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Huawei Watch 2 hands-on review: here comes the competition!

Let's face it, what better opportunity is there for a company to launch a new smartwatch than at the Mobile World Congress? In addition to unveiling its new P10 and P10 Plus, Huawei is now revisiting the smartwatch and has released the Huawei Watch 2. The Chinese company's announcement follows hot on the heels of the release of the LG Watch Sport and arrival of Android Wear 2.0. The big question at the moment is what makes this smartwatch, aimed primarily at those sportier types, really stand out? Here are our first impressions.

Huawei Watch 2 release date and price

It's taken a little over two years for Huawei to present a new version of the Huawei Watch. This time, however, the company has opted to move away from luxury to focus instead on sport and fitness. This shouldn't come as a big surprise as here Huawei is moving with the global market trend which is taking smartwatches in this direction. The Huawei Watch 2 is expected to be released some time in April and will cost around $350. Color wise, it will be available in Carbon Black, Dynamic Orange, Titanium Grey and Concrete Grey. The Huawei Watch 2 Classic will be available from May for $420 in Titanium Grey with a black leather armband.

Huawei Watch 2 design and build quality

Over the past two years Huawei has made a lot of progress in terms of developing its smartwatches. This is evident both on an aesthetic level but also in the high-quality of its finishes. Compared to the first generation, the Huawei Watch 2 is thinner and smaller. One of the biggest marketing points about the device is how light the device is, weighing in at around 57 g, making it the lightest 4G smartwatch to be developed so far. As it is a smartwatch intended for sports and fitness, it has a durable plastic casing and includes silicone straps. The Huawei Watch 2 Classic, which we didn't get a change to test in our hands-on, is made of metal with a leather strap. In other news, Huawei has retained the characteristic round shape it has used in all its smartwatches to date.

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The Huawei Watch 2 has a sporty look and is available in a variety of colors. / © AndroidPIT

With IP68 certification, the Huawei Watch 2 should be protected just like its predecessor against water. This does not mean that you can swim with it. The certification also applies to the LTE-capable model with a slot for a nano-SIM card.

The straps of the watches can be exchanged effortlessly. There will be a series of color variations and materials; For the time being, Huawei is limited to the aforementioned colors.

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Compact body, colorful strap. / © AndroidPIT

Huawei Watch 2 display

The new Huawei Watch features a 1.4-inch display and 390 x 390 resolution, and is covered in Gorilla Glass 3. Since these are sportier, they also have IP68 certification for staying dry in outdoor activities. That said, this doesn't mean that you'll be able to go for a swim with it. After all, this certification also applies for its LTE-capabilities and nano-SIM card slot.

This new definition offers greater comfort for day-to-day use, but the display itself is quite dark so it may be a difficult to see in some light conditions.

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Unfortunately the display is a little too dark. / © AndroidPIT

Huawei Watch 2 special features

For the first time ever Huawei installed a GPS Tracker in the Watch 2. Additionally, the watch is available in an LTE version. The latter does not rely on the standard eSIM and instead uses a nano-SIM card, which can also be used in a smartphone. Among the sensors that have been built into the watch is an optical HR sensor, an accelerometer, a gyroscope and NFC for Android Pay.  

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The Huawei Watch 2 comes well equipped for all your sporting needs. / © AndroidPIT

Another important feature for sports tracking is that the Huawei Watch now allows you to see your VO2Max value. Step counter and a light-based pulse meter are, of course, also included. If you want to use a chest belt with your heart rate monitor, you can also link it directly to the Huawei Watch 2 via Bluetooth and use it in the fitness app; Android Wear 2 is equipped for this. You can also use third party apps with it.

The second button on the watch has no dedicated function. If you press it the smartwatch will ask you about what you need: Should it activate the training mode or turn on the egg timer, call someone or turn on the stopwatch? Whether or not this provides any added value to the Watch 2 is something we'll be able to determine after a more thorough test.

Huawei Watch 2 software

Obviously, the new Huawei Watch 2 comes equipped with Android Wear 2.0, based on Android 7.1.1 Nougat. The update was officially announced at the beginning of February, and its jam-packed full of new features that are included in the Huawei Watch 2. As result we find the new Android Wear interface with its new app drawer and practical features, especially those catering for the sports enthusiasts out there. With this new version, you'll now be able to install apps directly on to the smartwatch without the aid of a paired smartphone. The smartwatch also includes WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2 and 4G LTE. 

The watch allows you to change the dial and include the features you want on the device, such as a pedometer or a heart rate monitor.

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The Huawei Watch 2 has all the benefits that come with Android Wear 2.0. / © AndroidPIT

Huawei Watch 2 performance

Under the hood, the Huawei Watch 2 has a Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor and 2 GB of internal storage. The hardware on the watch has changed very little from its predecessor, but the expected performance improvements are largely thanks to the new software. We'll only be in a position to really put it through its paces when we're able to connect the Watch 2 to a smartphone, so for the time being we'll reserve our judgement. 

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Thanks to the Nano-SIM, the Watch S can connect to the LTE network. / © AndroidPIT

Huawei Watch 2 audio

The Huawei Watch 2, like its predecessor, can be used for quick phone calls from the wrist without a smartphone or headset, although this might not be the most comfortable way to talk.

Huawei Watch 2 battery

In terms of power, the Huawei Watch 2 comes with a battery capacity of 420 mAh. The Chinese manufacturer promises up to 2 full days of battery life. A fantastic new addition to the battery is the Watch Mode function. When this is activated you should manage to get 40 hours of basic use (i.e. checking the time and seeing your step count) with just 10% battery remaining on the device. The Watch 2 could last up to 25 days on a single charge if you activate this mode. Unfortunately, we've not had a chance yet to see if the Watch 2 lives up to such bold claims. Once we've completed a full test we'll be in a better position to confirm whether Huawei has kept its promises here.

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The battery life on the Watch 2 sounds almost too good to be true. / © AndroidPIT

Huawei Watch 2 technical specifications

Battery size: 420 mAh
Screen size: 1.2 in
Screen: 390 x 390 pixels (326 ppi)
Android version: Android Wear
User interface: Stock Android
RAM: 768 MB
Internal storage: 4 GB
Removable storage: Not available
Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100
Number of cores: 4
Max. clock speed: 1.1 GHz
Connectivity: LTE, NFC, Bluetooth 4.1

Early Verdict

Huawei have taken their time to improve upon the original Huawei Watch, but it has to be said that this strategy has paid off because the new Huawei Watch 2 is an elegant device which benefits from the new features that come with Android Wear 2.0. That being said, owners of the original can continue to use it without worry, as it is getting the Android Wear 2.0 update.

The Chinese manufacturer has also targeted a specific market, developing a smartwatch model for sportspeople. It's becoming clear that Samsung, with its Gear S3, finally has some genuine competition. How well it performs in everyday life against the competition, we will have to find out in our full review coming sometime in March.

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