Is there a good reason to own a smartwatch? That relatively few people have bought one tells us many still struggle to answer that head-scratcher.
Exercise tracking, wrist notifications and just having something cool-looking to wear are main excuses to buy. It’s strange, then, that the Huawei Watch 2 actually looks worse than the first Huawei watch. By some margin.
It’s also pricier. The Huawei Watch 2 starts at £280 (RM1520), the 4G version costs £325 (RM1765) and the fancier (but non-4G) Watch 2 Classic £340 (RM1845).
If you don’t mind your smartwatch looking like a bit of a potato on your wrist next, though, then this is probably the best Android Wear watch yet.
Huawei Watch 2 design: Watchus Genericus
Think we’re being harsh about the looks? Issues don’t get much more subjective than this, but to me it looks a bit like the RM250 watch you might end up at the age of 14 after realising you can’t afford the RM10k one your slightly dodgy second hand car dealer uncle wears.
The Huawei Watch 2 has a generic diver’s watch look to it. And that’s the look of a watch from a street market, or the clearance section.
These complaints are almost entirely visual, though. The Huawei Watch 2 isn’t some flimsy wrist waif. Its shiny bezel up top is real, smoky-looking ceramic and the casing is incredibly tough thermoplastic polyurethane.
Cutting out the marketing nonsense: yep, that’s a kind of plastic, but it’s incredibly tough plastic. In our experience it wears much better than aluminium. You’ll find it in top-end runners’ watches.
The strap is one of the parts that separates the normal Huawei Watch 2 from the “Classic” version. Our standard one has a rubbery plastic strap, but the Classic comes with leather or metal-link straps. The Classic will class-up the look a bit, but our one will get less gross if you’re planning on sweating into it during a run several times a week.
Either way, you can switch straps very easily. A little metal lever where each half of the strap meets the watch face lets you remove the band. Under one of these you’ll find the SIM tray, if you buy the 4G version.
The Watch 2’s standard strap isn’t as well ventilated as those of some sports watches, and you need to balance needing a tight-ish fit for the HR scanner with not wanting to give your wrist an embossed tattoo of the strap’s contours. But it’s all standard stuff.
Huawei Watch 2 screen: one of the best
The Huawei Watch 2’s screen is perhaps a little smaller than you might expect given the overall size of the watch, but it’s still one of the best around. It’s a fully round screen with no weird cut-outs like the Moto 360 2, and it uses an AMOLED panel of 390x390 pixel resolution. Sharper than an Apple Watch, the only hint of pixellation you can see is in diagonal lines, and that’s only because there’s no image-smoothing anti-aliasing.
The touchscreen is still the main way you interact with Android Wear. That bezel that looks like it should turn? It doesn’t. There are just two buttons on the side, the usual home button and a context-sensitive select button.
At first it seems like the select button isn’t of much use a lot of the time, but press it while on the watch face display and it loads-up the Huawei Workout app, letting you start a run, cycle or walk with about 0.3 seconds of prep. I love this bit, although you can also set it to run any app you like in the Settings.
While there are some pauses when you load certain apps, and the Google Assistant — Wear 2.0’s Siri-a-like — isn’t all that fast, the Watch 2 seems about as quick as any smartwatch. That’s because it uses Qualcomm’s wearable-centric Snapdragon Wear 2100 CPU and has a decent 768MB RAM.
Huawei Watch 2 performance: patchy tracking
As is, unfortunately, the quality of the heart rate sensor. While the Huawei Watch 2 is part of a new generation of Wear watches, it has the same borderline-useless scanner as most older models. Stay still and it’s fine. It can tell you your resting heart rate within a few seconds, but as soon as you start moving it gives up. Use the HR scanner app and it won’t give you a reading. Start a workout activity and it’ll all-but make the reading up as you walk or run.
At one point I used the Watch 2 in the gym. On the treadmill, the HR sensor wasn’t much use. I GPS-tracked the walk home and it continued to display a heart rate of around 130-140bpm, even though I was just ambling down the road. I’m not that unfit. The Apple Watch’s heart rates reads are in a different league.
Huawei says the Watch 2 shouldn’t be worn in the swimming pool either, despite great IP68 water resistance. Showers yes, swims no. Perhaps its seals can’t hack the blend of chlorine and kiddy urine that’s a core component of most swimming pools, or perhaps it’ll be fine and Huawei is just covering its back. But we don’t want to end up with a dead smartwatch. Test this at your own risk.