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Huawei Watch GT 2 review: Pretty but not very smart

Victoria Woollaston Edward Munn
1 Dec 2021
Our Rating 
€250 (approx £220)

The Watch GT 2 offers heaps of fitness tracking tools and unrivalled battery life but third party app support is poor

Pros 
Great design and display
Superb sports tracking features
Best-in-class battery life
Cons 
Limited app support
Poor software
Not cheap
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Following the recent US ban, Huawei’s future is very much up in the air in the UK. But unlike its Mate 30 Pro smartphone, which is only available in China, the manufacturer’s new smartwatch, the Watch GT 2, will soon be on sale in the UK.

As with its predecessor, the Huawei Watch GT 2 shows heaps of promise but, for all the good it achieves, it’s let down by Huawei’s LiteOS, which feels some way off the finished article.

Huawei Watch GT 2 review: What you need to know

Unlike the original Watch GT, which came in two case styles but just one size, the new Watch GT 2 comes in two sizes – 46mm and 42mm – available in various different colours. Both have always-on AMOLED displays and are powered by the company’s new ultra-efficient Kirin A1 chip, which delivers battery life of up to two weeks in the larger model and one week in the 42mm variant. Whichever size you choose, you can use it with an Apple or Android phone, and there’s 4GB of storage, enabling you to store up to 500 songs.

As for fitness tracking, the Huawei Watch GT 2 has built-in GPS and a heart-rate monitor and offers an impressive range of sports modes including running, cycling and even open water and triathlon thanks to its 50m water-resistance. Leave it on at night, and it’ll also track your sleep in impressive detail, scoring your 40 winks out of 100.

Because it comes with a microphone and speaker, you can answer phone calls on the Watch GT 2 when you’re in range of your phone. Sadly, though, there’s no cellular version of the watch, and there’s also no NFC, so you can’t make contactless payments from your wrist. Because it runs LiteOS, there are also none of the Google apps you’ll find on the Huawei Watch 2.

Huawei Watch GT 2 review: Price and competition

Although the Watch GT 2 is coming to the UK in October, we don’t have a definitive price for it yet. Since it’ll cost €250 in Europe, I’d expect you’ll have to part with between £220-250 when it hits the shops over here.

That puts it in direct competition with the Apple Watch 3, which has recently had its price slashed to £200 for the non-cellular, 38mm model. Although it’s now two generations old, the Watch 3 is still one of the best smartwatches you can buy in terms of all-round features and performance, but you’ll need to charge it daily.

For Android users, the two-year-old Huawei Watch 2 (£170) is still one of our favourite WearOS smartwatches, or if you’re on an even tighter budget, the Ticwatch E2 (£146) is another great option. Otherwise, if you’re happy to forgo an OLED display and such a wide selection of third-party apps, Garmin’s Vivoactive 3 Music (£180) delivers an impressive combination of sports-tracking features, battery life and smarts.

Since the launch of the Fitbit Versa 2, the Fitbit Versa is now cheaper than ever at just £143. It doesn’t have GPS, but is otherwise a solid all-round fitness tracker. Last but not least, the original Huawei Watch GT is also now available for just £140. It only has 128MB of storage, which means no music storage, but otherwise, there’s not a huge amount to separate it from the newer Huawei smartwatch.

Huawei Watch GT 2 review: Design and LiteOS

The Watch GT 2’s design doesn’t differ drastically from its predecessor and that’s a good thing. Its stainless steel and plastic casing looks great with sporty silicone straps and leather wristbands alike, making it a watch that you can wear for any occasion.

It’s comfortable, too. With the larger model weighing only 41g without the strap and measuring 11.7mm thick, it’s 22g lighter than the equivalent-sized Samsung Galaxy Watch and 1.3mm slimmer. That’s a big difference and I never once woke with the urge to take it off when I kept it on at night.

One significant change is that the Watch GT 2 now has a bezel-less design. That’s more obvious on the smaller 42mm model, while the 46mm sample has second and minute markers printed around the edge of its glass front. Regardless of which size you choose, though, there are two crown-style buttons on the right edge; one of these opens the app list while the other can be customised to a function of your choice.

At the centre of everything is the watch’s always-on AMOLED screen. On the larger model, it’s a 1.39in 454 x 454 resolution panel, while the smaller watch has a 1.2in 390 x 390 resolution screen. On our sample, black and colours looked punchy with excellent contrast levels and the resolution is such that you can easily make out every minute detail on the device’s intricate heart-rate graphs.

Where things start to fall down a little, however, is the watch’s software. For the most part, it feels reminiscent of WearOS and is intuitive to use but it is occasionally very confusing. To give one example, configuring the screen to be truly always-on requires you to open the Advanced menu in Display settings, then ignore the Screen on and Sleep options, instead tapping Lockscreen before selecting Digital or Analogue instead of the default option, None.

This ensures that, after the screen times out, you see a simplified, slightly dimmed watch face showing the time and day. You can have the main watch face visible, too, but only for a maximum of twenty minutes at a time.

Notification delivery is another area where the Huawei Watch GT 2 could do better. Although alerts normally appear in a timely manner with a vibration, there’s no option to interact with them in any meaningful way. That means for emails you’ll have to make do with just reading the subject line and, for messages, there’s no option to send canned responses, so you’ll always have to reach for your phone to reply. That’s pretty poor.

Then there’s the fact that the Watch Active 2 has no app store. That’ll bother some prospective customers more than others but again, it puts the Huawei wearable well behind the competition; with the Apple Watch and WearOS wearables, you have endless options for expanding your watch’s functionality.

Huawei Watch GT 2 review: Fitness features and mobile app

Not everything about the software is bad, though. The smartwatch’s accompanying Huawei Health app, for instance, works very well. As with most such apps, it’s here that you see all your important metrics at a glance, including step counts, exercise, heart rate and sleep data.

Delve a little deeper, however, and you’ll uncover hidden depths. Sleep tracking, for instance, is especially impressive with Huawei Health providing a single overall score for your sleep, accompanied by a breakdown of time spent in deep sleep, light sleep and REM sleep. For each category, the app tells you what the normal range is and, if you’re having trouble hitting your targets there are heaps of tips telling you how you might improve.

Stress tracking is similarly detailed, showing charts for the last day, week, month or year accompanied by short canned summaries. Likewise, the Huawei Health app gives you no end of data to sink your teeth into when reviewing workouts you’ve recorded from the watch, from pace and heart rate info to average cadence and stride length, in the case of outdoor running.

Where many fitness wearables stop at heart rate zones and charts, the Huawei app helps you try to interpret your workout data by giving you scores for aerobic and anaerobic training effect as well as advising you how long you need to leave for recovery before your next workout. This type of info is normally the preserve of serious sports watches from brands like Garmin, so to see it on a smartwatch at this price is a real boon if you’re a keen runner or cyclist.

If you’re new to running there’s plenty to help you out, too. From the mobile app and the watch itself, you can browse a range of running plans which take you through structured workouts to help you improve your fitness. That’s great but, sadly, the Huawei Watch GT 2 stumbles again when it comes to software and third-party app support.

To elaborate, although you can link the watch with Google Fit and MyFitnessPal, there are no apps from Strava, Nike, Runkeeper or Runtastic, as you find on other platforms. That in itself isn’t a total disaster but there’s no option from the mobile app to export your workouts as GPX files or similar, either, and nor is there an accompanying web site where you can do so. As such, any running or cycling you track will remain locked largely within the Huawei Health app.

Huawei Watch GT 2 review: Performance and battery life

That’s a shame because when testing the Watch GT2 GPS on my cycling commute across central London and on a few runs in more rural areas, it did a solid job of tracking my location. Indeed, on one jog in Sussex, it logged a 1.5 mile run only 0.2 miles more generously than a Garmin Fenix 5 Plus, which isn’t bad for a watch that costs less than half the amount of Garmin’s premium sports watch.
Heart-rate tracking was similarly decent. During that run, I paired the Fenix 5 Plus with a chest strap and, whenever I glanced at my wrist, the two showed readings within a beat or two of each other. At the end of the workout, the two apps showed heart-rate averages that were only a beat apart, which again is all you could really ask for.

Huawei claims the larger 46mm Watch GT 2 can last up to two weeks between charges and that feels pretty close to what you’ll achieve in the real world. After five days of using the watch with its “real-time” heart-rate monitoring switched on, and the always-on lockscreen enabled for one of those days, it showed 40% battery remaining. Switch the heart-rate monitoring to “smart” and pick more conservative display settings, and it’s not difficult to see it stretching beyond ten days between charges.

Naturally, if you use GPS regularly, the battery will drain faster than if you don’t use it at all, but again Huawei’s claims are impressive on this front. According to the manufacturer, the 46mm Watch GT 2 will last for 30 hours of continuous GPS recording, while the 42mm model will still last 15 hours between charges.

Huawei Watch GT 2 review: Verdict

The Watch GT 2 has superb sports-tracking credentials for its price. As well as logging an impressive number of activities and offering handy insights into your workouts, stress, sleep, it’ll emphatically outlast any WearOS device and the Apple Watch when it comes to battery life.

Sadly, though, its Achilles heel is that there’s no option to export any of your workout data to other platforms. That’s something we’ve seen in the past with Huawei devices, and it’s something the company needs to fix in order to compete with fitness wearables from other manufacturers.

If Huawei were to put this right, one could forgive the fact it has no app store of its own and that its software sometimes feels like it’s a beta version. However, in spite of all its promise, in its current state, the Watch GT 2 is little more than an attractive and rather expensive fitness tracker.

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