Huawei has been releasing smartwatches for a long time now. I’ve personally reviewed a lot of the company’s offerings in the last couple of years. I’ve always felt like Huawei nailed the hardware, but needs to work on the software. Well, that’s kind of the case here as well. The Huawei Watch 3 is an excellent smartwatch from one perspective, and a half-baked one from another. Its software is different this time around, as it comes with the company’s HarmonyOS. That’s something we’ll definitely talk about in this review.
Huawei changed up its design from last-gen smartwatches, and that’s not a bad thing, not at all. The company got inspired to create something a bit different, and it also added a rotating crown on the side, which does amplify the experience. There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to the Huawei Watch 3, so let’s get started, shall we. We’ll kick things off with its design, as that’s one of the major changes this time around. Do note that we’re reviewing the Watch 3 Active Edition. The company also released ‘Classic Edition’ and ‘Elite Edition’ variants.
One of the best-looking, and best-built watches on the market
The Huawei Watch 3 looks gorgeous, well, at least in my humble opinion. The watch still has a circular display, though the bezels are quite thin this time around. It’s a completely different story with the ‘Pro’ model, that variant has a lot thicker bezels. Huawei also included curved glass on top of this display, which made swiping and using the display really enjoyable. The company did a great job in that regard.
Huawei combines metal, glass, and ceramic here
The Huawei Watch 3 is made out of metal. To be more accurate, its frame is made out of stainless steel, while ceramic is applied on the back. On the variant we reviewed, Huawei included a nice silicone strap, which is very comfortable on the hand. You can replace that strap with any standard one, just make sure you get the size right. It does come with a quick release system, so you don’t need any additional tools to take it off.
A rotating crown has been added, and it’s great
This smartwatch has two buttons on the right side. The top button doubles as a rotating crown, while the bottom one is a quick action button. That quick action button is customizable, you can set it to launch your workout menu, music, or whatever else you want. The crown is clickable, and it’s a joy to use, actually. When you use the crown, you’ll get really nice, subtle haptic feedback from the watch. Its sensitivity is also spot on, it’s not too mushy, but also not too rigid either.
A speaker is also included
This watch does come with a speaker, which is placed on the right side as well. Well, it’s more towards the bottom of that side, but still. Yes, Huawei also included a microphone here, so you can make calls using the watch. That does make sense considering that an eSIM is included as well. At the very bottom of the watch, the company included a heartbeat sensor, which works really well.
It’s comfortable to wear
The Watch 3 is a joy to wear. It’s not exactly light, but it’s not too heavy either. It weighs 54 grams without the strap. It’s comfortable on the hand, and it’s not too thick either. This is one of the best-looking smartwatches I’ve seen this year, easily, and also one of the best ones in terms of build quality.
A great, punchy display with proper sensitivity
The Huawei Watch 3 features a round display, which measures 1.43 inches. We’re looking at a resolution of 466 x 466 here, with a PPI of 326. This is an AMOLED display, by the way. As you can see, this panel looks great on paper, and that reflects to real-life usage as well. The display is more than sharp enough, while its colors are punchy and vivid. Viewing angles are also really good, and the fact that there’s curved glass on top of that display only enhances the experience. Sliding your finger across this panel feels as it should.
Touch sensitivity is just right
This display is also very touch sensitive, using it feels just right. That probably has something to do with HarmonyOS as well, as it feels a lot nicer to use than what Huawei had on its watches before. The responsiveness is on point here, that’s for sure. This display is a joy to use no matter what way you spin things. It’s responsive, sharp, vivid, offers great viewing angles, and it’s plenty large for a smartwatch. We don’t have a single complaint here. This panel is great, and its thin bezels only enhance the experience.
Overall, the performance on the Hauwei Watch 3 is really good
The general performance of this watch is great. By ‘general’, I mean that the watch is not stuttering, not at all. It’s actually extremely fluid, noticeably more fluid than its predecessors. Huawei did a great job of adapting HarmonyOS to work well with the hardware implemented here. That side of things is excellent. The rotating crown is also well-adapted, and it blends well in the general order of things.
HarmonyOS still needs work
HarmonyOS itself is the issue, well, part of the issue. Huawei still has a lot of work to do on this OS, it seems, at least based on my experience with this watch. There are not many bugs, the watch is still lacking some features that should be there. Also, some functionality choices are rather odd. Moving forward, we’ll talk a bit about the performance, and I’ll definitely mention LiteOS a couple of times. LiteOS is the software Huawei used prior to HarmonyOS, and parts of it did pour over to HarmonyOS.
Software got better, but it’s still not great
So, in general, the OS looks really nice. It’s actually similar to LiteOS. Huawei did implement an Apple Watch-like grid for the app drawer, which you can change to a list, if you want. That grid works great with the rotating crown, though. The general fluidity of the OS is great, but it’s still lacking in a number of aspects. I’ll start with the setup first, as it wasn’t the greatest of experiences, plus there are some syncing issues.
The setup process was a bit confusing
So, the whole setup process for the watch is a pain. It had too many unnecessary menus, and to make things worse, I had to download an app from Huawei’s AppGallery. I didn’t have that app on the phone, so I had to download it from a website, and then download Huawei’s Health app from it. The Huawei Health app from the Play Store does not contain this smartwatch in its lineup, so I was unable to connect it. I’m not sure if this was an issue because I received the watch ahead of time for review, so they were unable to update the app yet, or if it will work like this in general. If it’s the latter, it will annoy many people, as it complicates things quite a bit. I also had issues syncing my watch with my Huawei ID account.
That did not affect how the app tracked my workouts, issued notifications, or anything of the sort. The app did connect to the watch, so everything except the weather info worked for me. The watch didn’t want to show me the weather info due to the sync issue. I couldn’t get this to work to save my life, I even tried resetting the watch.
The UI looks nice
Once you finally set up the watch, you’ll be greeted with a rather nice-looking UI. For those of you who owned previous Huawei watches, and are familiar with LiteOS, you’ll be glad to know that you can finally remove those widgets from the home screen pages. So, if you swipe to the right, you’ll see your heartbeat widget, Sp02 widget, and so on. If you go to the last screen, you’ll see the ‘Custom’ option. From there, you’ll be able to remove / add screens. The options are extremely limited, you can essentially add only the ones that were on there. Let’s hope Huawei will update this list soon.
It doesn’t have many free watch face choices
Options for watch faces are also really basic. Well, if you’re willing to pay, you’ll be able to find much more. The free watch faces on the watch are really limited, and quite frankly, Huawei needs to offer more variety in that regard. Some watch faces do allow you to edit actionable parts of them, so you can insert some functionality inside some watch faces.
The music control aspect is… clunky
The music control aspect is also weird. When you start playing something on your phone, the music app on the watch won’t recognize that. You’ll need to swipe from the left to right, to reach the weather screen. From there, you’ll need to swipe up, as you’ll see a small glowing indicator at the bottom. That way you’ll get access to control music on your phone. I found that on accident, I wouldn’t even know it’s there otherwise. This doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. I was able to control music playback via the music app on the watch in the past, all I had to do is choose that setting in the Huawei Health app. That option is now gone, at least in the version of the app from the Huawei AppGallery, which was necessary to use the watch.
The entire notification system is still a sore point, but better than before
Notifications are still the biggest problem of Huawei’s wearables. Luckily, in comparison to LiteOS, Huawei did fix some things. For example, the watch did not clone notifications on its own, that was a huge issue on LiteOS. You can also delete notifications more easily now, simply swipe them away. On LiteOS, you had to tap on a specific notification first, and then swipe away, to delete that notification only. Also, the watch does group notifications now, from the same app, which is a significant step forward.
You’ll have to dismiss notifications separately
The notifications also arrived in time, but the thing is, they do not sync with the phone. Let me explain, when you remove a notification from the watch, it won’t be removed from your notification shade on the phone, and vice versa. You’ll need to remove them separately. Icons for some apps are still not portrayed as they should be. For example, Viber and Google Messages icons are not displayed on the watch. The watch will display a generic chat icon for both of those apps. It does display proper icons for most apps, though.
Notifications are not actionable, and there re still issues
Notifications are not actionable, in the sense that you cannot answer a call, reply to a message, and so on. You cannot really do anything when it comes to notifications from a watch, except remove them. Let’s hope that Huawei will, at least, offer basic functionality in that regard moving forward. Another small tidbit that was a bit annoying is the fact that if you have notifications, that doesn’t show on your home screen. Samsung, for example, shows you a dot, Wear OS also has an indicator at the bottom. HarmonyOS, on the Huawei Watch 3, does not have anything.
So, if you missed a vibration, or simply want to raise your hand and see if there are any notifications, you can’t do that. You have to swipe from the bottom of the screen. You cannot even move the rotating bezel in order to access notifications. You’ll need to swipe first, and then you can use the rotating bezel to scroll through your notifications. Needless to say, Huawei needs to improve the whole notification system more. It is better than it was, no doubt about that, but it needs more functionality. Many people buy smartwatches for the notification functionality, in addition to music controls and workout / health features.
The device includes quite a few health-related features / sensors
Many of you are probably interested in the health and fitness aspect of this watch. So, the Huawei Watch 3 is actually well-equipped in this regard, that goes for both its software and hardware. The watch has a heart rate sensor on the back, which can keep track of your heart rate all day. Blood oxygen saturation (SpO2) monitoring is also available, while the watch can also keep track of your skin temperature. The watch can even alert your emergency contact if it detects something is seriously wrong. On top of that, you can quickie press the upper physical button (the crown) five times in order to call emergency services. It’s basically an SOS call. The watch will keep track of your steps, calories burned, sleep quality, stress levels, and more. It can even keep track of your menstruation cycle.
There are over 100 workout modes available here
That being said, the Huawei Watch 3 has over 100 workout modes available. Whether you’re going running, planning on doing some exercising indoors or outdoors, or going swimming, this watch has you covered. Out of all those modes, I’ve tried only a couple, biking and running. They both worked well. I did notice that the watch has been counting a bit more steps than it should, at least based on my experience with other watches. It was a lot more accurate than Huawei’s previous devices, though. One of the shortcomings of Huawei’s wearables was always somewhat inaccurate workout tracking, but that has been improved here, it seems. Still, do note that this is not a dedicated fitness watch, like a watch from Garmin, or something of the sort. It will do the job for the vast majority of people, though, as it’s quite good at what it does.
A 3-day battery life on regular usage beats the competition
When it comes to battery life… well, it’s good… in comparison with other smartwatches in the market. Still, it’s a lot worse than it was with the Huawei Watch GT2, GT2 Pro, and several other watches from the company. What does that mean? Well, in regular use, this watch will provide with about three days worth of battery life. That’s what the company is marketing, and that’s the experience I got. I was able to squeeze out 3-4 days of use, but without an activated eSIM, which is included. So, I didn’t have a cellular connection with the watch. That would further impact the battery life. I did, however, leave everything else on, including constant aka continuous heart rate tracking, etc.
You can squeeze up to two weeks worth of battery in a special mode
You can squeeze a lot more battery from the watch if you utilize the ultra-long battery life mode. Huawei is using some sort of smart power-saving algorithm to make this happen. I didn’t test this for the whole duration of a charge, but I did leave it on for around 24 hours. Do note that you won’t have full functionality if you opt for this, so… utilize it only if you really need it. It’s definitely not a feature that you’d use in regular usage, only when you’re purposely trying to save battery life.
Wireless charging is supported, but…
In regards to charging, this watch does support wireless charging. That is an improvement over Huawei’s previous watches, which utilize charging pins, and custom connectors. It should support your regular Qi charging, but I was unable to charge it on my Qi charging plate from Xiaomi. I’m not sure why that is, but it just didn’t want to charge it. Perhaps it’s because of the shape of the watch, it does protrude on the back a bit, even though not by much. So, keep in mind that you may have to use the charger that Huawei ships with the watch, or use some sort of a Qi charger that has a unique shape for charging smartwatches.
It even has a good speaker, and a solid microphone
The Huawei Watch 3 does come with a speaker. Surprisingly, that speaker is not bad at all. I mean, it’s definitely not for listening to music on it, as it gets quite tinny when the music gets louder, but it’s good in regards to what it is, a speaker on a watch. You can use it to talk to people without headphones, without a problem. There is also a microphone on the watch for that purpose. People I talked to said I sound a bit different, but not bad. You can definitely use this thing for voice calls, if you want.
The Huawei Watch 3 is considerably better than its predecessors
The Huawei Watch 3 is definitely an improvement over the Watch GT2 and Watch GT2 Pro. HarmonyOS feels much more fluid in comparison to LiteOS, and the company also managed to fix quite a few bugs here. It offers better fitness tracking than its predecessors, and the addition of the rotating crown only benefited the watch. The battery life is solid, the performance is good. The watch does have its downsides, which are mostly software-related. If you are looking to get something that is not WearOS, or Tizen, but also not a hybrid watch, the Huawei Watch 3 is a really good alternative. HarmonyOS could become great on wearables, if Huawei continues to offer great support for it. A couple of updates could make this watch even better. There are other great options at this price point, though, so be sure to consider them all.