When Huawei unveiled their new flagship P10 smartphone at Mobile World Congress, they also showed off their latest smartwatch — the Huawei Watch 2. While the P10 is the usual slight upgrade, the Huawei Watch 2 represents a pretty big departure from the original, moving from something fashion-focused to a fitness-first wearable. Historically, Huawei hasn’t been big on launching products in the United States, but that’s been changing, and the Watch 2 is part of that change — it’s available stateside starting today.
But, it won’t be exactly the same device as the international version. It’s still a 45 mm watch made of plastic, stainless steel, and some ceramic, it’s still IP68 waterproof, and it still has a full complement of sensors to track heart rate, steps taken, calories burned, distance traveled, and cadence. What’s missing is, admittedly, a bummer — there’s no LTE connectivity, so it’ll still need to be paired with a smartphone to be fully functional.
Fortunately, it still has NFC and GPS, so you can use the watch by itself to track running routes and make payments using Android Pay. It’s also running the new Android Wear 2.0 update out of the box, which has a much more intuitive interface and standalone apps that can be downloaded directly to the watch.
The good thing about no LTE is that it makes the watch a bit thinner and lighter, so it’s a lot more comfortable to use when working out — still, it might prove too big for those with smaller wrists. But, if it fits, it can be used comfortably. I got a chance to try it out at a workout session Huawei held for the launch, and once I got up to speed on the treadmill, I didn’t notice the weight on my wrist. The only problem I figure I might encounter while running is that the touchscreen must be used to stop and start workouts, which can be a little tricky when you’ve gotten sweaty and tired.
Unfortunately, neither of the physical buttons on the side of the watch can serve that purpose. The top button is the home button, and while the bottom one can be reprogrammed to one of many other functions, starting and stopping a workout isn’t one of them. Other than those two buttons, you’ll need to use the touch AMOLED display for navigation — no rotating bezel or crown. Fortunately, that’s much easier to do in Android Wear 2.0.
Music is a big part of the Huawei Watch 2. The watch actually has its own speakers, and while they’ll probably be drowned out if you run on city streets or work out in a noisy gym, they aren’t half bad. More likely, you’ll use the watch’s Bluetooth connectivity to connect a pair of exercise headphones. For music, you can either store music on the watch itself (4 GB of storage, about 2.2 of which is usable) or stream music from an app on your phone. You might want to try using it with Google Play Music — Huawei is including a 10-week free trial of the service with the watch.
Battery life was also a focus. The Huawei Watch 2 has a 420 mAh battery inside, which isn’t bad for a smartwatch. Huawei says the watch can last about 10 hours if in workout mode continuously (which activates the heart rate monitor and GPS), up to two days with mixed use, and up to three weeks in watch mode, which turns the smartwatch into a regular watch with step tracking. A new ambient light sensor helps the display to dim when possible, which also helps squeeze a bit more out of that battery.
Starting today, the Huawei Watch 2 will be available in black and grey for $300. A thinner, more stylish version, called the Huawei Watch 2 Classic, will be available later for $370. They’ll be coming to Best Buy and a number of online stores.