- Smooth, easy to use software
- Sleek, minimal look
- Surprising amount of fitness features
- Not the same experience across Android and iOS
- Heart rate tracking not fantastic
- The odd software quirk
The Honor Watch 4 is the company's first square smartwatch – and brings a strong set of features designed to go aggressive in the budget smartwatch market.
Unlike the Watch ES, which was more of its fitness and smartwatch hybrid, the Watch 4 takes a more Apple Watch and Fitbit Versa approach to design and also promises features typically reserved for those pricier smartwatches.
There's a music player, built-in GPS, heaps of fitness features, and along with staples like letting you view your notifications and fill your boots with watch faces.
Honor has been a bit hit-and-miss with its watches and trackers in the past, but it feels like it could have something with the Watch 4.
Price and competition
The Honor Watch 4 isn’t competing with the big-name smartwatches from Apple, Samsung, and Google. It's battling at the other end of the price scale. It costs £129 in the UK – and currently isn't up for grabs in the US right now.
That price puts it up against affordable square smartwatches like the recently announced Amazfit Active.
Design and screen
This is a new look for Honor, but it doesn't stray far from what else we’ve seen from a lot of other square smartwatches that either sit above or below the Watch 4 in price. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just not bringing anything massively new to the table.
What you’ve got is a square design with softly curved corners that gives it some Apple and Fitbit flavor.
There are two color options here and we had the all-black version to test, which does blend into the sea of other black smartwatches we’ve tested.
That being said, it’s a well-constructed smartwatch with a nicely weighted aluminum case that's matched up with a silicone strap that does remind us of the ones used on Fitbit’s Versa range.
You can whip those straps off very easily and as a package, you’re getting something that can go for a swim, just as long as you don’t go deeper than 50 meters.
When you need to operate the Watch 4, you’ve got just the single button tucked up in the top right-hand corner of the case that simply gets you to the main menu screen.
Unlike many budget smartwatches, you get a quality 1.75-inch, 450 x 390 resolution AMOLED touchscreen for most of your interactions.
This isn’t the best of the best of AMOLED screens, but that’s hardly surprising given the price. You're still getting something very good overall in terms of visibility, overall brightness, and offering some welcome color.
It’s very much in keeping with the AMOLED displays we’ve seen on Honor’s more affordable trackers and coupled with that minimal case and comfortable strap the Honor Watch 4 gets the key things right here.
This is a screen where you can use the raise-to-wake gesture to wake up or you can set it to the always-on mode, just be prepared to sacrifice some battery performance in the process.
Features, OS, and ecosystem
The Honor Watch 4 is compatible with both Android phones and iPhones, though you’ll get the most complete experience using the former from a smartwatch point of view.
That means no paid watch faces and also no built-in music player, which was a surprising feature to discover the Watch 4 comes packing.
That player doesn’t work with big-name streaming services like Apple, Wear OS or Garmin watches, but does let you sync your audio sitting on your Android phone via the Honor Health app.
Using it as a smartwatch has been perfectly fine. The operating system still feels like a spin-off of Huawei’s LiteOS and Harmony OS and it runs nice and smooth.
The ability to view notifications works well, the Bluetooth calling support you have here is easy to use, though doesn’t give you super crisp call quality.
There’s a good mix of watch faces that make the most of that AMOLED screen, with scope to add more free and paid ones.
The main problems were connectivity issues with the phone and watch, mainly after charging, where we needed to connect the two devices manually.
Off the watch, you’re dealing with the Honor Health app, which again feels a lot like using Huawei’s Health app.
You can track exercise from the app, see all of your health, wellness, and fitness metrics in one place, and adjust settings for the Watch 4.
It doesn’t let you share data outside of the app which is a tad limiting, but there’s nothing massively wrong with what you get here as a companion app. It may lack a bit of polish in places, but in terms of changing settings and checking your stats, it’s not a frustrating experience booting up the app.
Fitness and sports tracking
It's fair to say Honor offers a lot on the fitness and sports tracking front. More than we'd expected to see here.
It’s surprising to see that Honor has included navigation features that can point you back home when you’re tracking outside, though it stops short of letting you view detailed maps or upload GPX routes. it's basic support, but does do the job.
There’s also built-in GPS and we’ve used it against dedicated sports watches from Suunto and Garmin it didn’t feel massively out of place on the GPS data front.
It's easily recommendable to those that causally track runs, and don't need the best GPS accuracy available on a smartwatch.
It was the same for activities like pool swimming too, where the accuracy on the whole matched up to Garmin’s swim tracking and the swim tracking Form Swim Goggles.
You’re getting a good level of additional metrics in the Health app to analyze as well. Honor doesn’t scrimp on modes and does also include running and workout ‘courses’, which are sessions mainly aimed at beginners to walk them through workouts and does offer a nice range across both categories.
The Watch 4 packs an optical heart rate sensor and doesn’t give you scope to pair an external one to boost accuracy. We found that the optical sensor has its good and bad moments depending on the activity you’re using it for.
For a pretty easygoing run, the average and maximum heart rate readings didn’t quite match up to a heart rate monitor chest strap. It wasn’t wildly off, but it was off enough to question the reliability of the data.
Honor ventures a little more into the world of training insights and analysis. So it’ll give you VO2 Max estimates, suggest an ideal recovery time, and tell you how much you're training.
The new Fitness Age metric is designed to simply tell you if you’re hitting a good level of fitness through a simple test that you need to put aside 25 minutes to carry out outside.
We’d say use these metrics as basic guidance because the reliability of the insights didn’t always feel like they were absolutely on the money.
We put in just over an hour and 40 minutes of running and it suggested a 17-hour recovery time, while a swim didn’t generate any recovery insights, so it’s aimed at some activities more than others.
The core sports tracking is very good overall, while the insights and analysis add an extra dimension to training, just don’t let it have the definitive say on whether you should hit the gym or take a rest day.
Health and sleep tracking
Honor doesn’t offer the same level of support on the health tracking front as it does on the fitness front. That optical sensor around the back of the watch will continuously monitor heart rate, though heart rate ranges and resting heart rate never felt hugely accurate.
It’ll also capture stress levels using heart rate variability measurements and give you a stress score, with a breakdown of stress stats available in the Health app.
There’s also blood oxygen tracking here too, with the option to track it continuously. Doing that though will drain the battery quicker. While the stress and blood oxygen tracking didn’t feel massively inaccurate, these aren’t features for medical use and are there to help you identify if you're not feeling in great shape.
If you care about tracking your sleep, Honor doesn’t break new ground but does offer largely solid sleep-tracking support. We’ve been taking it to bed with two of the best sleep trackers we’ve tested, the Oura Ring Gen 3 and the sleep tracking on Polar’s latest Vantage V3. Looking over data like sleep duration and the three devices felt nicely in line.
Honor is also giving your sleep stages and sleep scores, which we felt were a bit high in comparison to what Oura and Polar were telling us. Especially on nights where we’d stirred on a few occasions. For data like duration, the time we fell asleep and woke up, and presenting that data in a user-friendly way, the Watch 4 can hold up here.
A new smartwatch form factor means new battery claims and we’d say the Honor Watch 4 can largely live up to those claims.
This is a smartwatch that should last up to 14 days but doesn’t factor in regular use of features like continuous health monitoring, GPS, or keeping the screen on at all times.
We found that the daily battery drop-off was around 10-15% with a good mix of those features. Switch to the always-on display and that daily drop becomes instantly more severe. Without any other intensive features in use, the daily drop-off jumps over 20%. Add in GPS tracking or turning on the health tracking and that’s even more.
Honor doesn’t list GPS battery stats, but over an hour of outdoor running saw battery drop by around 10%, so that’s a pretty good showing.
Should you buy it?
This is new territory for Honor and while its more expensive smartwatches have felt a little undercooked in places, the Watch 4 offers a good all-round experience, whether you’re using it mainly as a smartwatch or you want something to track your fitness.
It’s not perfect. The differing support across phone platforms and the not-so-super heart rate accuracy stick out on that front.
But performance, in general, is good, the software tying things together works well too and this feels like a good starter point for someone who doesn’t want to spend big on a fitness-focused smartwatch or is buying their first smartwatch.
The problem Honor has lies with its rivals at this price. So the Amazfit Active (which we haven’t tested yet) and Amazfit’s range in general.
There’s also the CMF Watch Pro from Nothing’s sub-brand, which may well shake up this end of the market too. This is the best Honor smartwatch we’ve used in a while and we don’t think you should be put off by the price or the name because there’s plenty of good here on the Watch 4.
How we test