It's fair to say that the Huawei Watch GT took us surprise. We'd been pining for a new Wear OS smartwatch from the Chinese tech giant for some time, and then instead of giving us one it decided to break away from its Wear OS shackles and do something entirely on it own.
It made the hardware and, more significantly, brought the Lite OS operating system from its fitness trackers to a smartwatch for the first time. It stripped away features like app support, customisation and payments, and instead focused on sports tracking, an affordable price tag and going big on battery life.
With the new GT Watch Active and Elegant Editions most of those software features remain, bar a few additions. But on the whole it's sticking to the formula that made the first smartwatch a surprisingly decent buy, just with new looks.
The big changes here do lie with the design offering versions for both men and women. Or those with slimmer wrists or who just didn't like the overly masculine feel of the first Watch GT. You now have your pick of a 42mm (the Elegant) or a larger 46mm version (the Active), which is closer in stature to the first Watch GT.
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The base materials are the same across both watches: stainless steel bodies, a ceramic bezel surrounding the touchscreen AMOLED displays, and two physical buttons. There's a whole bunch of new colours here as well – the orange and green look the best, in my opinion, nicely complementing the more pronounced bezel on the bigger Watch GT.
What I wasn't particularly enamoured with was the less fussy white ceramic bezel on the Elegant. I'm clearly not the target market for this version of the watch, but it just didn't feel all that, well, elegant.
With the bigger Watch GT matching the 1.39-inch, 454 x 454 AMOLED one on the original, the Elegant (that's the smaller one) drops down to a 1.2-inch, 390 x 290 resolution display. The numbers suggest a drop in quality, but with Huawei's OS being relatively streamlined, it's not something you really notice up close.
As already mentioned, these two watches run on Huawei's own in-house Lite OS operating system and it's pretty much an identical experience to the first Lite OS watch. Data screens live in the same place, the sensors remain the same, and it's the same process to launch sports tracking modes. What I did notice is that navigating the software felt noticeably laggy. It's not something I remember from the first version, and hopefully this will be addressed before it's up for grabs for everyone.
There are a couple of notable software additions here, one of which is the added customisation. There wasn't a lot of that going on with the first Watch GT and clearly Huawei has listened to the feedback, as it now offers a wider range of watch faces. In the sports tracking department, a new triathlon mode has been added. When you factor in the battery life of the GT, it's a feature that makes sense. A quick play shows you can track and display transitions on a single screen without it feeling too cramped.
Bottom line, this is a Watch GT that now wants to offer more variety. It comes in two sizes and offers options for men and women as well as designs that feel a little less sporty. Despite the changes, though, Huawei has kept that long battery life, core sports tracking experience – all while keeping the price nice and reasonable.
Huawei's software approach isn't going to appeal to everyone, but if you like to keep that smartwatch experience simple and were put off by the look of the first Watch GT, you might find something more appealing here.
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