Without question the wearables market continues to be the one of most buzzed about tech spaces currently out there. Whether it’s opinion that the space is declining or opinion the space is growing, people are talking about it. With the release of the Apple Watch many analysts predicted that wearables might take off. We now know that the Apple Watch wasn’t the take off product Apple and analysts were hoping for. While it sold much better than its Android Wear counterparts, it still didn’t perform as well as Cook and Co. thought it would. Now Huawei has entered the wearables space and what they’ve produced has got to be the “looker” of the bunches of wearables on the mainstream market. This is the Huawei Watch review.
From the moment the Huawei Watch hit the Internet people buzzed about the look of the thing. Even on a computer screen the watch exudes its handsome design. Without a doubt the unboxing experience for the Huawei Watch is heads and tails the best in the Android Wear space, the only other smartwatch unboxing experience that is at equal footing is the Apple Watch. Huawei put an awful lot of time and thought into its presentation which is a great thing as when you are opening the package you already feel as if what you are about to see is brilliant. Once you get through the solid feeling packaging and get to the actual device, it is a “take it in” moment.
The watch is made of premium stainless steel and a genuine leather band and those materials feel solid. The round face with raised edges is really what sets this watch apart from others like the Moto 360. Our model came in silver and it contrasted nicely with the deep black of the AMOLED display. The crown – yes it’s called a crown, watches have had crowns for a very long time… deal with it – is placed just slightly to the upper right of the watch body and is actually a great location for it. It’s very easy with the round face to place your thumb at the bottom left and index finger on the crown to manipulate it. It’s a very natural motion, unlike the Apple Watch’s digital crown which due to the square face feels less responsive to me.
There are a good number of choices for watchbands for the watch so you can change the look up a bit, but I felt this model looked better for casual or dress use. Even with an alternative watchband I feel the beautiful design of the watch would be out of place to wear this in a less casual or formal setting. Huawei does offer other body designs that could work better in terms of universal style use. Overall the design of the Huawei Watch is one of the best on the market, it certainly has the Apple Watch beat in looks and it gives the Moto 360 V2 a neck and neck run for it’s money in terms of design.
Sporting a 400×400 resolution AMOLED display, the Huawei Watch is certainly one of the nicest spec’d smartwatch displays on the market. Right off the bat you notice it lacks the “flat tire” that so many users complained about with the Moto 360. That’s kind of nice actually for those who absolutely need to have a full face; on a personal level the flat tire doesn’t bother me. The display is bright and easy to read and does a good job in sunlight as well, let’s face it, the sun is a beast and is bound to affect almost any display.
One thing decidedly missing from the display and seems to be a highly used feature for some Android Wear users is an auto-brightness setting. Currently you can only set the brightness from 1-5 and that can be a pain if you’re in a theater and need to adjust the brightness. I can see where auto-brightness can be useful for some users, as I don’t go to that many places where I need to adjust brightness the lack of this feature doesn’t bother me.
At first use I thought I may have issues with the swipe gestures due to the raised bezel of the watch but quickly discovered it wasn’t at all an issue. Swiping and input response is quick and easy, there were only a handful of times the watch didn’t recognize it was being touched or swiped, but that was rare. Overall the display is really amazing and with the amount of watch faces on the Google Play Store and the Huawei store you can pretty much get whatever look you want.
The Huawei Watch is running Android Wear but it does have limited compatibility with iPhones running iOS 8 and above. The Android Wear experience is exactly as it should be, Huawei has kept everything basically stock Android so all the functions you expect are present when paired to an Android device. Google Now works brilliantly and responding to texts, emails and Google Hangouts is a breeze. Android Wear is maturing quite nicely and the software experience on the Android side was top notch. I paired the watch with my Nexus 6, in case you were curious as to what device I tested it with.
Now let’s talk briefly about pairing with an iPhone. If you follow me on social media or read my articles frequently you’ll know that I’m a multi-OS user. So I was able to take the Huawei Watch for a spin on my iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6s Plus. Pairing the watch with the iPhone is a breeze, the Android Wear app on iOS is basically the same app you’ll find on Android. Setup was a breeze and everything was working within moments.
While setup was a breeze it’s functionality that hurts the iPhone experience – and that’s not Huawei’s fault. While you can do a good number of things, notifications seems to be the largest feature with the iPhone. As expected the Android experience is far more immersive and functional. I wouldn’t recommend anyone buy any Android Wear watch at premium prices to use with their iPhone. I feel the experience isn’t worth the price of admission and until Apple will allow deeper integration with iOS for Android Wear watches I think the experience won’t change.
Overall the Android Wear is getting better as it ages and matures. The growing pains for iPhone users are going to be far more uncomfortable and frustrating than for Android users though.
Battery and Charging
Packing a 300mAh battery the Huawei Watch battery life is going to be highly dependent on how you use your watch. Using most all of the features through the day (off charger at 5:00am back on charger at 9:30pm) while paired to my Nexus 6 the Huawei Watch usually hovered around 20% at the end of the day. Which is more than acceptable battery life as I believe this is a device that will always need daily charging. I suspect if auto-brightness had been included battery life might have even been better. Still with the watch at 5 brightness and “Always-ON” screen feature active, 20% left at the end of the day is acceptable.
Now for iPhone users, your battery life is going to be much better as the limited functionality and interaction between phone and watch requires less connection. Using the available features for iPhone and paired to the iPhone 6 Plus the Huawei Watch hovered around 50% at the end of the day. While that is amazing battery life the reason it’s this good with the iPhone is its limited connectivity.
There are a few other issues to consider when buying the Huawei Watch, issues that may or may not matter to you. The first being the charging indicator on screen. Most times it’s nearly impossible to see if the watch is charging or not, the icon gets muddled in many of the watch faces making it frustrating to figure out. There were some days morning found the watch nearly dead because it wasn’t charging at all. Which brings me to gripe number two, the magnetic charger. The charger is much like Apple’s charger except that it uses conductive pin connectors to push the charge into the watch. I found this charging method to be a frustrating experience putzing around with the watch and charger to seat it properly is an exercise in patience. These may be minor annoyances you may or may not be able to live with.
Starting in at $349 and going up from there, the Huawei Watch is a solid build and an above average Android Wear experience. It’s worth buying anywhere from the $349-$449 price range but anything higher than that is a little silly for a watch in my opinion. Of course everyone has to make value their own judgement call. But I would highly caution iPhone users to think twice about buying any Android Wear watch due to the limited compatibility, I don’t see the point in spending that much money on a smartwatch and not get its full potential.
If you’re an Android user, the Huawei watch is a solid choice and you can’t go wrong with choosing it. You may have some frustration with Huawei’s chosen method of charging though. If you’re an iPhone user, as much as I like this watch and Android Wear, you might not be so happy with the experience.