Historically, there has always been a trade-off in the smart watch industry. You made the choice of a watch with great features… or you chose a one with a longer battery life. Is it a smart watch or a fitness tracker? Even today with the two most popular watches in the business, the Apple Watch 5 might last 18 hours on full charge while the Samsung Active2 can hope for 24. Both are app based watches but, what if you haven’t got the battery life to satisfy those apps? As an example, the Samsung Active2 has sleep tracking; Apple doesn’t. Apple is hoping to get that out in their next release. The problem is (or rather was), if you leave the watch on overnight, how long can we expect it to run the next day?
On our test bench today, and on our wrist for the past several, is the Huawei Watch GT2. It is a smartwatch and very much a fitness tracker, and it is based on Huawei’s latest proprietary Kirin A1 mobile chipset. The Kirin A1 supports wireless audio and smartwatches and is certified Bluetooth 5.1 and Bluetooth 5.1 low power standards. Simply, this chip provides significantly better performance with a much longer battery life than we are seeing from other similar devices today. Huawei currently has the Kirin A1 positioned in their Watch GT2, as well as their Freebuds 3. The GT2 can average about 14 hours of normal use while the Freebuds 3 get four hours with 20 hours total with their included charger case. At least in my world, the fact that the GT2 has 2GB available for onboard music storage and a GPS means extended workouts without the smartphone on my side at all times. Check out our Huawei Freebuds 3 review here.
Huawei Watch GT2 features are right in line with that of Samsung and Apple, but without the need for app download. The GT2 even has characteristics that others can only hope to include in future releases, such as SpO2 blood oxygen monitoring, real time coaching, heart rate monitoring while swimming and turn by turn navigation. And as for sleep tracking, we were impressed as the GT2 with True Sleep 2.0 monitored and kept track of wake time, REM, light and deep sleep, and then made smart suggestions for better rest. Even after spending the afternoon setting the GT2 up, playing around and uploading songs all night and then monitoring my sleep, I found it to still have over 90% of charge left the next morning. There is simply no fooling the GT2. It has even caught me taking a nap during the day a few times. Luckily, I decided to sidestep that option to be alerted after I had been sitting for an hour.
So… one heck of an intro even I can admit, and it wouldn’t be fair to mention those characteristics of the GT2 that could be improved in future releases. For instance, you can receive notifications and messages, but you can’t respond as you can on other watches. As much as I would like to type responses in this screen, I can’t see that ever happening because of my age and eyesight but… voice recognition would be a huge benefit here.
Charging is accomplished through the included charger and Qi charging would have been nice. As well, although the GT2 does monitor you at all times, it doesn’t have automatic exercise recognition and starting. There’s is also a slight issue in downloading music to the 46mm GT2 if you pair your GT2 to the Huawei Health App in IOS. You cant. One has to borrow anothers Android or Huawei smartphone to accomplish that initially. Guess who’s wife has an iPhone?
The Huawei Watch GT2 is available in two sizes, 46mm and 42mm, and a key difference between these two is that the 42mm version has a 12 hour battery life vice that of the 46mm, which averages two weeks. There are Classic, Sport and Elite editions available with a miriad of straps to include Fluoroelastomer, leather and metal. The face of the 46mm is 1.39 inches with a 16m color AMOLED 454 x 454 pixel resolution which is the largest in its class, and 25% better than the Apple Watch 5, while the 42mm version drops to 390×390. Both sizes are powered by the Kirin A1 and have GPS, BT 5.1, BLE/BR/EDR and contain accelerometer, gyroscope, geomagnetic, optical heart rate, ambient light, air pressure and capacitive sensors. Huawei is also the first in the industry to fully incorporate BT 5.1.
The GT2 is compatible with Android 4.4 or later and IOS 9.0 or later and is 5ATM water resistant with a 50 meter depth rating. Did we mention that this is the only heart rate tracker while you swim? Included in the case is the Huawei Watch GT2, Quick Start Guide, Warranty, ‘Magnetic Charging Thimble’, and a USB 3 to Type-C cable. Bluetooth calling comes only in the 46mm GT2 and, significantly different than the Samsung and Apple versions, the GT2 does not require a SIM card, have LTE, Wi-Fi and there is no need for 3rd party app download. This does mean that the GT2 is reliant on your smartphone being within 75m for calls and data, whereas, the Samsung and Apple can head out on their own.
Our manufacturer supplied sample GT2 has a product number of 55024688 and came with a black Fluorelastomer band which surprised the heck out of me as I had been unable to wear anything but metal bands previously. It has a coated Gorilla Glass touchscreen face, grey stainless steel sides and a deramic base. As shown in this picture, there are two buttons, the top (right) being the Power and Menu Button and the other being a Function button which can be preset to just about any of the phones features. I have set it to my Call Log so I can call people quickly with only two buttons pressed. Below the buttons is the speaker and there is a microphone on the other side.
There are 15 watch faces that come standard with the Huawei Watch GT2 and, a bit disappointing perhaps, is that there are a ton of great third party watch faces out there with no way to upload them, at least in north America, as of the last update. There is a version of software available but is a beta version and only limited to the Asias. Changing to one of the included faces is as simple as pressing center of the touchscreen for a few seconds, cycling left or right until you find what you want and then pressing on your choice.
Another feature that I never thought I would enjoy is BT calling. Just after I set up the Huawei Watch GT2, I took part in a 40 minute conference call where there was no difficulty hearing the group and I was told that my voice was clear, all the while pacing my residence with my arm at my side. Since receiving this I have made and received countless calls using just this watch. Its a bit laughable actually because one still gets the urge to raise the wrist to the mouth (Yes…just like Maxwell Smart) but its not necessary whatsoever. Even better yet, this watch stays fully functional while up to 75 meters from the smartphone, the brilliance of BT 5.1. It is great being able to do yard work while having my health monitored, and not having to have the smartphone in a pocket or close by.
Hop to the next page for GT2 operation, pricing and some rather surprising final thoughts…