Huawei unveiled the Watch 2 and the Watch 2 Classic in March at MWC 2017, the Huawei Watch 2 launched in the U.S. on April 18 and the Watch 2 Classic, introduced to the market a few days ago, on May 30. I spent a few weeks playing with the Huawei Watch 2, and so far, I am very pleased with the device.
Powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 with 768 MB of RAM and 4GB storage, both devices feature a 1.2 inch AMOLED 390×390 display and a 420 mAh battery.
Featuring Android Wear 2.0, the Huawei Watch 2 offers a sporty design while the Watch 2 Classic delivers an elegant look with interchangeable leather bands and a stainless body. The Watch 2 international versions come with 4G LTE connectivity.
Both devices are available since April 18th and May 28th, the non-4G sporty looking Watch 2 for $299.99 and the Watch 2 Classic for $369.99The Watch 2 comes in Carbon Black and Concrete Grey, the Watch 2 Classic is available in Titanium Grey.
Read the complete article to get a sense of my first impressions after wearing the Huawei Watch 2 for a few weeks in various situations.
- Product weight 57 g
- Dimension 48.9 x 45 x 12.6 mm (1.93 x 1.77 x 0.50 in)
- Display Type2″-inch AMOLED
- Resolution 320 x 320 pixels, (326 ppi)
- Diagonal2-inch (circle)
- Processor Snapdragon Wear 2100 – Quad-core 1.1 GHz
- OS Android Wear 2.0
- Camera No
- Connectivity WiFi 802.11 b, g, n / Bluetooth 4.1 LE / NFC
- Network: 4G LTE international model only not in the U.S. – nano SIM or e-SIM
- Internal storage 4GB
- RAM 768 MB
- Battery Capacity 420mAh – about 2 days in regular mode
- Sensors: Gyro/ Accelerometer/ Compass, PPG (heart rate monitor), Barometer, GPS, NFC
- Dust and Water Resistance IP68 (- IP68 certified – dust/water proof over 1.5 meter and 30 minutes – Water resistant up to 1 meter and 30 minutes)
- Huawei Watch 2 Color: Dynamic Orange, Carbon Black, Concrete Grey
- Huawei Watch 2 Classic: silver with leather band
- Speaker / Microphone
Huawei announced its first Huawei Watch powered by Android Wear at MWC in March 2015, and it was one of our preferred Android Wear Watch alongside the LG Watch Urbane 2nd gen.
Compared to its predecessor, the Huawei Watch, the main differences are the SoC and the Operating system: the new Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 (vs. Snapdragon 400) with 768 MB RAM (vs. 512 MB), and Android Wear 2.0.
The Huawei Watch 2 is IP68 dust and water resistant, an upgrade from the IP67 rating for the previous version.
The international model gets 4G connectivity with a tiny SIM card slot hidden behind one of the removable band – we have the WiFi-only model so I could not shoot a photo.
The Watch 2 features an integrated GPS now, which allows users to get rid of their phone when running outdoors and still being able to records the distance, and navigate trails.
Compared to the previous model, the Huawei Watch 2 features an additional physical button, to access the new Workout menu.
The 1.2 -inch 390×390 AMOLED display is smaller than the previous mode (1.4-inch), and delivers a great image quality with deep blacks and gorgeous colors.
The body-to-screen ratio could be better, in fact, the large bezel could be thinner to make room for a larger display encased in the same chassis, or reduce the total size of the body, which would look more elegant on my small wrist.
Industrial design (Very Good)
The quite large bezel with the seconds is merely a design element to make the device look like a traditional sports watch, and nothing else.The Watch 2 is about 5 mm larger than the Huawei Watch, probably to contain the new components, the chassis is made of mixed plastic for the sports version while the new Classic gets a combination of stainless steel and plastic.
On the right side, two physical buttons faster access to the new the user interface, the menu can be operated with the touch screen as well. As Android 2.0 supports a digital crown, it would have been great to get that feature for scrolling through the apps on the menu. Swiping across the display with the finger is sometimes painful, especially during workout sessions when you are constantly moving around.
You can remove the 20 mm band made of mixed plastic, which is quite comfortable on the wrist. The watch is easy to put on, even with my very small wrist.
Software – Android Wear 2.0 user interface
Android Wear 2.0 was unveiled for the first time at Google I/O 2016, one year ago, and you can see a short video demo below of the main new features (on a different smartwatch):
With Android 2.0 your watch does not need your phone anymore, after connecting your wearable device directly to WiFi and adding your Google account, you can download apps from the PlayStore app directly from your Android Wear 2.0 smartwatch. You can search the PlayStore from the watch using voice commands.
One of the main changes in the 2.0 version is the new app launcher, which can be accessed with the top button on the Huawei Watch 2, and browsed using the touch screen.
Quick access to settings, battery status, sound, display on/off, plane mode, is available by swiping down the home screen.
The home screen with the watch face can be customized to display data from various apps, such as the heart rate sensor, the workout data, the phone app, the calendar and much more. The data (such as the calendar events or the heart rate) from the apps are displayed as “complications” on the home screen, you can change complications by long pressing on the watch face, and selecting the one you want. To learn how to customize the watch face with the data you want, see this page.
Workout Modes (Very Good)
For the workout, I performed my usual routine: indoor bicycle and weight lifting. Accessing the workout programs is pretty easy, the bottom button on the side provides direct access to the fitness menu where you can select from five preset exercises: run, fat burning, cardio, walk, outdoor bicycle, treadmill, Indoor bicycle, other and training plan.
Weight lifting is not on the list, but you can use “other,” and the device will monitor your heart rate continuously during the session.
To start the session, tap on the icon, and to end it simply tap on the screen, a pause and play icons will appear, tap on the pause button.
A standalone Android-powered sports watch with a GPS, and 4GB internal memory, is fantastic for runners: you can record the entire outdoors running session with the GPS and using the workout run mode, while listening offline to your favorite music from Google Play. Since I do not really run, I have not tested how the Huawei Watch 2 behave while running.
Heart Rate (Very Good – sometimes needs to wipe the sweat)
Over the three workout sessions I performed with the Watch 2, I tested the heart rate sensor against the indoor bicycle pulse sensor placed on the handles.
Typically, cardio measurements are more accurate when done at the tip of the fingers or the ears, rather than from the wrist, the most accurate heart rate monitors are the one you strap to your chest.
Overall, the measurements were similar, except for a little lag in accuracy when the heart rate starts increasing in the first moments of the warm up. The indoor bicycle pulse monitor tends to be more responsive than the watch, which displays the same number with about 30 seconds to 1-minute lag.
On two instances, when my wrist was wet, the measurements looked far off, which was the case for the other smartwatch I was trying as well, the Steel. After quickly wiping the optical sensor, the numbers were back to normal. To my knowledge, most consumer-grade optical HR sensors tend to have this problem with sweat: it is hard to get an accurate reading when the LED is covered with water (or sweat).
Workout recording (Very Good)
My routine workout starts with 10 to 15 minutes indoor cycling, before an hour of weight lifting and abs. That type of workout is not listed yet because it would require a more precise motion detection and RFID tags read by the watch to detect the weights.
For this review, I selected “other” for the weight lifting sessions. During the workout, I could easily read the data, and afterward, all my workouts were still stored in the watch for review.
The exercise history is also accessible in the Huawei Health companion application which is different from the Huawei Wear app that you need to connect the device to your phone ( go figure). There you access the charts, including heart rate and pace, and the maps of your walks or runs. In the details screen, you get the data as a list: distance, duration, calories, avg. heart rate, steps, avg pace, avg speed, avg steps/min, stride length, training results, impact level (low to high), and the recovery time needed to the next workout. You get almost the same information in the watch, displayed differently: first the training effect with the heart zones in color with impact level, then the list described above, then the heart chart, then the heart zones chart (extreme, anaerobic, aerobic, fat burning, warm-up) and the map of your trajectory.
Google Assistant (very good)
Google Assistant is one of the new features introduced with Android Wear 2.0, and you can use it on a number of Android-powered devices, including smartphones, Android Auto compatible cars, and Google Home, the competitor of Amazon Echo powered by Alexa.
To get a sense of the embedded assistant, I tried the usual simple voice commands such as “ok Google, what is the weather today?”, “who is the Brazilian president” “how many people in Indonesia”, “go to the Moscone Center”, “what is my next appointment?” “what is my next meeting?” “listen the news?
All the voice commands were perfectly understood, however, while most of the commands got me an satisfying answer back, none of the calendar requests worked on the watch, while Google assistant could reply to “what is my next meeting”, from my Android 7-powered smartphone, but could not get an answer with the word “appointment”.
All the commands asking for a location triggered Google maps and displayed the ETA (estimated time of arrival), however, the Google Maps application needs to be installed on the watch to automatically starts the navigation, otherwise, you need to tap “open on the phone” to start it and view it both on your phone and your watch.
“listen to the news” failed on the watch (triggered music on the phone), while it worked on my Samsung Galaxy S8.
The “Ok Google” command that launch Google Assistant worked perfectly for almost all the commands. Long pressing the top button was the best way to access the assistant.
The Ok Google command has regularly troubles to work with any version of Android. For instance, it was impossible to train my Galaxy S8 to train to recognize my Ok Google command in the Google app settings.
The navigation feature is great, you can trigger it using Google assistant’s voice activation and simply say “ok Google, walk to <address>” if you want the pedestrian route or “ok Google, navigate to <address>” if you want the vehicle route. The system is more intelligent than in the previous Android Wear version, and it still understands foreign accents in English pretty well – we have tried all that. As the previous Android Wear updated version, you will feel a subtle vibration on your wrist that signals the upcoming turn.
Phone calls (excellent)
You can place and receive calls directly on the watch, when you are in range with your phone. The sound quality is good, when I tried it, the voice of my correspondent was clear.
Notifications and Reply (excellent)
I received my emails notifications, and I could read them and reply using preset replies such as “yes”, “no”, “ok”, “thanks”, “let me get back to you” and more. I could also use voice commands to dictate a response or type it from the embedded keyboard (far more difficult but doable).
Google Music and Music Playback (good)
Huawei offers 10 free weeks of Google Play music in the US, so we tried the feature during the briefing last week. Thanks to the speaker you can listen directly from the watch (we tried this during the briefing a the gym session), however, for better quality, you can always use wireless headphones. In case you are outdoors without WiFi networks available, you can download and store your playlists in the watch’s 4GB internal memory.
Other music services – Spotify not yet fully supported on the Watch
Since I have a Spotify account I tried to use it. The app is available to download from the watch using the Google Play icon. With Spotify, you can only remote control your music from the watch and play it on your connected smartphone, no offline mode accessible and no playlist playable directly from the watch yet.
Connectivity (do not use with multiple phones, just like other Android Wear watches)
The Huawei Watch 2 was connected to an LG V20 at the beginning of the review, then that phone was stolen during one of my business trips, and I tried to connect it to my old Samsung Galaxy Note 5, without success. Please note that I am using the Withings Steel HR simultaneously, with a different companion app on the phone. Then I switched to the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus, and I could not even see the Watch 2 in the Bluetooth screen, while the Steel HR, which is not powered by Android Wear, was visible and paired. After a factory reset, the Huawei Watch 2 was visible instantly both in the Bluetooth screen and in the Android Wear application, and the pairing was fast and easy.
IMPORTANT: This happened to me with other Android Wear smartwatches, so it is probably related to the software and might be an extra security layer in case you lose your watch, to force the new user to reset your data. My advice: always sync you watch before switching phone, so all the data will be saved in your companion apps in the phone: Android Wear, Huawei Wear, and Google Fit.
The Huawei offers two battery mode accessible from the main menu under the battery app. In Watch Mode, a feature unique to Huawei, you can get up to 3 weeks of usage on a single charge. When in watch mode you cannot access all the features, but the device keeps counting steps and displays time.
In regular mode, with multiple GPS trips, a few phone calls, and no workout, I got a little more than 2 days. The battery decreased by 6% after a one-hour workout without any workout mode, and by 10% when set in workout mode for an hour.
Please note that this US model does not offer 4G connectivity and an LTE cellular model could have a shorter battery life.
According to the manufacturer, when continuously training mode, with both the heart rate sensor and GPS on, the device lasts up to 10 hours.
Conclusion (Very Good)
While I need to test more features, so far the Huawei Watch 2 lived up to my expectations, providing a great experience for everyday usage. I am a big fan of using Google assistant, a feature of Android Wear 2.0 to access all kinds of features, and specifically, to operate the navigation on Google maps directly on the watch using more intelligent voice commands.
The display is gorgeous, and it is easy to access the main menu or the workout menu using the two physical buttons. The Watch Mode option of the battery is brilliant, in case you just need to use the device as a regular watch with a pedometer, then you will get three weeks of usage on a single charge.