When Huawei introduced their first Watch, it was one of the best looking smartwatches of 2015. It had a classic round face design with a premium looking stainless steel case. The original Huawei Watch also had one of the largest screens with a full-circle 1.4” AMOLED display without Moto 360‘s ugly “flat tyre”.
If you’re currently using the first Huawei Watch, the new 2nd generation model might not be the successor you’re looking for. Instead of a classy and elegant looking design, Huawei had went with a fitness approach. As a result, the Huawei Watch 2 gets a chunkier looking case bundled with a rugged rubber strap.
However, it does stand out from the rest as the only official Android Wear smartwatch in Malaysia to come with 4G LTE support.
+ Good all-day battery life
– Cheap-looking design
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At first glance, it looks utilitarian rather than a fashion piece. Compared to Samsung Gear S3, the Huawei Watch 2 feels less premium especially the rubber strap that comes bundled with the watch. Most people might think that the shiny glossy bezel is plastic but it’s actually made of ceramic for better durability.
Naturally, you would expect this thick bezel to be rotatable but it gets a fixed design purely for aesthetics. With a 1.2” AMOLED display, having a rotating bezel on the Watch 2 would have made scrolling so much better than swiping.
The display is crisp thanks to its rather high 390×390 pixels resolution and its always-on display is still quite visible in sunny outdoor conditions. The Huawei Watch 2 runs on a current Android Wear 2.0 which is improved to support standalone apps. Powering the device is a Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor with 768MB RAM and it comes with 4GB of internal storage.
All day battery life
In normal use when it’s paired via Bluetooth, the Watch 2 battery can last a full day on a single charge. On some occasions, it can even stretch up to 1 day and a half depending on how many notifications you receive. However, things start to get trickier when you use it standalone.
The Watch 2 supports both WiFi and 4G LTE connectivity but both won’t be active unless the watch has disconnected from your phone. Once it loses Bluetooth connectivity, the watch will attempt to connect to WiFi before switching on 4G LTE to regain connectivity. The nano-SIM slot is tucked underneath the lower part of the watch which can be removed without any tools.
Do note that staying connected mostly on WiFi and 4G would significantly shorten its battery life to about 12-15 hours on a full charge. If you’re going off for a couple of hours without your phone, it should still hold up for a full day of use.
To charge the Huawei Watch 2, it comes with a magnetic charger that hooks onto the back of the watch. Although it isn’t as sexy as Moto 360 and Samsung Gear S3’s charging dock, it still gets the job done without any fuss. Charging times are quite linear with a 15-minute charge giving 25% and a full charge can be completed in one hour.
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As a standalone device, the Huawei Watch 2 lets you stay in touch without having to carry your smartphone with you. Apart from making/receiving calls and SMS, you still can get WhatsApp notifications and reply to messages from your wrist while your phone is left behind. It definitely won’t replace your smartphone completely but it’s probably all you need to stay connected for that short moment at the gym or while going for a run.
When it comes to music, you can’t stream Spotify from your wrist. The official app is merely for playback controls while the music is still played through your phone. The recommended way to stream from your watch is via Google Play Music which unfortunately isn’t available in Malaysia yet. If you can’t run without your favourite tracks, you would still need to carry a phone or you could get a pair of wireless Bluetooth headsets with built-in storage.
Another annoyance that I had with the Watch is its vibration intensity. I’ve used several smartwatches including Apple Watch, Pebble and Samsung Gear S2, and I’ve no issues when it comes to notifications. On the Huawei Watch 2, the vibration feedback is quite weak that I missed a couple of incoming alerts during the review period. Fortunately, incoming calls are more noticeable as the Watch 2 rings loudly with your preferred tone.
Speaking of calls, the voice quality on the Huawei Watch 2 is quite good. The loudspeaker volume is loud enough in places with moderate ambient noise and during my test, the other person could hear me clearly as if I was talking through a phone. Text inputs can be handled by voice rather well and Google has done a good job in recognising Malaysian accents. Of course, there’s the option to type using an on-screen keyboard but seriously, don’t bother on a tiny screen.
Being a chunky sports smartwatch, the Watch 2 has a dedicated button on the lower right which gives you instant access to your workouts. It is easy to get started and long pressing this button during your session lets you pause or resume your current activity. Alternatively, you can also reconfigure this button to launch something else.
The Watch 2 still comes with a built-in heart rate monitor and it even tells you what heart rate zone you’re in (Warm-up, Fat-burning, Aerobic, Anaerobic, Extreme) during your exercises. New on the Watch 2 is built-in GPS which makes fitness tracking and even map navigation possible without a phone. There’s also IP68 water resistance but it isn’t recommended that you take this out for a swim.
The default workout app covers most essential details including calories burned, distance, elevation, standing count and resting heart rate. Since it’s Android Wear, you can always load 3rd party apps like Strava, Runkeeper and Runtastic to suit your needs.
Don’t bother if you’re using an iPhone
The Watch 2 supports iOS via Google’s Android Wear app but the connection is terribly unreliable. Reconnecting the watch to an iPhone 7 Plus after it goes out of range can be very frustrating. There are times where I ended up depleting the Watch’s battery as it stayed connected via 4G instead of Bluetooth for an extended length of time. Furthermore, your fitness data from Android Wear will not sync up with Apple’s HealthKit.
On Android however, it works like a charm and I have no issues on my Galaxy S8+. The Watch 2 also has NFC for Android Pay but it will only work in countries that are supported.
The only smartwatch + fitness + phone you can buy
The Huawei Watch 2 might not be a premium successor to the original but it makes up for it with added functionality. The built-in 4G LTE connectivity and GPS would appeal to fitness buffs that want to free themselves from being tied to a phone.
At the time of writing, you can only get it exclusively through Maxis along with a Huawei smartphone bundle. If you’re interested in getting one without any strings attached, Huawei Malaysia will be offering the Watch 2 standalone later for RM1,999.
For that price, it is quite steep and there are other affordable smartwatch options out there. However, if need a smartwatch that’s good at keeping you connected even without a phone, the Watch 2 is probably the wearable that you’ve been waiting for.