Hands on Huawei Watch 2 review: potentially brilliant, Android Wear 2 fitness-focused smartwatch

With 4G, GPS, a barometer and heart-rate tracking the Watch 2 means you can leave your phone behind…

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Our Verdict

If they can get app support right, this could be the best running watch ever. It's also looking like a very solid Android Wear 2 timepiece

For

  • 4G connectivity
  • Full gamut of running-related sensors including GPS and barometer
  • Decent battery life

Against

  • No crown or bezel control
  • Mediocre looks

Huawei Watch 2 was unveiled today at the Mobile World Conference (MWC) in sunny Barcelona, in between traffic jams.  

And from a brief play-around with its 1.2-inch-screened, rubber-strapped, 4G-toting form we have this to say: it is good

Not only is it good for an Android Wear watch, it's also potentially very good as a fitness wearable. We also got to play with Huawei Watch 2 Classic, which is the same thing but posher looking, and with no 4G.

The only pricing we have so far is €329 for the Watch 2. UK launch date is April. No Classic price is set.

Huawei Watch 2: design

Watch 2 has a rubber, interchangeable strap in a choice of colours, wrapped around a 42mm face bearing a 1.2-inch, 390x390 (326ppi), Gorilla Glass screen, flanked by two buttons and surrounded by a ceramic bezel approximately the size of Cheltenham. It's IP68 resistant to dusty and watery assault.

Tech Sherlocks amongst you may well have guessed from this that it's aimed at fitness fans – who love rubber, but care less for aesthetics – and has 4G built in. The bezel is ceramic in part because that causes less antenna interference than a metal one. 

There will also be Wi-Fi only versions of Watch 2, should you not require complete untethering from your mobile.


I'm just going to come out and say it: as a watch, this is not hugely attractive. But hey, it's also not actively offensive. You might call this damning with faint praise, but as watches aimed at fitness enthusiasts go, it's officially not bad looking. Apart from the white-flecked one with yellow accents; that's disgusting.

Watch 2 also has one other design ace up its sleeve: set it to battery-saving mode and the battery will last for THREE WEEKS. What can you do in battery-saving mode? NOTHING. It'll just count your steps and tell you the time. But still, nice idea.

Incidentally, in 'normal use', two days of battery is promised, and that's with the 'always on' screen, 'always on'. 

With absolutely everything switched on and working away, it'll last a perfectly acceptable 10 hours. I say that's acceptable because there is a LOT of battery-sucking stuff packed into this watch, much of it is running related and, I don't know about you, but I don't usually run for more than 10 hours at a stretch.

Huawei Watch 2: features

What's really impressive about Watch 2 (Electric Boogaloo) is that it packs in a comprehensive list of sensors, connectivity options and gizmos: GPS, barometer, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 4G, an optical heart-rate reader and motion sensing are all aboard.

4G connections come courtesy of the first major update to Android Wear since its launch. It's entitled, logically enough, Android Wear 2. A SIM tray sits in the bottom of the watch, ready to take the SIM from your phone, when you feel like heading out phone-less.

Seriously, nobody is going to do that, are they? Using a cheapo second SIM seems a much less irritating option.

Via the Watch 2 with Android Wear 2, you can now roam free, and make phone calls via the built-in mic or, more realistically, Bluetooth headphones.

Although the wearable has Android Wear 2 in it, and 2 buttons, one feature it is lacking is any form of rotary control. So no, that enormous bezel can't be twisted to scroll through options.

Also, although the buttons do twist, suggesting they could be used for crown control, Apple Watch-style, in point of fact, they cannot. So why make them twist then? That's just toying with us.

Anyway, the second button directly accesses the various running and fitness options that Huawei is betting will make this a winner.

Huawei Watch 2: fitness, witness the

Now the problem with this kind of pre-launch 'briefing' on a product is that it lets me tell you what the features are, but leaves me unable to tell you how well they work.

However, on paper, and assuming Huawei has got its hardware and software tight, this could be a cracking running watch.

As noted, the sensor set is comprehensive, which is more than can be said for Apple Watch Nike+.

It's able to track you on the road and – thanks to an altimeter – up and down hills, whilst noting your heart's racing pulse. 

It's easy to access shortcuts to bike and gym tracking modes but more interesting than that are the options for runners.

Preset 'fat burn' and 'cardio' guided workouts use voice instructions to push you to the correct heart rate and keep you there. Presumably by shouting things like, "Speed up fatso, or nobody will love you." The same virtual instructor will also warn you if you're going too hard, and give regular updates on pace and distance.

The same sort of assistance could presumably be added for cyclists, gym bunnies and stand-up paddle boarders in due course.

So basically, what we have here is a potentially excellent fitness watch that also happens to be a full-on Android smartwatch.

However, Huawei has not been forthcoming about app partners, so I don't know if it'll work with Strava, Endomondo, RunningBore, HowsMyAbs et al. 

If all these lovely fitness metrics and distance-related data is just pouring into Google Health or some half-assed Huawei fitness app, it'll be much less appealing. Although I do know it'll do a V02 Max guesstimate, so that's promising.



Huawei Watch 2 Classic

There is a less sporty alternative to Huawei Watch 2, and it's the Huawei Watch 2 Classic. 

This looks almost identical, but has a more sober colour choice, a leather strap and stainless steel bezel. It's also functionally identical, as far as I can see, but lacks a 4G option.

As both watches have interchangeable straps, you could presumably use a leather one by day, then switch to a rubbery one for your workout. Or just buy two watches. Whatever.


Huawei Watch 2: early verdict

Watch 2 has a bright screen and everything seems to work smoothly and speedily. It's got a fairly nice feel to it and the look is, if not great, then at least acceptable.

It's unfortunate that Huawei hasn't included any rotary controls on this, especially as the bezel is a big old thing and as such probably quite easy to grip 'n' twist.

Despite that, it looks like a very competent Android Wear 2 watch. What's more interesting, however, is the concentration on fitness.

As long as the heart-rate monitoring and GPS/altimeter tracking are accurate, and the software support is there, this could turn out to be a great little product. 

Emphasising the fitness element is exactly the right thing for Huawei to do, and hopefully Watch 2 will deliver on its promise in that area.

Huawei Watch 2 full spec

Display 1.2-inch AMOLED, 390x390, 326ppi, Corning Gorilla Glass 

Processor Qualcomm MSM8909W, 1.1 GHz

Storage 4GB (2.3 GB for user storage)

Memory 768MB RAM  

Bluetooth BT4.1 BLE+BR/EDR Wi-Fi 2.4GHz 802.11 b/g/n 

Cellular option GSM/WCDMA/TDS/CDMA2000/TDD-LTE/FDD-LTE

Sensors Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Barometer, Heart rate sensor(PPG), CAP capacitance sensor, ALS/ambient light sensor, geomagnetic Sensor 

Battery 420mAh (typical value) giving about 2 days typical use; Training mode (GPS & real-time heart rate monitoring on) about 10 hours 

Water & Dust Resistance IP68 

Colours Dynamic Orange, Carbon Black, Concrete Grey 

Dimensions 48.9x45x12.6mm Weight about 40g

Lug Width 20 mm 

HUAWEI WATCH Classic is identical except colour is Titanium Grey only, has a 22mm lug and no 4G option