It’s been a while that Android ceased to be present only in smartphones and tablets, having expanded its world to another type of very interesting devices. Smartwatches are one example of this like this Huawei Watch that we had the pleasure to test.
With the technological developments that have been taking place, even more elements of our everyday lives are starting to be replaced by electronic equipments. And that is what has come to apply to watches and smartwatches.
Although it’s not yet widely consensual the use of a smartwatch and what it’s real value to the everyday life, the truth is that this market should grow enough over the next year. Although they are still confused about the real advantages of wearing a smartwatch connected to our smarphone, the truth is that users are beginning to give in to this type of equipment. The blame goes to brands such as Huawei that have been able to create fantastic devices.
The Huawei Watch have installed Android Wear and presents itself as a premium equipment, with a circular screen, expensive construction materials and a battery reasonable enough for our everyday day lives.
This new watch from Huawei, the first of the brand belongs already to a third generation of Android Wear devices, and the system has been maturing over time through other equipment such as the Moto 360, that’s already in its second generation.
The Huawei Watch can be found in the market with a price from 399€ and it’s one of the most expensive in this category of devices, being surpassed only by the much talked Tag Heuer.
For now Google won’t let the marks change the Android Wear interface, therefore, in terms of functionality the Huawei Watch doesn’t vary at all compared to other Android Wear equipment. Like all other devices, this Huawei smartwatch will be able to work with any Android smartphone that runs Android 4.3 or higher versions as well as will work with Apple devices with the iOS 8.2 version or higher. However, this last point is unique to some devices, and apart from the Huawei Watch, the LG Watch Watch Urbane, the Moto360 and the Asus Zenwatch have this compatibility as well.
In what concerns to the specifications, the Huawei Watch has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 chipset running at 1.2 GHz, 512 MB of RAM, 4 GB of internal memory and 300mAh battery . As you can see, this isn’t very different from other Android Wear equipment.
This is a very important point in smartwatches. No, nobody is going to see photos or videos in this equipment, but you need a good screen in order to get the maximum performance of the devices outdoors, for example. The screen is completely circular, AMOLED and with 1.4 ” of diameter. The resolution of 400 x 400 pixels is impressive, allowing you to have a density of 286ppi, very close to the retina display that the Apple team has. The difference to other Android Wear devices is visible when you put the smartwatches side by side. Comparing with the new Moto 360 or with the LG G Watch Urbane, the Huawei Watch features a cleaner and clearer image than the other two.
The fully circular screen is clearly an advantage of this Huawei Watch compared to the competition. Although I understand those who like square screens such as Apple or Sony Smartwatch 3, fully circular screens give a “more normal” look to the device and it looks more similar to a normal watch. Compared to other circular watches, but with those that don’t have the screen occupying the entire area (like the Moto 360), the design is also much more appealing and has the advantage of being able to use white templates (so-called watch faces), without ruining the design.
The conditions where the brightness is extreme, are no problem for the Huawei Watch. The brightness of the screen is quite strong and able to overcome most of the setbacks. For example, the equipment was always with medium brightness (3 in 5) and I never had any problems, even on sunny days. Still, in addition to the 5 brightness levels, it is still possible to activate the “Brightness Boost”, which further increases the brightness of the display, for situations where you’re having trouble showing what’s on the screen of the Huawei Watch.
The colors are brilliant, combined with the excellent resolution that we’ve talked about previously, the Huawei Watch looks like a normal watch, just at first glance and it doesn’t look like we’re with a smartwtach.
Unlike other smartwatches, we don’t have to rotate the arm, or pushing buttons to turn on the screen see what time it is and our notifications. All this thanks to a very useful functionality, the Huawei Watch screen reduces the brightness after a few seconds of inactivity, it’s always connected but with a reduced interface (shows only the essential, that is, hours and minutes and a few more things).
Design and Comfort
Luckly, the evolution of smartwatches it’s not just in terms of technology. Nowadays, the smartwatches are starting to have a much more attractive design. We can see that if we remember what these devices are now and how were the first ones to be released, like the Samsung Gear.
The appearing of the Android Wear circulars devices allow to have equipments with a look more closer to the currente watches and with that satrting to replace them. This means that the smartwatches market can grow more easily. Another aspect that makes the design more attractive to users, is the fact that they are increasingly small and thin.
The Huawei Watch offers it all: a circular and relatively thin design, which makes this equipment almost unnoticed when put side by side with other traditional watches. If you’re a man, the size of the watch will not be a problem, however if you are women this could be little thick for your wrist. But there’s nothing like try it and see how it feels since the design it’s not very different from what we see today in regular watches.
There is only one size available: 42 mm in diameter and 11 mm thick. It has the same diameter as the Moto 360, however, is 0.1 mm thinner. In what concerns to the weight this is fairly light but as in all other devices, the weight is noticeable but it’s nothing that could affect our evry day with the watch on our wrist.
There are several designs and prices available depending on the choice you make at the time of purchase. Depending on the taste you can customize the Huawei Watch, choosing three distinct finishes: gold, silver or black. With these three colors, it is also possible to combine different bracelets. If you choose gold, is given the choice of alligator skin strap, or a metal bracelet also in gold. If you opt for the silver finish, the choice of bracelets is silver metallic or black leather bracelet. If the choice is the black finish, the choice may be black metal bracelet or black leather strap.
The leather bracelet, which was the option we had for test it’s very soft, flexible and appears to be of great quality. In fact, during all the time that we had the opportunity to test it the skin never showed any signs of wear, nor seemed to even begin to have any marks of being always tight in the same place.
Thanks to this design the Huawei Watch is without great difficulty one of the best smartwatches, entering directly into the Premium category of this type of devices.
On the smartwatch body, we can find a button that it’s like the Home button. The location of this button was very well thought by Huawei, which is in the direction indicated by the clockwise when they mark 2 o’clock, unlike the position of the 3 o’clock where most of the devices have this button. In fact, it’s much simpler to use the button in this position, since it prevents to have to rotate the wrist to get back to the root of the watch.
On the back of the equipment are two elements: the optical heart rate monitor and four contacts to attach the smartwatch to the charging dock.
To protect the smartwatch, Huawei bet on a IP67 rating assuring that this is resistant to dust and survives a up to one meter during 1 hour under water. It’s not the type of device you want to use when you go swimming, however, it ensures the integrity of it even when we forget to take the watch off and go to the bathroom or when you’re under intense rain, for example.
A very important point for any electronic device whether is a smarthpone, a tablet or a smartwatch is the capacity of its battery. And in this point Huawei doesn’t fail again. The Huawei Watch has a 300mAh battery and it’s able to do two days of use without any kind of charge, if the “environment mode” is disable. With this mode enabled the autonomy drops to a day and a half but we must bear in mind that in this situation the screen is always active.
Much of the consumption is done by the operating system running in background and also by the AMOLED screen. However, this consumption is so low that if we let the watch on the desk without touching it this will be able to stay on for 3 days without any charge.
The charging is quite fast and from the 0% up to the 100% will take less than 1 hour. The charger is quite interesting being a round magnetic platform where the Huawei Watch stays on charging. The contacts on the bottom of the watch are very effective for this type of platform making the connection to the charger a fairly simple task by simply placing the watch on the base.
When the Android Wear was introduced, we didn’t have high expectations and on first use we were really disappointed because it looked odd and wasn’t doing anything really new. However, thanks to the constant updates that Google has been dedicated to this project Android Wear is a very interesting platform today and managed to show us that we were wrong.
In this Huawei Watch, the user experience is much the same as in other Android Wear devices. This is because Google doesn’t let the brands change the Android Wear OS with their usual customizations. In one hand we have a good decision since it will allow the smartwatches to presente themselves always with a clean version of Android Wear, which will reduce the problems that are happenning in smartphones and tablets and that have been very criticized by users. On the other hand this option turns out to make smartwatches all the same and eventually become a bit uninteresting the comparison between them. It’s hard to even distinguish which brand it is.
The Huawei Watch runs the latest version of Android Wear, the version 5.1.1. This version brings some important features such as compatibility with iPhone, Wi-Fi, message between watches and gesture support.
The interface is based on Google Now. In case you don’t know the informations will appear in the form of cards on our watch and we can pass them in vertical. There are two ways to change between notifications: the first one is by sliding one finger across the screen; the other one is through the movement of the wrist. This second option is quite interesting for those times when you don’t have a free hand and you need to make a transition between notifications. With the notifications that appears you can also slide the same to the left, opening up the possibility to get more information about the notification or even interact with it (quick response, open the application on your phone, etc). Sliding the same way but to the right you can ignore the notification and delete from your smartwatch screen.
When we are on the main screen, the Homescreen, if you slide your finger to the left you will have access to a list of applications that are installed on your smartwatch with the three most recent appearing at the top. Another slide of finger to the left and you will have access to our contacts, with the possibility to make a call, send a text message or an email. The truth is that the Android interface may not be perfect being too based on a slip of a finger to the side or up and down or through wrist movements. However, we have to be honest and say that it is extremely functional.
However, there are things that Google will have to improve to make this Android Wear even more attractive. For example, it’s difficult to get the information we really want on our wrist. The cards that emerge on the screen are based on Google Now that it’s running on our equipment.
This tries to predict what we want to see, for example, if you’re out of work it will give us indications about transport or our latest emails. However, if we want to have access to information about the weather we’re going to have to slide by several irrelevant cards at that time until we get to the information you want.
This situation it’s soft down with a voice control. But for that we have to have our phone in English, as well as the smartwatch, so that we can work correctly with the Huawei Watch (or any Android Wear smartwatch). With the watch always listening we can easily call for it with an “Ok” and it will behave exactly as our smartphone behaves with the voice control. It’s fast and it works correctly whether you’re walking, running, driving or even at home, making a lot easier the interaction with our smartwatch. However, we will always look like a bunch of crazy kids if we’re in a mall talking to your wrist right?
Still in this interface topic, we can’t help to talk about the only point on which the brands can apply their customization on Android Wear: the watches backgrounds and some applications customised. And the work done here is excellent.
Starting with the themes for the watch the Huawei managed to do a really awesome job getting the best I’ve seen to equip a smartwatch. Some of them mimic as well the traditional watches, that with the quality of the screen it looks like we’re even in the presence of a traditional watch and not with a smartwatch.
In order to have a good performance, there are two very important factors: software quality and the quality/capacity of the hardware. If the level of software quality is guaranteed with the Goolge stamp does Huawei complied with their part ensuring the capable Hardware?
Within the Watch of Huawei, we can find a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 chipset with 1.2 GHz processing speeds, accompanied by 512 MB of RAM and 4 GB of internal memory dedicated to keeping our applications or some music that we want. When we look at the hardware that equips smartphone, these specifications don’t appear to be anything special and even seem really low. However, it should be noted that we are in the presence of an operating system with low resource consumption.
When we open the applications we can tell that there is actually a certain delay in the processing of information. This delay which is quite noticeable and reaches 2 seconds in some situations. If we are calm this is a situation with which it is fairly easy to deal with, however it can cause some awkwardness to the users due to the powerful hardware and minimum response time that they experience on their smartphones and tablets.
In what concerns to the sensors the Huawei Watch comes with a six-axis motion sensor (gyroscope and accelerometer), barometer and the heart rate sensor.
There is no GPS on Huawei Watch, so using this to have during our sport activities to mark our path is out of the question. However, we can understand the non-insertion of GPS on the smartwatch. In fact the design of this watch from Huawei fits more in the everyday watch category than in a fitness device category. However, it is able to count steps and monitor our heart rate throughout the day and upload this information to the Google Fit application.
The watch connection with our smartphone is done via Bluetooth 4.1 BLE (i.e. low-energy Bluetooth), being that the watch also offers Wi-Fi connections. These connections are not new in Android Wear watches but this is a great inclusion since it allows us to keep receiving notifications on our device as long as we have access to the internet.
Starting by talking about the applications we must say that today Google Play has several applications for Android Wear and there are already big names there, like Whatsapp, Endomondo, IFTT, etc . But to get a sense of what you can find for your smartphone I leave you with one sentence only: “If you need to do something in your Huawei Watch, I’m sure there’s an app for that “.
Among the pre-installed apps on the Huawei Watch are the traditional from Google: calendar, Hangouts and Google Maps Fit. You can also find other types of apps, such as Heart Rate, Fitness Tracking and Daily Tracking. These categories are, as the name says, best suited to the fitness side and I see myself wearing them daily. However, it is normal for sports lovers look for something a little more sophisticated.
Speaking of compatibility there’s nothing new. Like all other smartwatches who have Android Wear installed the Huawei Watch is also compatible with Android smartphones and iOS devices, if these have 8.2 version or higher.
It should be noted that this compatibility with iOS devices is still very limited and is just for notifications from any app but without being able to interact with them. For example, if we receive a text message we can see it in our Huawei Watch but we can’t answer to the same message.
Note: Review made by João Mateus in android-emotions.pt and translated by Margarida Martins