The newly released Watch 2 from Huawei ships with the latest version of Google's wearable OS — Android Wear 2.0 — already installed, giving this watch a distinct advantage over its competitors. While we weren't the biggest fans of the overall look of this watch and the mediocre display but it hard to argue with the impressive suite of smart features and unparalleled fitness tracking capabilities packed into this piece of wearable tech.
Huawei Watch 2 Review
Pros: Fantastic fitness tracking, lots of smart functions, compatible with Android Pay and voice control
Cons: Mediocre display, unappealing aesthetic
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Watch 2 received the third highest score in our test, earning it an Editors' Choice award for being the best smartwatch for Android users. This watch improves on its predecessor substantially, packing in a GPS unit and NFC for improved navigation and fitness tracking abilities, as well as adding Android Pay functionality. While it does sacrifice some of the sleeker looks and style of the Watch 1, it makes up for it in functionality and is definitely the watch to choose if you want the most full-featured smartwatch out there for Android users.
We took the top models that you can buy today and put them through a series of side-by-side tests to determine scores and crown the award winners. Our scores ranged from 0-100, based on the performance of each model in our five weighted rating metrics: Ease of Use, Smart Functions, Display, Fitness Impact, and Battery Life.
Ease of Use
The most important metric in our test — Ease of Use — merited 40% of the overall score. We compared how responsive each screen is, the reliability of the charging setup, the input method and ease of navigating through the menus and submenus, and the water resistance rating between each model to rank them, as well as comparing the difficulty of swapping wristbands and taking screenshots. The Watch 2 did reasonably well, earning a 6 out of 10. The chart below shows how this compares to the rest of the pack.
The Watch 2 has a reasonably responsive screen — both in using the touchscreen to navigate between menus and waking from sleep mode — similar to the LG Watch Sport and its predecessor, the Huawei Watch 1. It would take about one second for the display to illuminate when you raised your wrist — a noticeable display but not too irritating. This model lacks a crown scroll or rotating bezel, relying solely on the touchscreen as an input method. This can be a little trying, as this screen is the smallest out of the entire group and easily obscured by a finger.
The charging setup on this model was about average, requiring a little bit of fiddling to line the pins up correctly. However, the charger also featured a plastic clip that would securely attach it to the watch, with no amount of shaking knocking it free.
It was also relatively easy to swap wristbands, though this model is limited to bands made specifically for the Watch 2 due to its curved design. This model is decently water resistant, complying with the IP68 submersion standard. This means that you can use your watch in water with a depth up to 1.5m for 30 minutes. However, Huawei states: " You can wear your watch when you are washing your hands or in the rain. Do not wear it when washing cars, swimming, diving, scuba diving, or showering." These somewhat contradictory statements in the manual lead us to err on the side of caution when submerging your watch.
Following Ease of Use, the Smart Functions set of tests comprised 20% of the overall score. This metric's score was made up by comparing the app compatibility between models, whether or not you could take phone calls or control music from the watch, and if there were NFC and GPS. The Watch 2 by Huawei scored very well, meriting a 6 out of 10 for its set of smart functions. This compares quite favorably with the rest of the pack, as shown below.
To test app compatibility, we took a sample set of 10 popular apps (Uber, Facebook Messenger, Spotify, Strava, IFTTT, Evernote, Whatsapp, Shazam, Instagram, and Twitter) and attempted to install them on each watch. The Huawei Watch 2 scored above average, proving to be compatible with Uber, Messenger, Spotify, Strava, IFTTT, and Shazam.
This model does have a built-in microphone and speaker, allowing you to answer a voice call right from your wrist, as well as use the Google Assistant to streamline your use of this piece of wearable tech. The sound quality of the call was average but the voice audio was clear enough to understand the conversation well enough.
This model has similar music controls to the other Android Wear watches, with the necessary buttons popping up automatically to play/pause, skip, and adjust the volume. This watch also scored extra points by having a built-in GPS and an NFC chip. The NFC chip allows you to use Android Pay and use the Watch 2 as a payment method.
Equivalent to Smart Functions in weight, Display comprised 20% of the overall score. The Watch 2 failed to really impress us here, meriting a 5 out of 10 for its overall average performance. The chart below shows how this stacks up against the rest of the watches in the pack.
We had a panel of observers rate the screen on each watch and then aggregated the scores to rank screen quality, as well as evaluate the visibility of the screen in bright light and the screen adjustability to determine scores. The panel found the display on the Watch 2 to be subpar, rating it the second-worst of the group, similar to the Moto 360. This model does have the smallest screen of the group at 1.2" and is a fully circular, 390 x 390 AMOLED display.
We did like that this model has the ability to automatically adjust the brightness based on ambient light conditions or can be set to always be on with the screen illuminated. However, it was a little difficult to read the display in bright lighting conditions
Fitness Impact is the metric where the Huawei Watch 2 truly excels, earning the top score of the entire group with a 9 out of 10 for its stellar performance. The following chart shows how the rest of the models scored in terms of fitness tracking abilities.
We compared the effectiveness and accuracy of the step counter and the heart rate monitor, as well as the ability of each watch to track different workouts and count the flights of stairs climbed in a day. We tested the accuracy of the step counter on the Watch 2 against a manual count over a mile-long walk and found that there was only a discrepancy of about 1.8% or 39 steps.
This made it one of the more accurate counters of the group, putting it on par with the Gear S3 or the original Huawei Watch. In addition to the Google Fit app, the Watch 2 has its own heart rate app that you can use to check your current heart rate reading and it will record your pulse continuously while using the "Workout" app, refreshing about every 5 seconds.
It was in tracking different workouts and activities that truly set the Watch 2 apart. In addition to the standard Google Fit app that the other Android Wear watches have, this model comes complete with the "Runtastic" and "Workout" apps. This allows you to track a ton of different profiles, such as running, walking, cycling, hiking, Nordic walking, strength training, elliptical, ergometer, treadmill, and indoor cycling.
The Watch 2 tracks a variety of relevant stats for each activity, such as distance, duration, average heart rate, steps, pace, speed, and route, just to name a few. Finally, the daily tracking screen will show you how many feet you have climbed each day.
Our last metric, Battery Life, accounted for the residual 15% of the overall score. The Watch 2 rounded out the test with a solid performance in the battery life test, earning a 6 out of 10. You can see how this performance compared to the other watches in the graphic below.
We compared how long each watch lasted with normal use, how long it took to charge to 50%, and how long it took to completely charge to determine scores. The Watch 2 lasted for 36.5 hours of normal use, after which it entered "Watch Mode", where it only showed the basic data on the home screen. We simulated normal use by sending a prescribed schedule of calls, texts, emails, and other notifications to each model. The Watch 2 did earn some points by charging rapidly, reaching 50% after 31 minutes and completely charging after 90 minutes.
The Watch 2 is a bit pricey to be a bargain pick but is a top performer.
The Watch 2 by Huawei is a solid smartwatch that thoroughly improves on its predecessor. While we do wish Huawei had spent a little more effort on the overall design of the watch and on its display, this watch more than compensates with its excellent fitness tracking and a decent suite of smart features.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer