The smartwatch is an emerging product category, with the biggest names in tech releasing wearables. The Huawei Watch 2 this company’s latest offering, with a sportier look than its predecessor, as well as Google’s Android Wear 2.0.
Should you add this to your wrist? Read on to find out.
Huawei Watch 2 and Wrist Band
Huawei Watch 2 Build and Design
When designing the Watch 2, Huawei went for an athletic look, rather than a professional one. Our test unit is concrete grey, and carbon black is also an option.The screen and internal components are surrounded by lots of plastic to protect the delicate parts and dissipate heat. The bezel is ceramic, and there’s an aluminum back plate.
The result is somewhat controversial. One person in our test group said that wearing this accessory felt like being a kid wearing his father’s watch. Another said it looked like a toy. Much of this is related to it being half of an thick, but it’s other dimensions are large too: 1.9 by 1.8 inches.
That said, our test group agreed that the Watch 2 is surprisingly lightweight: about 1.4 ounces (40 g) without the band. Despite its bulk, this accessory weighs as little as many smaller wristwatches.
The casing is water resistant, not waterproof. That means it’s safe to wear in the rain, but don’t take it swimming.
The band that’s bundled with this item is 0.8 inches (20 mm) wide, and will fit wrists between 5.5 in. and 8.3 in. It’s black plastic to match the watch casing. This band is removable, but uses a proprietary connection system that requires all replacements to come from Huawei.
Huawei Watch 2 Display
Huawei Watch 2
The Watch 2 has a 1.2 inch circular touchscreen, with a resolution of 390 x 390 pixels. The appearance of the screen is good, with easily readable (if small) text. A watch must be usable outdoors, and we had no problems using this on outdoors, even in direct sunlight, thanks to the AMOLED screen
But the size is barely adequate. The original Huawei Watch had a 1.4-inch display, giving a noticeably better experience. The Watch 2 is quite usable, but the screen feels small, partially because it’s surrounded by a hefty bezel.
Much of the interaction with this device is done through the touchscreen, so it’s good that this is very responsive.
A major advantage of a smartwatch is being able to switch out the watch faces, e.g. one for running, another for the office, yet another for dinner dates. There’s a wide variety available free.
Huawei Watch 2 Buttons
Huawei Watch 2 Side View
A Home button is located on the right side of the Watch 2, at two o’clock. A second button at four o’clock is programmable to launch a favorite application. Both are large and easy to press.
Google built support for controlling smart watches by a rotating bezel into Android Wear 2.0. Sadly, Huawei chose to not take advantage of this, so the Watch 2’s bezel is fixed in place.
Instead, the device offers wrist gestures, so that a quick twist the wrist scrolls up or down. These are usable, but we found it easier to just touch the screen unless our other hand was unavailable.
There is an on-screen keyboard, but it’s ludicrously small. It’s possible to type out a word or two with lunch and patience, but entering text with the built-in speech-to-text feature is far, far easier and faster.
Speaker, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
Huawei included a speaker in the Watch 2 so it could be used like a Dick Tracy two-way wrist radio. The speaker is surprisingly good, making it easy to understand the other person. We found the ability to make and receive calls directly from the watch handy when driving, but only then. Your phone is right there… just use it.
That’s because making calls requires a short-range Bluetooth connection to a phone–there’s a version of this device with built-in cellular-wireless voice and data, but this is only available in Europe, and our test unit doesn’t have this feature. This wearable does have Wi-Fi for speedier data transfers than can be made over Bluetooth.
The speaker can also be used to play music, but this isn’t a particularly satisfying experience. Fortunately, the Watch 2 can communicate with a Bluetooth headset, allowing runners to listen to their tunes without needing to bring their phone with them.
Huawei Watch 2 Performance
Huawei Watch 2 App Switcher
This wearable has a 1.1 GHz quad-core Qualcomm MSM8909W Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor at its heart. If it isn’t obvious, this was created specifically for wearables like this one.
Unfortunately, there are no benchmarking applications for Android Wear. Our real-world experience found that the Huawei Watch 2 is completely usable, if just a bit slow. Launching a typical application takes about a second. Switching to an app already running in the background is much faster, of course. Using this device means staring at your wristwatch a trifle longer than is ideal, but we never found the wait times inconvenient.
Huawei included 768 MB of RAM, which is enough to hold the operating system and a couple of applications running in the background.
There’s 4 GB of built-in storage, and the operating system takes up 1.75GB of that, leaving 2.25 GB. That’s plenty for a few third-party applications, but a bit tight for those who want to carry around some music. Not surprisingly, there’s no memory card slot.
This watch runs Android Wear OS 2.0, a version released last year that’s based on Android 7.x Nougat. The user interface is relatively intuitive: we gave Huawei’s accessory to someone who’d never used a device like this before, and he figured out the basics without asking for help or reading a manual.
Huawei Watch 2 Contacts
Useful applications including Agenda, Contacts, and Android Pay are preinstalled, as well as a range of fitness-tracking software. This is in-line with the dual mission of the Huawei Watch 2, as both an everyday productivity tool and a health monitor. It can remind its wearer that their next meeting is in 10 minutes, and tell them that their heart rate is 80 bpm.
Additional third-party software can be added from an on-device Google Play app store. The selections are a bit thin, but many people will want to install Google Maps, as this can be tremendously convenient when driving.
Possibly Android Wear’s best feature is support for Google Assistant, which is voice controlled. Hold down the Home button for a second and the Watch 2 is ready for you to ask for a weather forecast or the capital of Botswana. Or you have the option to just say OK Google, which will activate the assistant. Just don’t have this feature active on your phone and watch at the same time.
Speaking of your phone, using a smartwatch requires the Android Wear app. For example, transferring our agenda and contacts onto the Watch 2 needed to be done over Bluetooth from our Android phone, not over the internet from Google’s servers. The Android Wear app can also be used to change many of the settings on the smartwatch, saving on fiddling with small screen.
There’s a version of the Android Wear for iOS, but we here unable to get this to pair with Huawei’s device, despite our best efforts.
Huawei Watch 2 Battery Life
In real-world use, our test Watch 2 was always close to 50% remaining charge after 24 hours of use. This means it will be necessary to charge this accessory every other day, as it can last from the morning of one day to the evening of the next, but forgetting to charge it that second night will mean waking up to a watch that’s not ready for a full day of use.
The bar for smartwatches is set low. so the fact that Huawei’s offering doesn’t have to be charged every day puts it ahead of virtually all its competitors.
Heavy use will significantly affect battery life, though. In our tests, about half an hour of continuous use, with the back light on almost the entire time, will go through about 10% of a charge.
Fortunately, there are a couple of options to extend the time between recharges. The screen brightness can be adjusted, or the user can turn on Smart Power Saving, which automatically dims the screen a bit. This mode also disables the always-on-screen option that shouldn’t be used in the first place–it’s a waste of power.
Another power saving option is Watch Mode, in which this device just tells the time and counts steps. Huawei promises that its product will last for three weeks on a single charge in this mode. We didn’t have time enough to test this claim.
Once the device gets down to a 15% charge, it automatically goes into power saver mode: the screen is dimmed, and many functions are deactivated, like wireless networking.
The Huawei Watch 2’s battery gets topped off by being connected to a clip-on charger. This can be connected to any USB wall adapter, or the one that comes in the box. The good news is this device recharges fairly quickly, so that someone who realizes when they wake up that their watch’s battery is low can get a half charge in the time it takes to shower and eat breakfast–about 45 minutes.
There’s another aspect of battery life that can’t be ignored. Many of this smartwatch’s functions require an internet connection, and the best way to arrange this is through a smartphone’s hotspot feature, but having this constantly on is draining for the phone’s battery life.
Huawei Watch 2 Final Thoughts
We’re not here to debate whether anyone needs a smartwatch. It’s a product category in its infancy, and one that has yet to find mass-market appeal. That said, a two-day battery life, rugged design, and light weight help make the Huawei Watch 2 a better option than many of its competitors. Still, it’s quite thick, and the display is a bit cramped. The performance isn’t stellar, but that’s true of all Android Wear devices.
The list price for this wearable is $300. That’s approximately what all its competitors sell for as well. The Apple Watch starts at $269, for example.
- Relatively long battery life
- Easily usable outdoors
- Very thick
- Pokey performance
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