Hands On with the Huawei Watch
This week we’re in Berlin ready for IFA, and today we managed to spend some time with Huawei. As Android Wear devices are becoming more common, and due to the fact that the OS itself doesn’t change between watches, our hands-on day with the new Huawei Watch goes a fair distance in providing an overall impression of this new wearable.
The Watch is smaller than the LG Watch Urbane, whilst maintaining a simple industrial style that is generally pleasing to the eye. The model we experimented with was of the black variety, with a sturdy brushed Stainless Steel metal fascia and band to match. Overall, the build quality seems excellent, with a sturdy exterior reminiscent of the LG G Watch R, although it can feel a little thick at times. The strap connections look to be compatible with any normal watch strap, and they helpfully include a quick-release mechanism to make the process easier.
The bezels are pleasingly thin, the watch isn’t too bulky, and the screen is a full circle; no ‘flat tire’ here. Another highlight here is the Sapphire glass that covers the display, which when added to the fact that it is sunken (not flush with the bezels like the Moto 360), should make it very resistant to scratches, and ensure the screen remains unblemished. The 1.4″ AMOLED display is of a high (for a smartwatch) 400×400 resolution resulting in a pixel density of 286ppi, and it is comparable with competitors when it comes to brightness, although reflections outdoors are rife.
The Huawei Watch is also water resistant so it should stand a shower or some rain, although it isn’t clear exactly to what extent, so care is of course still required when in use. The unit charges through pins on its rear, which connect magnetically to the included circular branded charging plate. This set up does still suffer from the complication of having a strap that is an unbroken circle (which has to lie underneath the plate, instead of allowing it to sit on a flat surface), but if it’s a real annoyance, the user could always either replace or remove the strap with the aforementioned quick-release mechanism. Also housed underneath is the heart rate sensor, which along with the included barometer, gyroscope, accelerometer, Bluetooth 4.1 and Wi-Fi support, bring the watch to the top of the features list.
In terms of specifications, the Watch predictably runs on a Snapdragon 400 SOC clocked at 1.2GHz, with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of storage. Android Wear runs fairly well for the most part, although there were some brief but noticeable stutters when scrolling through lists of apps and settings. This could in part be due to the fact that the unit was only running Wear version 1.1, and the large update to 1.3 could clear up a number of these complaints. The watch insisted that it was up to date, so we’ll need to reserve judgement. We’ve covered Wear before, so there’s no need to repeat prior information as the experience remains unchanged, but it is safe to say that although Huawei can’t modify or add to the OS, it is a great experience nonetheless, especially once customized to your usage patterns. It was, of course, touted at the launch event that the Huawei Watch is compatible with iOS versions from 8.2 upwards, being among the first few devices to support this out of the box.
There is one obvious negative however – the wrist activated screen-on gesture is generally reliable, but it seems sluggish. The watch face fades in nicely but the whole process is too languid, undermining its intended use as a quick way to check the time. Of course, this could be avoided by having the screen always-on (dimmed state) at the expense of crippling battery life, but hopefully this waiting period can be shortened in future updates. On a positive note, there were no drops in Bluetooth connectivity during our testing period, for which an LG G4 was used. Battery life seems comparable with most other Android Wear watches, so the 300mAh battery should last you through the day with medium to light usage.
All in all, Huawei have made a good impression with their new wearable, particularly with the physical design. With this hardware running software that most enthusiasts are already familiar with, aesthetics will go a long way to encouraging a purchase, and the Huawei Watch benefits from remaining sleek and understated, making it fairly indistinguishable from a normal watch at a distance. Those comfortable with Android Wear should already be interested, as the watch demonstrates it as well, if not better than recent competitors. We will have more in-depth coverage on the way in the event of a full review, but for now, this concludes our brief introduction to the new Huawei Watch.