- Brings the accuracy of a fitness tracker on top of improvements made to Android Wear 2.0
- Some may not agree with the new sporty look Huawei has on the Watch 2
SMARTWATCHES, do we still need them? Huawei seems to think so as it so gung ho about the wearables market that it unveiled the Huawei Watch 2 at Mobile World Congress 2017 in March.
The Watch 2 is the successor to the original Huawei Watch, a solid smartwatch that stood out in the initial batch of Android Wear devices. It was a statement piece that looked fashionable yet was functional. However, with the introduction of Android Wear 2.0, competition heated up substantially with the likes of LG, Asus and Moto entering the arena.
Nevertheless, the Watch 2 is here so let’s find out if it can hold its own in this increasingly competitive market.
When it comes to looks the Watch 2’s design is definitely polarising, given that it is a complete departure from its predecessor as it has a sportier look. Those who prefer the classic watch face of the original may understandably come away disappointed by the plastic body and large bezels.
On top of that, the use of rubber wrist straps is definitely not befitting a watch in this price range.
Though one can forgive the overly sporty look of the watch itself, the use of rubber wrist straps that feel flimsy and rubber-like severely cheapens the overall look of the Watch 2. You can of course swap the strap with another 18mm one though it will incur additional cost and is quite challenging to find.
We really would have liked Huawei to have stuck to its guns with the original design instead of making their smartwatch look and feel like a fitness band.
That being said, if Huawei is making a sports watch it would be good to take it all the way and make the device waterproof so that it can track activities like swimming and boating.
Qualms with the design aside, you get two buttons on the side of the watch with the upper button designated to open the app drawer or Google Assistant. The bottom button can be customised but it is set to initiate workouts by default.
The navigation is simple and it definitely suits a sports person with its easy to access workout button.
To its credit, the main 1.2-inch AMOLED display, with its 390 x 390-pixel display, looks great and readable regardless of the angle. It is also sufficiently bright that you can read it outdoors. Still, the text remains tiny and we wish that Huawei had included a larger display for easier reading.
The screen remains the main method of input for the device and without an additional method of navigation input, it feels slightly clunky to navigate even with the inclusion of the customisable second button.
Outfitted with a Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor, 768MB of RAM and 4GB of storage, there is enough to like about this smartwatch, internally at least.
The internal storage can be used to load music or store watch apps on the device.
There are also a host of different connectivity options ranging from NFC, GPS and Bluetooth. Did we mention that there is a heart rate monitor too, so you really can gauge how you are doing during your workout sessions?
There is NFC present because it integrates with Android Pay and with the rise of cashless payment solutions in the region, it is only a matter of time before we are paying with our smartwatches. So yes, definitely a good feature to have.
You can also insert a SIM card into the Watch 2 for continuous mobile network connectivity even when you are away from your phone and yes, you can use it for making calls.
However, given the small speakers, voices tend to sound very distant and are difficult to hear. I didn’t receive any complaints about the watch picking up my voice so that’s one good thing.
Even so, you will be better off making a call from your primary phone plus I personally feel quite silly and awkward to be talking to my watch. I must admit though, that this feature would be a hit with Sci Fi fans who get a kick out of odd communication devices.
Navigation aside, if you didn’t like the card interface used in the previous iteration of Android Wear, then you are in luck because the app drawer is now more easily accessed and the Watch 2 feels like a proper smart device.
There is a noticeable “clean” look to the interface now as Google has standardised Android Wear 2.0 with the Material Design language.
You get access to features like Google Assistant which is great if you want to control your smartphone remotely by speaking commands. Another big addition to Android Wear 2.0 is the always-on display option which makes the smartwatch behave more like a regular watch where you can glance at the time and receive updates at any time.
Notifications also are handled differently this time around. In the past, notifications occupied the entire screen, but now they are slightly smaller and can be read at a glance especially if they are short messages.
But the biggest boon to Android Wear 2.0 is its standalone apps which work independently from phone apps, meaning you can still use the app even without a phone and this makes sense considering that you can insert a SIM into the device and have it function autonomously.
For witness buffs, the Watch 2 offers a very robust set of fitness tracking features that feeds you lots of data and that includes not just tracking your steps but your elevation for counting how many steps you have taken. The inclusion of GPS tracking will make it even more invaluable for those looking to accurately record their workouts.
The heart rate monitor is another big boost for fitness enthusiasts as it lets you see how long you are spending in the optimum fat burning zone during a workout to achieve maximum effectiveness.
Outfitted with a 420mAh battery, Huawei says the Watch 2 is has two days of battery life. That estimation is a bit too generous as I discovered that battery life really depends on your usage for the day.
If you receive lots of messages and generally spend time with the screen on, expect it to last just one full day. However, you probably will get slightly over a day’s worth of battery if you keep messaging down to a minimum.
On the whole, the Huawei Watch 2 is a full featured smartwatch that is comfortable to wear and provides accurate activity tracking for sports enthusiasts. It is strange that this new watch caters to a completely different market than the original Huawei Watch but each to their own.
To be fair, it is a good showcase of the improvements Google has made to Android Wear 2.0 devices but it has a high focus on fitness which may not be useful for everyone. The screen while good looking, unfortunately, is smaller than we would have liked and an additional method of input would have made navigation easier.
Ultimately, the Huawei Watch 2 is targeted at the fitness crowd and anyone who wants to constantly stay connected online even without a phone. It is a feature-packed smartwatch but not without its faults, but if you can live with its shortcomings, it should serve you well.
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