Huawei Watch 2 Review

March 21, 2017 - Written By Justin Diaz

Huawei made a huge impact on the smartwatch market with the original Huawei Watch and they’ve done it again with the Huawei Watch 2.

Huawei’s first Android Wear smartwatch was a popular device for the world of Android Wear, and while we weren’t sure what to expect out of them with the Huawei Watch 2, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that their second watch for the Android Wear device market is nothing short of awesome. This of course will be a different opinion for some as not everyone is likely to appreciate the Huawei Watch 2, but it’s definitely one of the nicer options and not just because it comes in both a Sporty version as well as a Classic version. The model we have been testing is simply called the Huawei Watch 2 and is the version which comes with a more sport-like style, which makes it perfect for anyone who prefers this type of look and it’s great for when you need to use the fitness-related features. After spending some time with the watch for the last few weeks we’ve been able to see how Huawei’s second entry into the Android Wear smartwatch market stacks up, so let’s take a closer look at what it offers.

Specs

Huawei is not usually one to skimp when it comes to the hardware for their devices, especially when it comes to high-end and more popular items. The Huawei Watch 2 is no exception. It comes with a watch case size of 45mm, so it’s not an overly large-sized smartwatch compared to some of the other smartwatches that have released over the last year or two, but it’s also not tiny. The Huawei Watch 2 body is made of plastic, so it’s durable and lightweight compared to the Classic model which comes with a body that’s made of plastic and stainless steel.

On the inside the watch is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor and it comes with 768MB of RAM as well as 4GB of internal storage space. The display is 1.2-inches in size and Huawei has used an AMOLED panel for it, and it’s protected by Corning Gorilla Glass. The display is also completely circular in shape with no “flat tire” at the bottom which is one design aspect that many will surely appreciate, though it shouldn’t be too shocking that this was a design choice as the original Huawei Watch also had a fully circular display. The watch is running on Android Wear 2.0 out of the box so it makes use of all the benefits of the upgraded software, and for connectivity it supports Bluetooth 4.1 BLE and Wi-Fi, as well as LTE if you want to stay connected for data without having to pair it to your smartphone, although this is just with the Huawei Watch 2 model and not the Classic version. The Huawei Watch 2 also has support GPS and NFC built into it so it’s perfect for tracking your location and it can make mobile payments via Android Pay. Just like the original Huawei Watch there is a speaker inside of the Huawei Watch 2, and it comes with an IP68 certification so it’s water-resistant and dust resistant. It also has a 420mAh battery inside which provides decent battery life, and it has an integrated heart rate sensor for tracking your heart rate.

Hardware Design & Build

Huawei offers the Huawei Watch 2 in two different styles, the regular model and the Classic model, and what we have here is the regular model, which has a plastic body and ceramic bezel. The design on the regular watch is sporty and surprisingly lightweight, and doesn’t feel cheap or haphazardly put together. The strap for the watch is made out of a rubber silicone material which is great for those that like the active look, but the strap is also capable of being swapped out if you prefer a different kind of strap different occasions. On the watch body surrounding the display Huawei has placed numbers to denote each 5 minute interval, with little notches to account for the individual minutes. On the right side of the watch there are two crown buttons which are located at the 10 minute and 20 minute locations, and on the underside is where you’ll find the magnetic charging pogo pins as well as the heart rate sensor.

Overall the hardware and design of the Huawei Watch 2 is nice and it definitely has a more rugged look to it then the Huawei Watch 2 Classic, though this design won’t be for everyone even with the ability to swap out the straps. The strap that comes with the watch is fairly comfortable and will be just fine for most users and when worn it’s easy to tighten and loosen as needed. The straps also have a textured pattern that give it kind of a rigid feel although this is only on the outside of the strap as the inside that sits against your skin is smooth. The watch case is a tiny bit chunky but it still comes in slimmer than the LG Watch Sport, which I found to be an appealing aspect of the design, as I commonly had issues with other smartwatches that were thicker when I would wear long sleeve shirts and jackets where the watch would get stuck on the cuff of the sleeve. This wasn’t an issue with the Huawei Watch 2.

Display

Huawei has used an AMOLED panel for the display on the Huawei Watch 2 and this pairs nicely with the circular design. As is to be expected with AMOLED panels the colors were rich and vivid and the display is pretty easy to see in direct sunlight, it can  also get fairly bright if you manage the brightness without the ambient light sensor. While this is a nice display, it’s still very apparent that this is a piece of technology as it just doesn’t look as clean as the glass on a traditional watch, which may or may not bother some people as it’s more of an aesthetic preference.

Despite this being an AMOLED panel which tend to be a little more heavy-handed on the battery drain, the Huawei Watch 2 didn’t seem to be affected by this all that much. The display here won’t be interacted with as much as a smartphone, so it’s probably not all that important that the display is of the most exceptional quality, but it’s still good to see that Huawei made sure they used a nice screen. The digitizer works well and response to touch seemed to have no issues during our time of use.

Software

This is Android Wear 2.0, so right off the bat there is already an advantage over other smartwatches that run on the Android Wear OS as most still don’t have the update. Android Wear 2.0 brings some nice improvements over the older software version and while things generally just have a smoother feel to them the visual changes also look nicer. Everything is more accessible here, with your app drawer of sorts easily reachable by pressing the top crown button on the watch. Tapping this again will take you right back to the home screen, and long pressing opens up Google Assistant which is one of the biggest improvements about Android Wear 2.0 that makes the Huawei Watch 2 one of the better devices that’s available right now. While this isn’t full-fledged Google Assistant like you’ll find on Google Home or even on the Pixel, as you won’t be able to use this version to control smart home devices and such, it does allow you to send messages, ask questions and have the contextual conversations. A quick press on the bottom crown button brings up all the fitness-related features for your workout. There are different types of workouts you can select like running, fat burning, outdoor cycling, treadmill, indoor cycling and more. If you’re going to be using the watch a lot while you exercise this makes setting up your workout tracking a lot easier as you’ll spend less time having to scroll through your apps on the display, though if you’re using a certain watch face you can easily access some of the workout and fitness features by tapping on specific buttons.

This brings us to one of the other improvements with Android Wear 2.0 which is more customization of the watch faces. Not only are there now more to select from as new ones have been added in, but many of them will also now allow you to customize details, For example you can place widgets on the screen that will either list off information such as the weather and date, or you can place interactive widgets that do things like bring up the heart rate or the list of workout features. From the home screen you can also access different watch faces rather easily as they’re a quick swipe to the left. While you can access watch faces from the main menu with other apps by tapping on the settings, or by dragging down on the home screen and tapping the settings button here, you can also set a number of watch faces as favorites and these are what will show up when you swipe left. You can also add more favorites to the list so you have a wide collection to choose from if you see yourself wanting to change them out often.

With Android Wear 2.0 it’s also now possible to send messages out instead of just replying to messages which have come in. Because of this new change there’s a new method for composing a message in addition to using your voice, which is the ability to type the message using the keyboard. While the screen on the watch is small and it’s certainly going to be more challenging to type up a message to send, or to reply to, it’s nice to have the option and I found it to be easier than I actually expected. That being said, it’s still much easier to just speak to the watch and use your voice and have the speech-to-text engine take care of the typing. The Huawei Watch 2 also seems to pick up your voice pretty well and this is likely due in part to both the mic on the watch as well as Google’s voice recognition software. Alongside voice and typing using the keyboard, you can also still draw emoji and other characters on screen to insert them into your messages.

Those who haven’t used Android Wear before will likely not notice the difference in the way notifications now look and behave, but those who have been using an Android Wear smartwatch for a while will immediately see the differences. Now when notifications come in, if you want to read more about a specific notification you have to tap on it. Before Android Wear 2.0 simply scrolling up on a notification would show you its contents. Now, scrolling up or down on the display will cycle through notifications, and swiping left or right will dismiss them. Of course one of the biggest changes with the Android Wear 2.0 software is the Play Store access. Now that the Play Store is available you can open it and install apps directly onto the watch and that makes finding apps for it a whole lot easier. Beyond the fact that it saves time as you won’t need to put in any guesswork by looking for compatible apps, they also install right away and you don’t have to wait for them to transfer from your connected phone.

Payments & Fitness

Not all Android Wear smartwatches have NFC chips so not all of them will be able to support mobile payments, but the Huawei Watch 2 does have NFC which means you can use it to make payments via Android Pay if your bank and card type is supported. Purchasing stuff with Android Pay on the watch is extremely simple and makes buying anything much more convenient than whipping out your phone or wallet. Granted the establishment still has to support Android Pay, but many more places do now which means you won’t be as limited as you would have been before. Making payments is also super fast as they tend to go through quickly.

If you’re big into fitness, or even if you’re just trying to be more fit in general, Android Wear 2.0 is a big step up from before. There have always been fitness-focused apps available for the platform, but fitness apps and features are much more integrated with the new software than before. Not only have there been more stats that Google Fit will display that have been added in, but you can easily jump to the workout screen and start a workout for tons of different types of exercises. This makes the fitness aspect of the watch pretty versatile as there should be something for anyone no matter what types of exercises they like to do. You can also easily look at your workout history for various exercises if you want to take a look back at your progress for the day or the week. There may not be a physical button dedicated to Android Pay like on the LG Watch Sport, but having the physical button dedicated to the workout function is great for quickly putting on the watch and getting started.

Performance & Battery Life

The Huawei Watch 2 is using Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor just like many of the more recent wearables these days, and this paired with the 768MB of RAM made performance on the watch relatively smooth as during my time of use I barely noticed any lag or issues with the watch hanging in certain spots. Scrolling through notifications or the app lists feels effortless and this makes the watch enjoyable to use, especially considering that one of the problems that has plagued smartwatches in the past is issues with performance. Thankfully that really isn’t a problem with the Huawei Watch 2, though I’m sure that over time the performance may dip down just a tiny bit with more apps being installed and with the hardware becoming older.

As for battery life, there was really nothing to complain about here other than the fact that it could always be better. With that being said, this shouldn’t really be a surprise as most smartwatches are lacking amazing battery life that doesn’t require charging every one to two days. The good news is that with the Huawei Watch 2 you can probably get about two days out of it maybe a little bit longer depending on how often you’re checking the screen. If you turn off the always-on screen which wakes the display from a sleep state every time you move it up to look at it, then you can extend the battery life by a noticeable margin, and this is something that you’ll definitely have to do if you want the watch to last more than a day with heavy usage. The watch also charges pretty fast and it charges wirelessly so it’s simple to just to just click the watch into place and juice it up.

Another thing to consider is that since the Huawei Watch 2 is an LTE-enabled watch that will support connection directly to a cellular network if you have a SIM card inserted into it, it’s also going to drain the battery faster and if you use this functionality you’re more likely to be required to charge it every night. Because it’s constantly trying to stay connected to the cell towers, you’re bound to have a little bit more drain on the battery and even more so if you end up using the watch to make voice calls. That being said, I didn’t have an LTE SIM card inserted in the watch so I wasn’t able to test it for calls or for a difference in battery drain. Overall though battery life was pretty decent and most people should be able to get by on at least one day if not more.

Conclusion

While this is Huawei’s first watch with Android Wear 2.0 running on it out of the box, it isn’t their first smartwatch on Android Wear in general which helps to make this device a success. Huawei has built a nice smartwatch here and the build quality as well as the design are top notch. The style may not be to everyone’s liking, but luckily those consumers can simply go for the Huawei Watch 2 Classic which will have a little bit of a sleeker look. As far as features goes, there really isn’t anything that isn’t included here that you could need in a smartwatch. It has GPS, NFC, LTE, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, a heart rate sensor, and it’s IP68 certified, so it’s perfect for just about any situation regardless of activity or weather. At €379 for this particular model of the Huawei Watch 2, it’s right up there with the more premium Android Wear devices and it will certainly cost more than some will want to pay, but a majority of consumers would be happy with the purchase. There’s no word on a U.S.-price point yet, but it is coming to the U.S. in April so it won’t be a long wait before the price is revealed, and before people are able to pick one up. For those in Europe, the Huawei Watch 2 goes on sale this month.