360 is positioned at the 2 o'clock location.
Moving on, the unit reviewed comes with a genuine leather band and is considered to be the base level offering which comes in at $349.99. That said, for the watch enthusiasts out there, the leather strap, although a base model, does add to the overall traditional appeal of a more traditional watch.
The back of the device is where you will aesthetically begin to see the 'smart' aspects coming into play. These include the rear positioned fingerprint scanner and the access points for the charger.
Of course, the design of the Huawei Watch is somewhat dependent on the customization chosen at the point of purchase. This is a highly customizable smartwatch (at least it will be, as many of the options have yet to arrive), not Moto 360 levels of customization, but customizable nevertheless. As a result, you do have the added benefit of being able to choose between a variety of straps and looks. Including a rose gold plated main unit or a stainless steel strap. Naturally, these will also affect the price, but does continue the evident 'Huawei premium' angle the company is aiming for with a number of their products nowadays.
For the watch enthusiasts, there is still the criticism of the Huawei Watch being a bit too big. It is a big watch and again, especially if you are coming from a more traditional timepiece, you will notice the increased size, depth and width of the watch face. These seems to be an even more prevalent issue for someone who has a smaller wrist. While the Huawei Watch does adopt a more watch like persona, it is still a big watch.
While the display on any mobile product is always going to be a cause for concern, it is started to seem as though the display on a smartwatch is far more important. While you can get past a less than perfect smartphone display, the primary function of a smartwatch is to be viewed and with a screen as small as what is offered on a smartwatch, the display does matter. Huawei has looked to maintain its premium notes by including a reasonably sized 1.4-inch display but have upped the resolution compared to other competitor devices to a 400 x 400 resolution. Not to mention, Huawei has opted for an AMOLED display on the Huawei Watch.
The short of it is the display in excellent. That is, in comparison to what else is on offer. The use of an AMOLED display and the sharper resolution really does result in a very well presented and detailed display. There are no notable issues with the resolution on the Hawei Watch and during all aspects of interaction, the display was extremely sharp. It is also worth noting, that compared to other smartwatches, the display on the Huawei Watch was extremely good when viewing outdoors and in direct sunlight.
Software & UI
When it comes to the software, the reality is there is little to really pick at or praise with the Huawei Watch. This is Android Wear and across devices is still quite standardized for the most part. Most Android Wear devices offer the same level of experience with very slight (if any) skinning involved. As such, the software and UI experience on the Huawei Watch was one in line with what you would expect from any latter part 2015 smartwatch.
That said, Huawei had invested its time in making sure there are a variety of watch faces on offer with a notable selection (as well as the standard Android Wear faces that are on offer) in play. You can check out a few of the faces which are accessible by default on the Huawei Watch in the gallery below.
As this is Android Wear, the app in use for all your syncing is the standard Android Wear app and once again, this will be a familiar experience to those who have used it in the past.
When the Huawei Watch was first announced, many may have been disappointed that this one only came with a 300 mAh battery. The Moto 360 (first gen) comes with a bigger battery and most will remember the issues that had with battery life at launch. Of course, Motorola did somewhat fix that issue with a software update, but the issue of battery life on small capacity smartwatch batteries remains. Well, this does not seem to be the case with the Huawei Watch. In spite of being only 300 mAh, the battery on the Huawei Watch performs extremely well.
Under normal usage (defined as wearing the watch and interacting with messages that come through at a natural rate) the battery on the Huawei Watch easily passes through the daily usage barrier. To be clear, there is no two-day usage on offer (in spite of Huawei's claims) and even under normal usage you are unlikely to get much passed the 1.5-day marker. But for daily usage and daily charging, even the heavier users should not encounter any significant issues. Overnight non-charge usage (in its idle state) resulted on average in a 10-percent battery lost. To give you some idea of how it performs at a basic and minimally responsive level. Charge times were also reasonably good with the Huawei Watch taking about an hour to replenish its empty battery.
Point to note though: our model came with a European plug and as such all charge times were with using a third party Aukey USB wall charger along with the Huawei charging cable.
That said, where there was an issue was the charger itself. Unfortunately, for a smartwatch costing as much as the Huawei Watch does, there is no wireless charging here. The charger is a magnetic charger which does connect easy enough to the watch. But it is still essentially a wall charger. Not to mention, the lack of a cradle-like charging unit further felt disappointing for a product which does have 'premium' as its focal point. It is also worth pointing out that the connection made when attaching the magnetic charger is not always spot on. Sometimes the charger does not make the connection so you do have to visible make sure that charging has been activated. This was also a little disappointing as the use of the sort of snap on function should presumably be a lot more responsive. Not a massive issue, but one does require your attention when using.
The performance of the Huawei Watch is another area where the device excels against the current alternatives. The Huawei Watch is built with many of the current top tier hardware aspects and as such provides a smooth and easy to navigate experience. That said, much of the current hardware is what many would consider to soon be a little too dated already. For instance, the Huawei Watch comes with 512MB of RAM, as did the LG Watch Urbane and as did the Moto 360 (first gen). Likewise, storage on offer is much the same as the two mentioned devices. The other notable performance aspect is the employment of the Snapdragon 400 processor, which again is a processor which was in use on the LG Watch Urbane already. So there is some argument to the notion that in terms of performance, you are not getting much more than what is already available on the market.
However, in real use and taking away the comparison of specs there is little to complain about with the performance of the Huawei Watch. Interactions are smooth and navigating through the menu, features and so on is easy, fluid and without issue.
Heart Rate Monitor
While this would not normally need a separate mention, when it comes to the Huawei Watch, this is something the company has specifically mentioned as being better than its competitors. Part of the reason for this is that Huawei opted to include two sensors in the watch, compared to one which is encountered in most other smartwatches. Now, the current status quo on smartwatch HRMs is that they are not the most accurate at the best of times. When it comes to the Huawei Watch, this sentiment remains in place to be honest. It is not drastically more accurate than what you might find on other smartwatches, but what it does seem to be, is faster. This is where some element of comparison can be noted in real-life using and is worth pointing out. While Huawei opt for the 'better' tag, it is far more appropriate to state that it s faster. The two sensors do offer a slightly quicker reading of your heart rate albeit, not always perfectly.
When it comes to the Huawei Watch, Huawei made no secret that 'premium' was the word of the day and this seems to be exactly what they are offering. The Huawei Watch is a premium product and hands down does seem to be one of the best (if not the best) smartwatches currently available. The build quality is great, the display is excellent (by current standards), the software is nicely done and overall, you are getting a very good and premium smartwatch. One which any traditional watch wearer would be happy to wear, as much as any tech enthusiast. That said, the price is the issue here. Now, a good watch typically costs good money. This has always been the case. But, the difference between a traditional watch and a smartwatch, is the first is thought of as a sort of investment - like jewelry, a good watch retains some value. When it comes to smartwatches, the same cannot be said. In fact, smartwatches are likely to lose value significantly and quickly. Components inside will become dated and soon. Although, this is true of any smartwatch, not all smart watches are priced the same as the Huawei Watch and therefore, this must be taken into consideration. The Huawei Watch is a great smartwatch and well worth the money. It's just unfortunate that it will lose that value so quickly. To be fair to Huawei, this is not their problem solely as the launch price of the Huawei Watch is not any different to what the LG Watch Urbane launched for a few months back. That said, this is a far better watch than anything out there including the LG Watch Urbane. As such, if you are in the market for a high-end smartwatch, the Huawei Watch is currently the option to go for.