Huawei Watch GT 2 review

Still more sports watch than smartwatch, but's that fine by us
Huawei Watch GT 2
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The Huawei Watch GT 2 is the Chinese tech giant's second sporty fitness watch that runs on its own custom OS.

Huawei's smartwatches in the past have looked to Google's Wear OS to run the software show. Huawei decided to change tack when it launched the first GT in a bid to ramp up battery performance. Though we imagine the current uncertainty surrounding its phones supporting Google's software may have played its part here too.

Read this: Best Apple Watch alternatives to buy

Like its predecessor, the GT 2 runs on Huawei's Lite OS, which previously only appeared on its fitness trackers. It's clearly not ready to roll out its HarmonyOS smartwatches just yet either. If you didn’t get to try the Huawei Watch GT, in a nutshell, it was a great looking fitness tracker and sports watch in a smartwatch body.

The second generation Watch GT adds a smaller, more elegant option to the line, plus a speaker and full phone call functionality when connected to your phone and brings back that headline feature – stellar battery life.

Prices for the Watch GT 2 start at £179 for the for the 42mm Watch GT 2, or £199 for the bigger 46mm version. No US pricing has been revealed just yet, but it shapes up as a cheaper option than an Apple Watch or Samsung’s equivalent timepiece, the Galaxy Watch.

So, yes, the Watch GT 2 undercuts the competition and adds phone call functionality, thereby differentiating it from fitness trackers more than its predecessor did. But it’s still a very different beast when it comes to capabilities. We've been putting the new Huawei watch to the test to find out just what it's made of. Here's our full verdict.

Huawei Watch GT 2: Design

Huawei Watch GT 2 review

We said the Huawei Watch GT was a bit too overtly masculine in its first iteration. Huawei has addressed this in the form of the 42mm version of the Watch GT 2, which has a curved glass top and minimal look. It’s probably the most “gender neutral” watch Huawei has made.

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The 46mm version that we tested is more conventional, but is still less traditional than the last. Its top is shaped glass too, made of a single piece with a flat top and a sloped edges to form the bezel.

There’s no lip to protect the glass, which may seem a bad idea given how easy it is to scratch even toughened glass. But after several weeks of use, we’re yet to damage it.

Huawei Watch GT 2 review

While the Huawei Watch GT 2 is naturally large, given its 46mm face, it doesn't have the deliberately imposing character of many bigger watches. Only the angular bezel text stops it looking like quite a minimal watch, like the 42mm version.

We were using the silicone strap version of the watch for our testing. It’s comfortable, and you can wear it all day as it has 5ATM water resistance making it fit for swimming. There are no complicated interactions here either.

You mostly operate the Huawei Watch GT 2 with the touchscreen, but there are also two physical buttons to aid navigation. The top one skips between watch face and menu, and the bottom is a customisable shortcut. You pick the function, it takes you there. We used it as a quick way to start a tracked exercise.

Huawei Watch GT 2: Screen

Huawei Watch GT 2 review

The screen is a 1.39-inch 454 x 454 OLED panel. It’s among the sharpest-looking smartwatches, but photos of it don’t get close to representing the real-world experience.

Huawei uses a deliberately slow refresh rate panel as this is the only way it can make the Watch GT 2 last as long as it does between charges. The result? This screen looks much better when displaying a static image than in motion.

There’s a jerkiness to movement that can make the watch seem slow until you realise it only looks slow, and the watch itself reacts fairly quickly.

This would matter more if the Huawei Watch GT 2 were a high functioning smartwatch packed with apps, which it is not. But the impression still matters.

The issues of the laggy refresh and slightly slow wake are battery life trade-offs. But the Huawei Watch GT 2 screen is otherwise great. Its OLED panel is saturated, rich and high in contrast, and bright enough to look clear during outdoor workouts on sunny days.

Huawei Watch GT 2 review

There is an always-on screen mode too, although it took us a while to catch on to its existence. Huawei doesn’t call it “always on”, but “lock screen”. There are two always-on faces, analogue and digital clocks that show no information but the time. Each can use red, green or white highlights for a hint of customisation.

Huawei says this halves the battery so we kept it switched off for the initial fortnight to see if the Huawei GT 2 would really last the claimed two weeks between charges. However, for day-to-day use this solves the complaint of having to wait a beat just to see the time after raising your wrist.

Both always-on faces are fairly tasteful. They have, unsurprisingly, a far more minimal look than most of the 22 standard watch faces.

These are a mixed bag. There are a few stylish looking designer-type faces, but most of those that try to emulate a real 46mm analogue watch miss the mark, and some of the more information-rich designs are too busy. A slight deficit of taste from Huawei? This should surprise few people, but most will find a few faces they like.

This highlights one of the weaknesses of the Huawei Watch GT 2: you can’t add countless watch faces, like you can on WearOS smartwatches or the Apple Watch.

Huawei Watch GT 2: Sports tracking

Huawei Watch GT 2 review

The Huawei Watch GT 2 is a better exercise tracker than a smartwatch. It’s where Huawei tries to offer a “complete” array of features, although it and sister brand Honor have become masters of doing so at a much lower price than its rivals.

Essential reading: Best heart rate monitors to buy

The GT 2 has built-in GPS, a heart rate sensor, compass and barometer, as well as basic gyro/accelerometer motion sensors.

There are modes for walking, running, cycling, swimming and a few specific gym machines. The “other” mode simply records your time and heart rate.

Like other running watches, GPS is essential for proper training, and provides you with route maps you can look at post-workout in the Huawei Health app.

There are some extras that are good for thoughtful training too. During an exercise the Huawei Watch GT 2 will show you your performance relative to your average. It can be a downer on off days when the watch tells you, no, you’re not doing very well, but can also act as a motivator.

Huawei Watch GT 2 review

The Huawei Watch GT 2 has training plans for running too, 13 guided exercises split into four effort levels. These are not at the level of couch-to-5K or the marathon training plans you can get in app form on your phone. But some of them are so simple you could easily use them to simply time your warm up and warm down phases during a run.

All your workouts, whether part of one of these guided plans or not, can be accompanied by voice prompts. These tell you your performance and heart rate as you hit each km, spoken in an indeterminate accent — this is no “RP” digital assistant voice.

As standard these voice prompts pipe through the watch’s speaker, which is a little unnerving if you run through a busy park as the guy chats on for about 10 seconds each time. The voice can be switched off or played through connected headphones. But, disappointingly, it does not come through headphones if they are hooked up to your phone rather than the watch.

You can customise these performance updates, though, changing when they pop up and removing the heart rate info if you’d rather just hear the basics.

Huawei Watch GT 2: Heart rate accuracy

Huawei Watch GT 2 review

We do have some quibbles with the heart rate readings. The Huawei Watch GT 2’s high intensity readings are good, and it tracks moments when you drop the intensity a little well. But it has a habit of overestimating low readings, which is problematic if you start tracking exercise during a warm-up walk rather than after it.

Such readings seem to be 10-20 bpm off the mark most of the time. The effects of the predictive algorithm working behind the scenes are a little too visible.

Huawei Watch GT 2 review

We’d still happily use the Huawei Watch GT 2 for weekly exercise, though. The screen offers a bold and clear report of your stats as you run, and the views are thoroughly customisable. Just hold down a finger on any data point on the screen and you can choose the stat to display there.

But would we pick a Garmin over the Huawei Watch GT 2 for more serious training? Yes.

The Huawei Health app lets you dig a little deeper into your stats than Google Fit or Fitbit, but it’s not in the same league as Garmin Connect as it’s designed to be friendly to as wide an audience as possible. Huawei’s watch also lacks ANT+, and can’t broadcast its heart rate readings wirelessly to other devices. This is handy for some at-home training platforms.

Huawei Watch GT 2: Fitness tracking

Huawei Watch GT 2 review

The Huawei Watch GT 2 is a great daily fitness tracker, in large part thanks to its on-the-ball heart rate tracking. It has an “all-day” mode that really does monitor your heart 24/7, including when you sleep.

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It offers a clear view of your resting heart rate over the days, weeks and months. And you don’t have to think about it as it happens, because constant tracking seems to have little effect on the Huawei Watch GT 2’s battery life.

Head into the daily graphs saved in Huawei Health on your phone and you’ll see readings as frequently as every minute, not the smoothed-out and vague graphs seen in some other apps.

All the usual basics are here too. The Huawei Watch GT 2 can give you reminders to move and lets you set goals, plus the platform offers achievements and monthly reports on your stats. Fitbit still has the edge for casual motivation, though, with much better community features and challenges.

Huawei Watch GT 2 review

Wear the Huawei Watch GT 2 24/7, and you can use it as a sleep tracker too. It has Huawei TruSleep, like a bunch of Huawei’s other bands. This monitors your breathing as well as your sleep patterns, and attempts to split the night into REM, light sleep and deep sleep periods.

Huawei also packs the Health app sleep screen with advice, to make it seem more useful than most.

However, it is not particularly good at recognising short periods of wakefulness. On at least two nights we recalled waking up, but the data simply wasn’t there in the results graph. It’s a reminder that sleep tracking is an estimate and, like the heart rate data, is best used as an indicator of trends in your behaviour rather than as medical-grade proof of your wellbeing.

Huawei Watch GT 2: LiteOS

Huawei Watch GT 2 review

The Huawei Watch GT 2 doesn’t have the software you’ll find in many other smartwatches. It’s LiteOS, although you’re rarely see its name mentioned.

It is only really notable for its low power consumption, and that on the surface it does not look like the basic wearable OS it is. You swipe left and right from the clock face to see widget pages that show summaries of the info the Watch GT 2 harvests, and controls for the additional features on offer.

There’s a heart rate page that shows your resting rate for the day, and a graph of the readings from the preceding hours. Another page does the same job for your “stress” level, if you enable auto stress readings in the Huawei Health companion app on your phone. There’s a page for the weather, one to control music and a final one that shows your workout stats for the day, a little like the Apple Watch’s “rings”.

Huawei Watch GT 2 review

A press of the upper side button on the Huawei Watch GT 2 takes you to the apps menu. Here you can access more built-up versions of the same features seen in the face widgets, and some extras. For example, in the heart rate app there’s an extra page that shows how long you’ve spent in the various heart rate zones that day.

And the extras? Most are the stuff of a higher-end fitness tracker rather than a smartwatch. There’s a compass, a “find my phone” feature and breathing exercises. You’ll find the latter on quite a lot of trackers these days. You’re prompted when to breathe in and out, a stress-reducing technique based on the basics of mindfulness meditation.

The Huawei Watch GT 2 has no app store, and there are no extra features to add to the watch through the Huawei Health phone app. What you get when first turning it on is what you’ll have when you sell it, break it or consign it to a drawer, unless Huawei adds more through a firmware update.

Huawei Watch GT 2: Smartwatch features

Huawei Watch GT 2 review

So what smartwatch parts do we get, and which do we miss?

The Huawei Watch GT 2 handles the basics of notifications fairly well. You can choose the apps that come through to the watch, and the large, high-resolution screen is much better at relaying WhatsApp messages than Huawei’s little tracker bands.

Music support is good too. You have roughly 2GB of space for podcasts, audiobooks and songs, transferred using the Huawei Health app. These can be played through the Huawei Watch GT 2’s own speaker, which is surprisingly loud and not-entirely-terrible sounding. But anyone wanting to use the audio features properly should connect a pair of wireless headphones.

The speaker is most useful for calls. There’s a mic on-board so you can use it as an unlikely hands-free device.

Three obvious features are missing. These are digital assistant support, wireless payments and message replies.

While there’s a mic, there’s no way to connect to Google Assistant on your phone. And only the Chinese version of the Watch GT 2 has NFC, needed for wireless payments. This makes sense. Huawei Pay is currently only available in China, Hong Kong and Russia. It’s no use in the US or UK.

The lack of message replies is the real sign of quite how low-level a smartwatch the Huawei Watch GT 2 is. You can read the things, but can’t even send canned responses.

The Huawei Watch GT 2 is arguably less of a smartwatch than the Garmin Forerunner 645, a wholly fitness obsessed watch. This needn’t be a deal-breaker. Just make sure you’ll be happy with the watch’s well-defined limits.

Huawei Watch GT 2: Battery life

Huawei makes very long-lasting fitness trackers. It says the 46mm version of the Watch GT 2 should last up to two weeks off a charge, the 42mm band a week.

To test this we switched on all the features we’d want to use, apart from the “lock screen” always-on mode, which halves the battery life for obvious reasons. Extras include notifications, constant heart rate tracking and TruSleep.

We started keeping an eye at the level on 1:30pm on a Monday, battery full. After exactly a week’s use the watch had 29% battery left. And it lasted until 12pm on the Friday, or almost exactly 11 days’ use.

On a couple of days, the watch wasn’t worn the whole time, but the test period included a battery-sapping firmware update and four GPS-tracked runs of around 40 minutes a piece. We count this as Huawei completely fulfilling its promise, as two weeks’ use with slightly different behaviour seems perfectly possible.

It means living with the Huawei Watch GT 2 is feels much closer to the experience of a long-lasting Garmin Forerunner than an Apple Watch or Wear OS watch. However, after that two week stretch we started using the always-on mode as it makes the band a much better watch.

You charge the Huawei Watch GT 2 using a familiar magnetised plastic pad with two metal contacts, rather than wireless charging. And this is pretty quick, taking the watch from 55% to full in well under an hour.


Huawei Watch GT 2
By Huawei
The Huawei Watch GT 2 is similar to the original Watch GT, but has slightly better looks, plus an integrated speaker and mic for calls. This doesn’t change the fact that the GT series is low on smarts, although those skills have improved, and it still has that class-leading battery life.  This smartwatch won’t give you directions or pay for your coffee, but it will track your workouts for the best part of two weeks and look good doing it. 

Hit
  • Sharp display
  • Very long battery life
  • Good fitness tracking
Miss
  • Questionable low intensity HR accuracy
  • Limited smart features
  • Slow refresh rate screen


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