May 15 AT 11:04 AM Dima Aryeh 0 Comments

Huawei Watch 2 review

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The Huawei Watch 2 is the successor to the popular and adored original Huawei Watch, and it’s a controversial one. Gone are the classy looks, replaced with a sporty body and packed with features.

Details

  • 1.2-inch 390×390 AMOLED display
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor
  • 768MB RAM
  • 4GB storage
  • 420mAh battery
  • Sensors: Ambient light, accelerometer, gyro, heart rate, GPS, barometer, compass
  • 12.6mm thick
  • Price: $299.99

Hardware

Let’s address the elephant in the room. The first thing you’ll notice about the Huawei Watch 2 is its sporty appearance. Then it’ll hit you that the body is bigger and thicker than the original while the display is smaller. This has turned a lot of people off, and I’ll admit that I’m one of them. After owning an original Huawei Watch, I was hoping the Watch 2 would be a successor to the original, retaining the classy look while adding better hardware and features like NFC.

Yes, this isn’t a classy watch. Even the Classic version isn’t nearly as beautiful as the original. But don’t let this sour your opinion of the Watch 2, because if you look at it as a separate device, it’s actually pretty great.

The plastic body is durable and lightweight, weighing only 40g. This and the rubber strap makes it an extremely comfortable watch to wear. The polished ceramic ring surrounding the display is very scratch-resistant and looks really nice. The display itself is coated in Gorilla Glass, sadly forgoing its predecessor’s sapphire crystal.

On the side, you’ll find the familiar power button alongside a second function button which can be programmed to open any app you’d like. There’s no rotating crown, and while this is a shame, Huawei says it was not added so it wouldn’t be bumped during sport and activities. This is a fitness-oriented device, after all.

The display is smaller than its predecessor by a tenth of an inch, and it really does feel a lot smaller. Fortunately the pixel density is higher and the display is quite nice. It gets plenty bright in daylight and looks great in all conditions. It also features an ambient light sensor, which was a huge omission on the previous model. This comes without a flat tire thanks to the huge bezels.

Inside you’ll find much of the same hardware that powers other Android Wear watches. But while other watches omit a bunch of fitness sensors, the Huawei Watch 2 has a full assortment. You get a continuously reading heart rate sensor (it’s a big surprise how many modern smartwatches omit a heart rate sensor entirely), an accelerometer, a gyro, a barometer, a GPS, a compass, NFC, and capacitive sensor. All of the antennas are housed in the body.

There is also a speaker which can play alarms and music. It gets loud, and despite being more tinny than a garbage can, it actually sounds pretty decent.

The vibration on the previous watch was weak and I often couldn’t feel it. The Watch 2 vibration motor is strong but sharp and not too buzzy. It feels great.

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The Huawei Watch 2′s bands are replaceable and feature the same quick change mechanism as the previous model. This mechanism makes band changes toolless and instant. Any 20mm band will work, so your previous bands won’t work if you’re upgrading from the original Huawei Watch.

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The charger is a big talking point if you’ve ever owned the original Huawei Watch. It was pretty terrible, and getting the pins aligned often took a few careful snaps of the charger. I even had the watch buzz every couple of seconds all night long thanks to intermittent charger contact. Many of you know my pain. The new charger for the Huawei Watch 2 has side tabs that align it, meaning you can carelessly snap the charger on and get it right every single time. No more tears, only dreams now.

Software

The Huawei Watch 2 launches with Android Wear 2.0, which is a huge improvement over any other version of Android Wear. So much has been improved upon and even completely changed.

The notifications now act more like Android on a phone, where swiping in either direction will dismiss it and there is a clear all button at the bottom. Each notification can now have buttons, rather than a single button per screen like before. This means you can instantly delete emails, skip tracks on the music notification, and much more. This is such a big improvement over older versions. They’re also gray, so no more glaring white glow.

Google Assistant has been added, which means your watch can do much of what your phone can. This includes controlling your smart home, and if you’re connected to WiFi through your watch, this means you don’t need your phone on you around the house anymore.

Triggering Google Assistant requires holding the power button for a fraction of a second, while short-pressing it opens the app drawer. This is much easier to use than the previous three pages of apps, contacts, and voice prompts.

Google also added a software keyboard. Does that sound silly? Well, it actually works reasonably well!

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Android Pay is included on Android Wear 2.0 watches with NFC, which the Huawei Watch 2 has. You can now tap a terminal to pay at certain stores and restaurants. You’ll have to set a pin or pattern to use this, but this only has to be inputted when you first put the watch on. You can open the app and tap the watch immediately without entering a pin if the watch is already unlocked.

The Play Store is now on the watch itself, so you can download apps without your phone. While this is only mildly useful for Android users, it finally brings apps to iPhone users with Android Wear watches. You will now be able to download apps and watch faces and keep them updated straight from the watch.

The overall feel of Android Wear 2.0 is so much more cohesive and user-friendly. The learning curve is still a bit high, but it will grow on you.

Battery life

The original Huawei Watch could squeeze out two days of battery life with WiFi, always-on display, and everything else on. The Huawei Watch 2 can too, but it depends on how it’s set up.

Due to the addition of GPS and other sensors, getting through two days can be tough. You’ll often see the low battery prompt by the end of the second work day. That being said, it still has plenty of battery life for a day even using workout features. Workout apps drain the battery pretty quickly.

Turn GPS off and two days of battery life is easy. You’ll be able to get through two full days and still have 20% left. This is with the watch constantly checking your heart rate. Turn off more features, get more battery life.

Huawei also includes a battery app with the Watch 2. Smart power savings turns off always-on display and other features to get you about 20% more battery life. Then there’s Watch Mode, which turns everything off but the watch face and pedometer. The screen stays off until you raise your arm and it will track your steps. No notifications, no apps, nothing. While this doesn’t sound so useful, it will last you a whopping 21 days!

Huawei Watch 29.5 / 10

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In the end, comparing the Huawei Watch 2 to the original Huawei Watch isn’t quite fair. Despite sharing the same name, they’re very different devices. Even if you loved the original, you may not like the new one nearly as much. But that doesn’t distract from the fact that the Huawei Watch 2 is a solid, functional, and, frankly, nice smartwatch.

While I do wish that Huawei released a true successor to the first Huawei Watch with a slim, classy body and a large display, the Watch 2 is a good upgrade if you can get past the very different looks and the cheaper feel of plastics. It has almost everything you could ask for and does it all well.

Dima Aryeh is a Russian obsessed with all things car and tech. His time is split between gaming and fixing his racecar. He also does photography in his spare time.

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