Huawei Watch GT 2e review: Athletic smartwatch

Huawei Watch GT 2e Review
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AT - TIME

The Apple Watch continues to flex its muscle as the leading smartwatch, primarily in the premium market. However, that hardly means there is a dearth of alternatives nor lack of options out there. In fact, things are pretty crowded in the mid- and entry-level market.

With Google’s Wear OS as stagnant as the water that’s favoured by Aedes mosquitoes, competition is rife with the likes of Fitbit, Samsung, Xiaomi, OPPO, Huawei/Honor fighting for the slice of smartwatch pie. With Apple on the pedestal and Google still groping in the dark, Huawei and Samsung have become fierce competitors, growing from strength to strength with each product iteration.

Both have dropped Wear OS (no surprises here) from their lineup, opting for their respective proprietary smartwatch operating systems—Huawei with LiteOS; Samsung with Tizen OS. Dropping Wear OS effectively means abandoning Android’s vast ecosystem of apps, but also being unchained from Google’s slowpoke development and lack of direction.

Huawei Watch GT 2e
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As you may know, Huawei and sub-brand Honor share platforms across its products, including smartwatches. The Huawei Watch GT and Honor MagicWatch are essentially the same watch aside from exterior differences and slight variations in build quality.

Following my review of the new Honor MagicWatch 2, Huawei Malaysia kindly dropped me the Huawei Watch GT 2e for a couple of weeks.

The only unfortunate thing was that it was smack in the middle of the Movement Control Order (MCO), which meant three things: I couldn’t go to the gym or swim, and I couldn’t do an outdoor run (aside from the short one in my car park). But we make do, don’t we?

Design and build

The Huawei Watch GT 2e takes on a more conventional circular design. It also moves away from the classic Watch GT 2 look—modern and sportier. The biggest differentiator from the Watch GT 2 is how the strap meets the plastic/stainless steel watch case. It’s not dissimilar to the implementation of the Samsung Galaxy Gear S2 or the Apple Watch. The fluoroelastomer strap is flushed to the case, giving it a seamless, clean look. It’s a good-looking watch, I give it that. There are two flat rectangular buttons on the right side—the Up button for powering on the device as well as accessing the Home screen; Down button to open Workouts as well as customised features.

The silicone strap feels a notch higher quality than the one found on the Watch GT 2e’s cousin the Honor MagicWatch 2. Straps, by the way, use a familiar pin mechanism, making it fairly easy to swap bands.

The watch (minus the strap) weight about 43.5g and offers 5 ATM water-resistance.

Overall, the design is pleasing and it’s well put together.

Hardware

Moving on to the hardware, the Watch GT 2e offers a crisp 1.39-inch AMOLED touchscreen display (454×454 pixels @ 326ppi). Under the hood is the Kirin A1 chip, Huawei’s first proprietary wearable chip, paired with 16MB memory and 4GB of storage. Like the Honor MagicWatch 2, the onboard storage allows the device to store up to 500 songs and play music directly from the watch (up to 2GB).

It touts Bluetooth 5.1 connectivity (2.4GHz) supporting BLE/BR/EDR as well as dual-frequency GPS.

With a key focus in fitness and health monitoring, the watch boasts an array of sensors including an accelerometer, gyroscope, geomagnetic sensor, optical heart rate sensor, ambient light sensor, barometer, and capacitive sensor.

The built-in 455mAh Li-ion battery keeps the device going, for a claimed 14 days. The charging port located on the underbelly is laid with magnetic contacts to ensure it’s locked to the supplied charging dock when charging. Unfortunately, the charge port is proprietary and does not support Qi wireless charging.

Unlike the Watch GT 2, the Watch GT 2e does not have built-in speakers and built-in cellular connectivity. It also lacks Wi-Fi, which can be a bummer for some users.

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Software

The watch runs Huawei’s proprietary wearable OS, aptly named LiteOS. LiteOS is a simple, light operating system which plays nice with both Android and iOS. To set up and sync up with either Android or iOS devices, you will need to download and install the Huawei Health app for Google Play or the App Store. Note that several features of the watch are Android-only.

Navigating the watch is simple and intuitive—swipe up on the home screen to view notifications; swipe down to view the shortcut menu; swipe left or right to view heart rate data, workout data, or weather information. You can touch and hold on the home screen to change the watch face.

Speaking of which, there is a nice albeit limited selection of watch faces you can customise your watch with, including various complications. The downside of these watch faces is that you can’t customise or tweak them.

As far as a smartwatch goes, the Watch GT 2e has the basics sussed out. This includes weather, time, alarm, timer, notifications, heart rate monitoring, sleep tracking, and more. What it doesn’t offer, unlike Apple’s watchOS or Wear OS is an app ecosystem. This is good/bad depending on what your expectation of a smartwatch is.

That said, the Watch GT 2e excels as a fitness tracker, putting even the incumbents to shame. It offers an exhaustive list of goal-based fitness modes including 15 professional workout modes that include climbing, running, swimming, and cycling. That aside, it will give you 85 custom workout modes–so whether you’re into rock climbing, parkour or skateboarding, the watch has got you covered.

If you’re the outdoorsy-type, built-in GPS and GLONASS support will ensure meticulous route-tracking during your outdoor conquests.

Other notable pluses are the VO2Max (for cardiovascular endurance) measurements, Sp02 (bloody oxygen saturation), all-day stress monitoring, as well as sleep monitoring features.

What’s also useful is that the watch will automatically detect your activity and start tracking it at a tap. This feature is available for six common workout modes such as indoor/outdoor running, indoor/outdoor walking, elliptical, and rowing.

Performance

There are three key things I want to talk about: battery life, smartwatch features, and fitness tracking.

Huawei touts the Watch GT 2e’s battery life—up to a claimed 14 days. While I failed to hit that magical number, I thought 10 days on a single charge was still impressive. It certainly puts other smartwatches to shame. It’s important to note that I had everything turned on—notifications, GPS, fitness tracking, always-on display.

How Huawei achieves this impressive battery life can be attributed to the comparatively big battery, a “light” OS, and simplistic UI. The UI is basic at best and lacks complication and animation. The frame rates are low too, so you don’t get the fluidity that you’ll find on the Apple Watch.

It’s a trade-off but a shame because the display is fabulous. The question is: Would you sacrifice battery life for more fluidity and fancier animations?

The other question is: What makes a smartwatch a smartwatch? Does possessing a plethora of sensors make a watch a smartwatch? Is it imperative for a smartwatch to have an app ecosystem?

To answer that, we could take a similar approach to the smartphone. What makes a smartphone a smartphone? I’d like to think it’s because it has a whole host of useful sensors, a robust mobile operating system and support for apps that can extend the functionality of the device.

In this sense, the Watch GT 2e falls short. Sure, out of the box, the watch has the basics covered. But, sans an app store of any sort means I can’t install Spotify or Instagram, Grab or Twitter, to suit my lifestyle.

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Having internal storage means you can copy music files into the watch for offline play. For me, it’s a bit of a catch-22. I haven’t downloaded music in the past decade and instead, I consume music primarily via music streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music. Thus, this feature is “nice to have” yet completely useless to me.

While notifications work flawlessly on the watch, they are basic at best. You cannot interact with them; when they pop up, you can merely dismiss them. You can’t send a quick reply or click on them to see more details.

All that being said, the Watch GT 2e is an excellent fitness tracker. Its impressive arsenal of fitness and health monitoring features more than makes up for its deficient smartphone talents.

Whether you’re into HIIT, swimming, running (indoor or outdoor), yoga, cycling, or climbing, the Watch GT 2e will track and provide you with real-time activity data.

A recent OTA update pushed to the watch also enables automatic activity tracking of six common workout modes as well as blood oxygen saturation (Sp02) tracking. Sp02 is one of the important vital signs that reflect the oxygen supply of the body. This is a great addition to the already talented smartwatch.

A couple of features that I like include sleep and stress monitoring. Huawei’s proprietary TruSleep 2.0 technology can scientifically track and diagnose sleep issues. It monitors your heart rate, analyses your breathing then awards a score on your overall sleep quality. While I cannot qualify the accuracy of the data, I certainly find it useful overall, at least to ascertain the general quality of my sleep.

Thankfully, because I was homebound mostly due to the MCO, my stress levels were low-normal, at least according to Watch GT 2e. The watch will automatically track your stress levels all-day and may prompt you to breathe to relax.

What Huawei does extremely well is making sense of all the data it collects from your wrist throughout the day. The accompanying Huawei Health app is impressive and extensive; the only downside is that the Android version offers more features and data than the iOS counterpart. For instance, the iOS does not support Sp02 data (although it is available on the watch itself) and there is no stress tracking or music storage.

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Huawei Health on Android
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Huawei Health on iOS

Pros

  • Sporty, pleasing design with good build
  • Excellent display
  • Impressive suite of fitness and health features
  • Swimproof
  • Outstanding battery life
  • Affordable
  • Huawei Health offers extensive data insight

Cons

  • Limited smartwatch experience
  • Not the most fluid UI
  • No third-party app support
  • No built-in speaker
  • Inconsistent features between Android and iOS app

Pricing and availability

The Huawei Watch GT 2e is available in Graphite Black and Mint Green and retails at MYR599.

For more information, visit Huawei.

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What you get in the box

Verdict

The Huawei GT 2e is a “light” smartwatch at best but if you’re looking for a full-featured fitness-focused wearable then this is an excellent buy. The watch does many things well, is well put together, and it doesn’t break the bank. It helps that it looks good on the wrist, too.


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