If there’s one thing you can’t accuse the Huawei Watch Buds of, it’s being yet another boring smartwatch. That’s because this device, as the name suggests, includes a pair of earbuds, but that’s not the really unique part. It’s the fact that these earbuds can be stored inside the watch when not in use.
Whenever I’m travelling I always try to keep a pair of earbuds with me. Long train rides, flights or walks to and from the office are all made a little bit better when you have some music to hand, or you can watch a series on your phone without blasting the sound to everyone else around. There are times though when I forget to put my earbuds back in my pocket which would normally mean a music-free journey.
Getting on the train this weekend, I realised that my regular earbuds were still at home. Luckily though, I was testing the Huawei Watch Buds. A quick press on the button housed at the bottom edge of the casing causes the face to flip up and reveal two small earbuds inside. These connect via Bluetooth with your phone, just like any other earbuds but with the watch case closed, you’d never know they were there.
Design and features
The Huawei Watch Buds looks much like any of the best smartwatches, though it is a little chunkier. To accommodate those earbuds the body of the watch has been made a little thicker. At 15mm it’s actually only 0.6mm deeper than the Apple Watch Ultra, and at 66.5g, only 5.2g heavier, though it does feel more substantial on the wrist, which is saying something.
The case is finished in all black and comes with a black leather strap with white stitching – there’s a matte silver version available too in some markets. It’s a very classy design that is furthered by the 1.43-inch AMOLED screen behind the 3D curved glass. There’s a rotating crown that accesses the menu with a press, though turning it doesn’t appear to serve any actual function. The straps are a standard 22mm design so can be swapped for any other straps in this size, including those available from Huawei.
Nestled at the bottom edge of the casing, just above the top of the strap is the button that opens the lid. Its textured finish is the only hint that it’s there at all and it’s difficult enough to press that you would struggle to press it by accident – though not impossible. Once pressed firmly though, the lid opens to reveal the two earbuds magnetically attached to the outer side, leaving two recesses in the main body. The left and right earbuds are identical and can be put in either ear. The devices then sense their positioning and send the appropriate channel to each one. They snap back into place easily when returned to the case, only able to be returned one way up but can be attached with any of its four sides.
Underneath the sensors provide heart rate monitoring and oxygen levels as well as sleep tracking and exercise tracking, thanks to the accelerometer and gyroscope. There’s no built-in speaker, but with the earbuds on board, it’s not needed. It is a shame that it doesn’t have an eSIM option to allow the watch to stream music and take calls without your phone being present. Considering the combination of watch and earbuds, it would seem a natural inclusion here, though that would impact the battery life.
Likely aided by the larger build, the Watch Buds has a generous three-day battery life, or up to seven days when set in power saving mode. I tested this and managed three full days and still had around 10% battery left. Of course, this also depends on how much you use the earbuds – as soon as you place them back inside the watch they draw power to recharge – even with heavy use though, you’ll get a clear two days between charges.
The Huawei Watch Buds smartwatch is waterproof to IP X7 (1m for 30mins) but not swim-proof. This is due to the lid design, which limits its sealing. The earbuds themselves are IP X4 (splashproof), making them ideal for general use, or even in the gym.
What’s the Huawei Watch Buds like to use?
The Watch Buds runs on Huawei’s Harmony OS 3 which shares some of Android’s open-source code but doesn’t feature Google apps. The icons are clear and the navigation is fast and easy to operate. The watch pairs easily with Android and iOS devices, as well as Huawei Harmony ones, thanks to the dedicated Huawei Health app. This then allows you to sync the data with your phone’s health data and push notifications to the phone. Once they are linked up, the earbuds are also paired to your phone, so there’s no need to do this separately.
Not having dedicated Google apps doesn’t really matter on the watch, as it’s just syncing what you have on your phone. For that reason, the Harmony OS is more than capable.
The display on the Watch Buds isn’t an always-on display, so you need to raise your wrist to wake it. Initially, this seemed a little slow to react but a software upgrade appears to have improved this and now the display is available with even the subtlest of movements. I did find myself wanting to rotate the digital crown to scroll through settings (which does nothing) but that’s more due to being used to it on other watches.
There are some nice digital face options available to download to the watch, including a few more traditional watch designs that certainly fit the classic style of this watch. However, on close inspection, they still look a little digital rather than analogue. There are lots of free options from the store as well as paid options, covering just about every design you can think of.
I was relieved that the button for the lid was suitably hard to press. I didn’t have any instances of the lid opening accidentally, and when it is open the watch buzzes to let you know anyway, to make sure you don’t lose an earbud. The app also allows you to play a sound on the earbuds to help locate them, though this wasn’t working on my sample.
For such small earbuds, these are surprisingly good, with plenty of bass and detail. They won’t replace your premium earbuds – and there was a big difference between these and a pair of AirPods – but for something that you always have on you, they are more than capable.
Should I buy the Huawei Watch Buds?
The Huawei Watch Buds are a very clever solution to a problem – one that saves you from having to remember to bring your earbuds with you. Some would argue its not a problem that needed solving, but there have been times in the last few days when I’ve been very glad to have the Watch Buds on hand, as I’d left my regular headphones at home.
The watch itself is bulky but not so big that it looks out of place or too weighty. It’s more of an all-purpose device than really excelling at anything, aside from providing earbuds, but that’s okay. If you want a smartwatch that can ping your messages, monitor your health and exercise and also save you from carrying earbuds, this is the model for you.
The Huawei Watch Buds goes on sale on 1st March 2023 but is available for pre-order from 15th February 2023. Priced at £449 (499 Euro) it costs more than a decent Android smartwatch, like the Galaxy Watch5 and a standard pair of earbuds would be. But you are paying for convenience here, and there is no other smartwatch on the market that offers this watch-earbud combo.
So, in summary, if you feel having a pair of earbuds available at all times inside your watch useful, then the Huawei Watch Buds is for you.