With its impressive screen, sleek design, and battery that can handle it, Huawei Watch GT misses the point

After returning to the smartphone market, Huawei debuts in the wearables segment in Brazil. The Watch GT is the first sports watch Chinese manufacturer in the country, promising long battery life, AMOLED screen high definition and focus on fitness, with resources to monitor physical activity and provide detailed information about your sleep.

With a suggested price of $ 1,499, the Huawei Watch GT looks even cheap compared to smartwatches sold by other brands in Brazil, which usually come for two or three thousand reais. But is he really good? I've run dozens of miles in recent weeks with Huawei's news and count my impressions in the next few minutes.

The Huawei Watch GT is very impressive at first glance: it looks more expensive than it really is. The company has honed the quality of construction, with a mixture of ceramic and metal that gives a feeling of robustness. In the Active version, the precision in the number engraving and the details on the side buttons show that Huawei paid attention to the details.

The rubber strap was comfortable throughout the test days, which is important for a device that aims to monitor your sleep. It fits wrists of various sizes and can be replaced without the use of specific tools. And because the dock is standard 22 mm, unlike Apple Watch and Garmin QuickFit, the possibilities for customization are numerous.

If the Huawei Watch GT makes a good first impression when you take it out of the box, it stays on when you turn on the product. The 46mm screen is one of the best I've ever seen on a sports watch: the setting is great, the colors are vivid and the brightness is strong enough to allow viewing even with the sun shining on the display. The touch sensor is very responsive, recognizing touches and gestures with precision.

One plus point is the high compatibility of the Huawei Watch GT: it can be used on both full featured Android and iOS phones. On iPhone, I just missed being able to install new dials, but the app itself reports that the feature is already under development. Despite the visual differences between mobile platforms, all data is available for access on Huawei Health.

Among the information shown on Huawei Health, the most striking is sleep monitoring. The level of detail is far above normal: you can tell the total duration of sleep, the division between light sleep, heavy sleep and REM sleep (!), How many times you have awakened, and even the quality of your breathing. In the end, the app even generates a note for your sleep.

Interestingly, Huawei was concerned with explaining what each piece of information means, rather than simply throwing a bunch of random numbers in the user's face. With a touch, I can learn what a good level of REM sleep percentage is (between 10% and 30%) and understand what happens at this stage, with references to scientific articles at the end.

Still regarding the data, there is a multitude of them for those who practice exercises. On the run, Huawei Health displays heart rate, pace, cadence, and altitude graphs throughout the activity, including allowing you to overlay graphs so you know how your number of steps per minute is affected during an uphill stretch, for example.

Incidentally, the performance section is almost a plagiarism of Garmin's platform (which is good). The app shows the effect of aerobic and anaerobic training (from 1 to 5), estimates your maximum VO 2, predicts how long you would finish a half marathon, and suggests a recovery time based on your effort so you're ready for the next activity and avoid overtraining.

Finally, the battery surprises. I confess that initially I didn't really believe in the promise of up to 14 days of autonomy because of the high definition and the strong brightness of the screen. In general, a duration of “weeks” is only possible on most basic devices, with monochrome or color washed screens, low resolution and no touch sensor. But the Huawei Watch GT has escaped the rule.

I filled the battery of the Huawei Watch GT on a Monday night. The watch was on my wrist the entire time, showing cell phone notifications and monitoring my sleep and heartbeat. During this time, I ran or walked with GPS enabled for 3h30min. On Friday morning, the battery was still at 30%, which is exceptional.

Without monitoring physical activity, battery consumption was between 7% and 9% every 24 hours, with the heart rate reader always on and sleep monitoring enabled, which would easily result in more than 10 days of autonomy.

What is not cool?

The problem with making too good an impression at first glance is that it cannot always be maintained over time. The Huawei Watch GT has an expensive smartwatch design and screen, but does not offer the same functions as one. And while it brings a lot of data, which is usually only found in more sophisticated sports watches, the accuracy of the information disappointed me.

As a smartwatch, the Huawei Watch GT does not have very basic features. It shows phone notifications, but lets you do nothing with them or reply to a message. Instead of using Wear OS, Huawei has opted for its own LiteOS platform, which does not feature any third party applications. And perhaps one of the main uses is not available: there is no way to control music playback through the clock.

In practice, it turns out to be a simple fitness bracelet with a sophisticated smartwatch face. In the same price range, Samsung Galaxy Watch Active, for example, even lets you sync Spotify playlists, while Huawei's doesn't even have internal storage for songs. Not to mention all other smartwatch features and the ability to connect with third party services such as Strava and Endomondo, which are not available on Huawei Watch GT.

Another downside: the translation is very bad. There are some excerpts in Portuguese from Portugal and others that were found incorrectly: words without plural, “steps” translated to “steps” instead of “steps”, “duration” instead of “duration” and so on. It's something that reminds me of old Asus cell phones and that gives a picture of disrespect. After all, if you get money from consumers who legally buy the product in Brazil, paying all taxes to keep a company operating in the country, the least you have to do is hire good reviewers.

And as a sports watch, the Huawei Watch GT has sinned for accuracy. Although it shows a lot of information, all of it is affected by the GPS “more or less”, which impairs the reliability of the information.

In a 10km race, with a nearly straight course and an unobstructed view of the sky, with a wide avenue on one side and a river on the other, the Huawei Watch GT did relatively well: it cut a few bends, but nothing out of the ordinary for a watch with GPS.

But the clock is very easily lost in the middle of the city. In the most “challenging” scenario, I ran 15 km in New York, past high-rise avenues and lots of construction scaffolding along the way. Obviously, the quality of the route recorded by GPS was very poor: it cut corners and invented sections that did not exist often enough. Across the map, I ran, flew, and swam at the same time.

Even in parks the accuracy is not the best: even the trees in some parts of Ibirapuera Park, in São Paulo, were enough to damage the consistency of the GPS. And that was reflected in the data that was displayed in real time: even running at a steady pace around 5:45 / km, the clock even showed on the screen that I was under 4 min / km - and for almost a minute. I would be very happy, but that was not the case here.

Worth it?

The Huawei Watch GT is a product that had everything to be perfect, but that sins at very important points. The design appeals, the display is one of the best on the market, the battery lasts too long and the Huawei Health app impresses with the amount of data displayed, losing almost nothing to market references such as Garmin Connect.

But the good points end up being overshadowed by simple weaknesses. I wasn't expecting a full smartwatch on the Huawei Watch GT, with voice assistant, multiple gigabytes of memory and complex applications, but seriously it couldn't even include music control? And if the focus was on building a sports watch, not a smartwatch, couldn't you put a better GPS?

Some of the downsides may be remedied in the future by software, and in fact, I received at least three firmware updates during the nearly two weeks of testing. But despite being released now in Brazil, this is a product that was announced in October 2018 - it's hard to imagine what could have been fixed or deployed and hasn't been.

With these sins, the Huawei Watch GT turns out to be neither a great smartwatch nor a great sports watch, although it brings a lot of technological highlights and doesn't cost the eye. It should be an option for those who are looking for a stylish watch, are health conscious, do not want to charge their batteries every day, and occasionally engage in physical activity. But there is a sense of missed opportunity: it could be much more than that.

Technical specifications:

  • Battery: up to 14 days (Active) or up to 7 days (Elegant);
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, Glonass, Galileo;
  • Dimensions: 46.5 × 46.5 × 10.6 mm (Active) or 42.8 × 42.8 × 10.5 mm (Elegant);
  • Weight: 46 grams (without bracelet, Active), 36.2 grams (without bracelet, Elegant);
  • Platform: LiteOS;
  • Sensors: accelerometer, gyroscope, luminosity, barometer, optical heart sensor, compass;
  • Display: 1.39 inch AMOLED with 454 × 454 pixel resolution (Active) or 1.2 inch AMOLED with 390 × 390 pixel resolution (Elegant).