The Honor Magic Watch 2 is a Great Wearable, But LiteOS is Too Light
As the ongoing trade debacle between the US and Huawei unfolds rather slowly, Honor has continued to refocus some of its efforts in non-US related tech. That renewed focus has come in the form of an upgraded (and pretty impressive) Honor Band 5, and now a successor to the original Honor Magic Watch which launched late last year. The Honor Magic Watch 2, like its predecessor, runs LiteOS – not WearOS. Other specs include a 454 x 454, 1.39-inch full-color AMOLED display (for the 46mm version that we received), 4GB of onboard storage, and a 455mAh battery that gives up to 2 weeks of battery life.
There’s one severe consequence of LiteOS, and that consequence is that you can’t use WearOS apps here. It’s both as liberating and as restrictive as it sounds. WearOS has its problems, but is a deviation from it entirely a solution? The Honor Magic Watch 2 is a good product, but it’s absolutely not for tech enthusiasts that want to use their smartwatch as more than just a fancy timepiece.
About this review: I received the Honor Magic Watch 2 in Flax Brown from Honor on the 28th of November, 2019. I have used the device every day since receiving it. Honor is a sponsor of XDA, but they did not have any input on the content of this review.
Honor Magic Watch 2 Specs
|Specs||46mm Honor Magic Watch 2||42mm Honor Magic Watch 2|
|Display||1.39-inch 454×454 AMOLED display||1.2-inch 390×390 AMOLED display|
|SOC||Kirin A1||Kirin A1|
|Battery||455 mAh||215 mAh|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth v5.1, Wi-Fi, dual-frequency GPS||Bluetooth v5.1, Wi-Fi, dual-frequency GPS|
|Health Features||Heart rate, sleep tracking, stress monitor, breathing guidance, 15 fitness modes||Heart rate, sleep tracking, stress monitor, breathing guidance, 15 fitness modes|
|Water Resistance||50 meters water-resistant, not IP-rated||50 meters water-resistant, not IP-rated|
Honor Magic Watch 2 Design
The Honor Magic Watch 2 presents a rather inconspicuous design – at first glance, you wouldn’t pick up on the fact that it’s actually a smartwatch. The metal edges and static always-on display help it retain a real-watch look, along with a relatively classy strap as well. There are two crowns on the side which may seem weird at first, but it’s not too unusual even in real watches. The Flax Brown strap is genuine leather, so it’s not the highest of quality but it gets the job done. It’s comfortable to wear throughout the day which is the main thing.
The watch itself isn’t all too bulky. I’m used to the original Huawei Watch which is a small bit chunkier and definitely heavier, and it’s definitely something that you can forget is on your wrist. On the underside of the watch is a heart rate sensor, along with the charging pins too. As you may be used to with smartwatches, the Honor Magic Watch 2 charges in a small magnetic charging cradle. It’s pretty fast, which we’ll talk more about later.
The Honor Magic Watch 2 doesn’t have the most original design, but it doesn’t need to. Watch designs are inherently personal and subjective, so while I really like its design, you may not.
Charging and battery life
The Honor Magic Watch 2 has a huge focus on battery life, and with good reason. The 46mm version lasts approximately 14 days on a single charge, though around 7 if you have the always-on display enabled. The 42mm version lasts about 7 days from a single charge, with a similar cut down on battery life when always-on is enabled. It can charge in about an hour or so on a magnetic dock that it sits in, though it’s not wireless and connects to two pins on the underside of the watch. The magnetic dock is powered by USB-C. 2-week battery life is great, as I had to charge my OG Huawei Watch pretty much every day.
LiteOS is Huawei and Honor’s answer to WearOS. It’s a whole lot more locked down which means you won’t be able to just download and install Android apps on your watch. In fact, you can’t really download and install anything. You can’t even make custom watch faces – you’re restricted to whatever is in the Huawei Health app. I’ve noticed that new ones are added every few days, but I haven’t come across any that I really like yet. It’s kind of just dumb, to be honest. That’s not even my biggest gripe with how watch faces work at the moment.
On the Honor Magic Watch 2, you can enable an always-on static display, which makes sense for any modern smartwatch. Enabling it will approximately cut your battery life in half (from my admittedly short testing) but that’s worth it, at least to me. What I don’t understand is why the always-on display different from the currently enabled watch face. On WearOS, I’m used to watch faces having a dedicated AMOLED mode so that there isn’t a huge difference between active and standby usage. That’s not the case for the Honor Magic Watch 2, which has a separate standby watch face that can’t be changed. The transition looks pretty dumb as a result.
LiteOS does have some pretty neat features, but none that put it above WearOS for me. Raise to wake works as you’d expect, and when you feel a notification buzz, you can raise your wrist to view it. Because of how this feature works, whenever you raise your wrist you’ll be shown your most recent notification that you hadn’t looked at yet. The second crown button can also be bound to access any of LiteOS’s options. LiteOS has some nice ideas, but they’re all executed pretty poorly. The watch itself lags quite heavily at the best of times – trying to wake it from its static, always-on mode can take a second or two after pressing the crown, for example.
One of the Honor Magic Watch 2’s greatest selling points is its workout mode, which aims to entirely replace your smartphone for going on walks, running, and other fitness exercises too. It can get a GPS lock in about 30 seconds while entirely disconnected from your phone. It will then save the route that you take, along with pace information, heart rate statistics, and more. It will also alert you with average statistics thus far after every kilometer over the watch’s speaker, though I switched this off straight away. It’s pretty annoying and, in my opinion, not hugely useful. You can take a look at my stats below, where I left my phone to charge at a friend’s house on my university campus while walking around with a few friends and stopping off for a coffee.
There are also cycling modes, elliptical modes, hiking modes, triathlon, and more. What’s more, you can even copy music to the internal storage of your watch and pair a Bluetooth device to it to listen. If you want, either, you can also just use the built-in speaker to listen to music… though it’s really, really bad. I wouldn’t recommend using it for any music listening at all, you should just bring your phone with you or pair a set of Bluetooth earphones to your watch before heading out. The audio controls aren’t great though. The workout mode seems very well fleshed out, but its surrounding features are lacking. You can’t play music that isn’t in MP3 format, which means you can’t sync any songs from your Spotify library either, though that’s to be expected.
Heart rate monitoring
Just like on the Honor Band 5, the Honor Magic Watch 2 has a pretty well-built heart-rate monitor. While I obviously don’t have the professional equipment to check, it seems accurate. Health and fitness are both big focuses of the Honor Magic Watch 2, which we’ll show in some later sections as well. It tracks heart rate 24/7 unless you disable it, and it doesn’t seem to drain the battery all that much. The layout of the data in the Huawei Health app is easy to understand and doesn’t really leave any room for ambiguity.
A seemingly useless feature, the Honor Magic Watch 2 has a feature to tell you just how stressed you are. It calibrates based on a set of 12 (some pretty… personal) questions, to ascertain your typical stress level and outlook on life.
From there, it claims to understand when you are at your most stressed based on movement and heart rate. The scaling it uses appears quite arbitrary, as it uses a numbering system from 0 to 100 to determine your stress levels. Anything below 29 is considered “relaxed”, while a high of 54 is comfortably in the “normal” stage. Even as I write this review, it says that my stress level has spiked to 57 – whatever that means. That sounds even worse when, right before an exam that I had this morning, I was sitting at a consistent stress level of 15 for several hours.
Just like Honor’s other wearable products, the Honor Magic Watch 2 can track your sleep and give you detailed information such as deep sleep, light sleep, and heart rate. It can also make suggestions as to how to improve your sleep, though none of them are really particularly tailored to you as an individual. Still, they might help someone. It can even detect naps as well, with seemingly reasonable accuracy.
The Honor Magic Watch 2 has a few other features too, including breathing exercises, a compass, and a weather app. The weather app pulls in information based on your current location, while the compass requires calibrating first. I didn’t have an actual compass on me to compare the output, but it did reasonably match what my phone said. The breathing exercises are exactly as they sound, and can be used to help with anxiety as a small animation also takes place on the display that you can focus on. Finally, there’s also a “Find my phone” feature, which does exactly what it says. Selecting it will make your phone begin to shout loudly “I’m heeeere” and ring until you pick it up or cancel it from your watch.
The Honor Magic Watch 2 is an interesting purchase. At a price of €179 for the 42mm and €189 for the 46mm though, it’s a tall order. It looks nice, but the software makes it unusable for anyone who wants a smartwatch that’s actually, well, smart. Coming from the OG Huawei Watch, it’s certainly been a change of pace. The bottom line is that if you’re looking for a nice looking watch with a heavy focus on fitness, then the Honor Magic Watch 2 might be worth checking out. The Magic Watch 2 is on sale in a few countries like Russia and Malaysia, through local partners. In the UK, you can get the Charcoal Black color variant on Amazon for £159.99 from December 20, 2019.