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Huawei Watch GT Review: Hands-on

The Huawei Watch GT boasts impressive battery life, but at what cost? Here's our hands-on review of Huawei's latest smartwatch.

SHOULD I BUY THE HUAWEI WATCH GT?
If the UK pricing is similar to the €199 mark then this could be a great option at far less than the £329 Huawei Watch 2. But the Watch GT doesn't run WearOS.
The battery life and advanced exercise tracking features make it a tempting option, but without third-party app support, we wonder just how smart the Huawei Watch GT can be.
Check back soon for our full verdict, once we've spent some more time with the Watch GT.


PRICE WHEN REVIEWED
  • TBC
Following the launch of the hugely popular Huawei Watch 2 in 2017, Huawei took to the stage at the launch of the Mate 20 series to reveal a brand new smartwatch; the Huawei Watch GT. Unlike the Watch 2, Huawei’s latest smartwatch runs a bespoke operating system that allows Huawei to offer advanced features and impressive battery life – but is it one of the best smartwatches available?

Huawei has taken a risk by developing Light OS for use in the Watch GT, and while there are benefits to using it, there are downsides too. Find out what we mean in our Huawei Watch GT hands-on review, based on a short time with the watch prior to launch.

PRICING AND AVAILABILITY
The Huawei Watch GT comes in two variants, Sport and Classic. They will sell for €199 and €249 respectively, with UK pricing to be announced.

This is a fairly competitive price point, undercutting the Apple Watch Series 4 and similar to Samsung's Galaxy Watch.

DESIGN AND BUILD
Huawei said from the off that it wanted to make a smartwatch that looks like a watch, as opposed to the high-tech, gadget-y look of competing smartwatches. That translates to familiar features for watch users, including a circular face, durable body and crown(s) for interacting with the watch.

Granted, these crowns won’t be used in the same way as with a traditional watch, but they still provide shortcuts to exercise tracking, the main menu and more. If you can access something with fewer taps, why wouldn’t you?

The Huawei Watch GT looks similar to the Huawei Watch 2, and comes in two flavours; a variant with a black body and a ceramic bezel design on the outer ring, and a slightly more expensive variant with a stainless steel body and faux-leather watch strap.

We initially questioned the choice of material on the latter, but quickly realised that it was down to the fact that the Watch GT can be used underwater – something that a real leather strap would suffer with over time. 
The good news is that the Huawei Watch GT uses standard size watch straps that are soft-to-the-touch, and while they shouldn’t cause any irritation, you can swap them out for other compatible watch straps if it does occur.

Both smartwatches come with a 1.39in OLED display protected by a diamond coating that should negate scratches, and while they certainly look like stylish watches, they’re surprisingly bulky on the wrist – even for our 210mm wrists – with no size variation available for those with smaller, dainty wrists.

It’s not exactly a surprise as Huawei only offers the Watch 2 in a single size, but we’re not sure why the company hasn’t accommodated for those with smaller wrists, especially with such a bulky design.

Flip the Huawei Watch GT over and you’ll find a new heart rate monitor that the company claims is more accurate than what’s on offer from other smartwatches at the moment, and like with other Huawei smartwatches, the Watch GT offers contact charging as opposed to full wireless charging. It’s a shame really, as those who purchase a wireless charging-enabled Mate 20 Pro could’ve charged the Watch GT with their phone! Oh well, maybe next year eh Huawei?

But while it’s largely business as usual in the design department, the Huawei Watch GT offers a completely new software experience that you’ll either love or hate.

FEATURES AND SOFTWARE
Unlike the Huawei Watch 2 that runs Android Wear, Huawei’s latest smartwatch boasts the company’s own operating system dubbed Light OS. Having control over both the hardware and the software of the smartwatch has allowed Huawei to enhance the battery life, with the Watch GT offering anywhere between 22 hours and a month of battery life, depending on what you’re up to.

You’ll get two weeks of battery life with constant heart rate tracking and around 90 minutes of exercise tracking per week on average. If you can live without the HR monitor or GPS for exercise tracking, the battery life jumps up to a whopping 30 days. At the other end of the scale, the Watch GT boasts a full 22 hours of continuous exercise tracking, GPS and HR tracking with the display always-on.

That’s impressive, especially when you consider that similar smartwatches on the market, like the Apple Watch Series 4, needs to be charged every day.

That’s possible in part due to the inclusion of a double chipset architecture, allowing the smartwatch to use different chipsets depending on what it thinks you’re doing. If you’re asleep or stationary for long periods of time, the Watch GT will draw power from a low-powered chip, with the Watch GT only switching to the high-powered chipset when moving around or exercising.

What Huawei hasn’t announced is the specs of the double chipset architecture, but we’ll update this with information once we know more.

As mentioned above, Huawei claims that the HR sensor featured in the Watch GT is more accurate and efficient than what’s on offer by competitors. It’s called the TruSeen 3.0 HR monitor, and it differs from similar HR monitors not only due to the inclusion of new sensors, but also a range of self-learning algorithms to help keep results as accurate as possible.

Combine the TruSeen 3.0 HR monitor with an impressive GPS system comprised not only of GPS, but the GLONASS and GALILEO systems too. It’s the first time this trio of tech has been featured in a smartwatch, and allows the Watch GT to triangulate your position based on readings from all three, providing more accurate GPS coordinates even in Urban areas with high building, or when you’re out in the sticks exploring.

It should come as no surprise that the Huawei Watch GT has a focus on exercise tracking, and while the Watch 2 could do a lot, the GT looks to do more. As well as tracking standard exercises like running, jogging and rowing, the Watch GT includes an altimeter to give advanced readings like elevation when hiking, along with a range of water sport-specific measurements.

It’s water-resistant, meaning you’re free to use the Watch GT when swimming. In fact, the smartwatch offers specific tracking modes depending on the type of swimming you’re doing; Freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly and more.

The Huawei Watch GT also features an intelligent Health Assistant that, on top of tracking your daily steps, standing hours and exercise, can intelligently track the different periods of sleep – awake, REM, light and deep. It doesn’t stop at tracking though, as the Watch GT can analyse the sleep data it collects and provides a range of tips (over 200 in total, depending on your issue) that can help you get a better night’s sleep.

The Huawei Watch GT is compatible with both iOS and Android, much like the Watch 2, with Android getting access to more features (likely down to stricter rules on iOS accessories). It offers Bluetooth support, but there’s no access to NFC for mobile payment support.

The deal-breaker is that Light OS offers no support for third-party apps, and Huawei has no plans to include it in a future update. It’s not exactly a new concept – Garmin initially refused to offer third-party app support on its range – but the company has since changed its stance, and now offers basic support for popular apps like Spotify, Uber and Deezer.

It’s an odd move from Huawei, and it makes us question whether the Watch GT is really a smartwatch, or just a fancy activity tracker. The design suggests the former, while the features on offer suggest it could be the latter. The non-ability to install your favourite watch apps like Citymapper, Strava and Uber will put many off the Watch GT and may force them to consider another option, like the Android Wear-enabled Huawei Watch 2, even with impressive battery life on offer.

VERDICT
We’re waiting to get our hands on the Huawei Watch GT before delivering a final verdict, but right now, we’re torn. The Huawei Watch GT offers amazing battery life, a classic design and impressive exercise tracking tech, but without support for third-party apps, we wonder how many people will be tempted.



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