- Sleek integration of earbuds
- Slick Harmony OS
- Earbud sound quality
- It’s not cheap
- Not suitable for swimming
- Battery drop compared to other Huawei watches
The Huawei Watch Buds solves a problem we didn't realize we had: never having to remember our headphones, thanks to having them stored, on charge, inside our smartwatch.
Talk of Huawei bringing watches and buds closer together emerged in 2018 and now fast forward to 2023 it’s the real deal.
Granted, those smartwatches don’t come with earbuds packed into them, but does that make the Huawei Watch Buds the smarter buy?
Design and build
Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of the Huawei Watch Buds, which is the design, and the way the two wearables have been combined.
This isn’t the first time buds have packed into a watch. A few might remember the WearBuds Watch, which raised over $100,000 through crowdfunding and plugged the earbuds into the side of the watch case. Huawei has decided to do things differently.
At the bottom edge of the watch case lies a button that when pressed lifts the watch case from its body. Inside you'll find a set of truly wireless earbuds.
When the lid is closed, the watch measures 14.99mm, so it’s thicker than other Huawei watches.
Is it a noticeably chunky watch to live with? Actually, no.
Is it heavier and thicker than other Huawei smartwatches? Yes, but you still wouldn’t think there’s a set of earbuds hiding inside of them.
It still looks like a pretty regular smartwatch, with its stainless steel case and comfortable 22mm leather strap.
In typical Huawei fashion, there’s a fantastic 1.43-inch AMOLED display, which matches the resolution on the biggest version of the Watch GT 3.
Like Samsung, Huawei makes bright, vibrant, and colorful smartwatch displays and that doesn’t change here.
Then we get to the earbuds themselves, which are unsurprisingly very small in stature to help keep that case thickness down.
Huawei includes three different-sized silicone ear tips in the box and those buds are magnetically locked into the watch compartment when not in use.
We’d given them a good shake with the buds in place and the lid open and they have not budged.
Getting inventive with the design has unfortunately meant that things have changed on the durability front.
While other Huawei watches are fit for swimming and being submerged in water, that is not the case for the Watch Buds.
They carry an IPX7 rating to protect against sweat and rain if the watch lid is closed.
When the watch is open and you’re using the buds, you’re getting something that is IPX4 protected against splashes.
So no showering – let alone swimming.
Using the headphones
Huawei has done a pretty good job of ensuring that housing those earbuds doesn’t entirely compromise on the design.
This is still a watch that’s based on HarmonyOS, so if you’ve used a Huawei Watch GT 3 or GT Runner, then things will feel familiar.
It’s a better experience pairing it up with an Android phone over an iPhone, but features like viewing notifications, controlling music, and generally getting around this watch are a pretty slick experience.
Huawei ditches the microphone and speaker but of course, you can use the accompanying buds to still handle your calls.
When you add the earbuds into the equation it still feels like a pretty seamless watch to use.
You do need to make sure that the Watch Buds are paired to the Huawei Health app if you want to use the buds to listen to music on your phone.
Once you’ve done that, you whip the earbuds out and start playing something on your phone, they’ll spring into life.
Using the earbuds adds some additional menus you can access from the watch settings menu. These give you the ability to switch between a small selection of EQ settings and switch between active noise cancellation and awareness modes depending on if you want to block out the world or not.
Huawei does display individual earbud battery life and offers dedicated watch faces to make sure you always know how much battery you’ve got to play with.
Though these buds are tiny, they do let out a surprising roar, and Huawei doesn’t shortchange on audio performance.
There’s power, bass, and a balanced sound profile overall.
It takes a lot of the characteristics of Huawei’s FreeBuds earphones and manages to deliver similar levels of sound quality.
On runs and gym workouts there we got a bright enjoyable sound, when listening to podcasts or handling calls there’s a pleasing level of detail and clarity there as well.
Having some EQ settings gives you scope to tinker with that sound profile here as well.
There are also awareness and active noise cancellation modes, which can be selected from the watch screen or via the built-in, touch-based controls on the buds themselves.
The ANC performed adequately in louder environments like train commutes or battling the music in the gym, but you do need to make sure you get an optimal fit.
And in terms of fit, they did stay put, even in more rigorous workout use.
Huawei offers both tap and gesture controls, with the latter letting you tap areas just on and near the ear to control audio playback, answer calls, and toggle between ANC and awareness modes from double and triple taps.
The responsiveness of the controls was fine when stationary but a touch more challenging trying to triple tap when working out. You can adjust those controls in the companion app, but that doesn’t extend to using them to change the volume.
Huawei does also include multipoint sharing here too to quickly switch between using the buds on different devices and does also include a find my earbuds mode, which is always a useful feature to have.
It’s a nice touch that you can use both earbuds in either ear and if you change that during a listening session, it will automatically recognize that and adjust to make sure you’re getting the optimal sound from them.
Most of what you get on the health and fitness tracking front on the Huawei Watch GT 3 and GT Runner series are also here on the Watch Buds, but some things do miss out.
There’s no swim tracking of course due to that downgrade in waterproofing.
Huawei doesn’t appear to include a temperature sensor here either, which is not necessarily a huge loss.
It also leaves out the dual-band GPS support to improve the accuracy of outdoor tracking, though it didn’t massively impress us on the Huawei watches that do include it.
The ability to upload routes to follow seems to be missing in action here too.
So while you’re not getting the complete Huawei tracking experience, it’s still very feature-packed.
We used it for outdoor runs and indoor workouts, general step tracking, continuously monitoring heart rate, and keeping tabs on sleep. We’d say the performance fell largely in line with other Huawei watches on most of those fronts.
For outdoor GPS tracking, we used it alongside the impressive multi-band mode on the more expensive Garmin Epix Gen 2.
Digging into the core metrics and plotted routes we were pleased to see it held up well against the Garmin even without that dual-band mode onboard.
Tracking was similarly solid for indoor workouts for modes that offer metrics beyond heart rate and duration and it didn’t feel like a cumbersome watch to wear during that workout time either.
Switching into fitness and health tracking mode and we were pretty satisfied with the daily step counts the Watch Buds served up on most days when pitted against Apple’s daily tracking while Huawei does a good job of letting you keep an eye on your progress from the watch during the day.
When you take the Watch Buds to bed you can expect it to capture a breakdown of sleep stages including that all-important REM along with generating a sleep score and recording your sleep duration.
We used it alongside the Oura Ring Gen 3, which is one of the best and most reliable sleep trackers we’ve used and we were happy to see that core data like sleep stages, duration, and scores told a similar story about our night’s sleep.
If you’re using the Watch Buds to keep an eye on your heart rate, then we’d say it’s a better fit for continuous monitoring than using it during exercise.
We used it alongside Apple’s continuous HR monitoring support and found it delivered similar resting heart rate data, though heart rate ranges felt a little off for us on the Huawei.
During exercise, we used it against Garmin’s HRM-Pro heart rate monitor chest strap but in typical Huawei fashion, the maximum heart rate can often deliver higher spikes in heart rate compared to the chest strap.
It’s perhaps not all that surprising that with two wearables needing to be powered, we do see a drop in battery performance here.
The bottom line is you’re not getting Huawei’s usual promise of two-week battery life.
Instead, you can expect to get 3 days and that’s when you factor in using both the smartwatch and the earbuds.
When you drop the earbuds back in the case after using them, the watch will charge them up to make sure they’re always topped up. Inevitably that means a drop in smartwatch battery overall.
If you’re just using the earbuds, then the battery is quoted as being up to 4 hours when ANC is not in use. That drops to 3 hours when you’re using ANC.
If you’re using both the watch and buds regularly, then you will get around 3 days out of them based on our testing. When using the buds with ANC in use, we saw the battery last around 2 hours as opposed to 3 hours.
To get a longer smartwatch battery life (as much as 7 days), you can turn on a power-saving mode, which stops the watch from charging the buds every time they’re put away. Huawei does offer pretty rapid charging for the buds as well when they are running low, so it has thought of solutions to make up for the fact that you’re not going to get the usual 14 days.
Put it up against similarly priced rival watches like the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro and the Apple Watch Series 8, and it’s not such a bad showing.
How we test