Hands on: Huawei Watch 2 review

Sidestepping the original in every way

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

The Huawei Watch 2 may fulfill your every need with its impressive suite of sensors and improved battery life, but the design may keep you waiting for what comes next.

For

  • Built-in GPS
  • NFC support for Android Pay
  • Lighter than its predecessor

Against

  • Sporty design may be a turn-off
  • LTE version not available in US

The original Huawei Watch is among the best Android Wear smartwatches, and the Huawei Watch 2, announced ahead of MWC 2017 in Barcelona, looks to up the ante with more connectivity options, Android Wear 2.0 and a more sporty look than we saw on its predecessor.

Interestingly, the Huawei Watch 2 looks less like a true successor to the slick and trim original and more like a blend of the Samsung Gear S3 and the LG Watch Urbane. It by no means looks bad, but Huawei is definitely angling this one toward athletic types based on the design decisions it's taken and the sensors it has packed inside.

Those hoping for a slimmer version of last year’s wearable will be disappointed, but there appears to be much that has improved on the inside. For instance, the battery capacity has improved, as has the pixel density of its AMOLED display.

Despite its divisive looks, the Huawei Watch 2 appears to have improved just enough to make it an appealing upgrade for those in the market for a new smartwatch. 

(And there might be hope for those not entranced by the Watch 2's looks. Just as it did with its Mate 9 smartphone, Huawei has announced that it will be releasing a Porsche-styled version of the Watch 2, which may very well offer a slicker alternative to the more athletic design of this standard edition.)

Design

The Huawei Watch 2, unlike the more office-friendly Huawei Watch 2 Classic, takes a sharp left turn in terms of its design. Holding the old alongside the new, you really wouldn’t be able to make a connection between the two devices.

As the rumors and leaks indicated, the Huawei Watch 2 is indeed built with a sporting state of mind. From the slightly bulky chassis to the bright silicon straps, there’s no hiding this smartwatch’s enthusiasm to get out and run around with you.

The watch comes in a range of colors: orange, black, and grey speckled with white dots. Each is built out of thermoplastic polyurethane and layered on top with ceramic around the bezel to add some flair.

The design changes can’t go unnoticed, and neither can the Huawei Watch 2’s drastic reduction in weight. We don’t know the exact weight of the original, but the new model weighs just 57 grams and feels roughly half its weight.

Huawei’s second generation smartwatch measures up at 45 x 48.3 x 12.6mm, which makes it roughly a millimeter thicker and bit wider at every angle than its predecessor. I’ll reiterate that the drop in weight in here pretty much detracts the added visual bulk.

Like the original Huawei Watch, you can swap in whichever band strikes your fancy so long as it can fit in the 20mm lug. Although, it’s worth mentioning that getting the stock bands off is a bit of a struggle at first compared to other Android Wear smartwatches. 

Performance

Following in the steps of the other current Android Wear smartwatches, the Huawei Watch 2 will feature a Snapdragon Wear 2100 to keep things running smoothly.

Backing up the chipset is a modest 512MB RAM and 4GB of onboard storage. Compared to Android Wear watches of old, Android Wear 2.0 takes greater advantage of the hardware inside. Native apps will test it harder and as a result, more work will be put on its battery.

Thankfully, Huawei boosted the battery capacity here. Instead of the 300mAh cell seen in the original, we’re treated here with 420mAh.

According to Huawei, the new battery will help the watch manage about two days with mixed use of its many features and sensors. If you’re someone who likes to track every last metric on a run, continuous use of the built-in GPS and heart rate sensor will cause its longevity to drop sharply to 10 hours.

If you’re someone who enjoys smartwatch features from time to time, but mostly just wants an attractive time piece that can track steps and tell the time, the Huawei Watch 2 can do just that with a feature called “watch mode”. It turns off basically ever feature aside from the aforementioned, but can last up to 25 days without a charge.

When you do eventually need to charge, it can charge from 0-100% in one hour.
Other noteworthy features include its IP68 protection against water and dust. If you’re someone who wants to pay for things without whipping out a phone or wallet, you’ll be happy to know that this watch has NFC and supports Android Pay. 

Price and release date

The Huawei Watch 2 is expected to be released in April in the UK, US and Australia and will cost €379 (around £320/ $400/ AU $520) for those looking to buy the 4G version and €329 (around £280/$345/ AU $450) for those picking up the Bluetooth version, though exact pricing in regions outside Europe hasn't been confirmed. 

Unfortunately, the 4G model will not see release in the United States. If you live there or paying for an extra SIM isn’t what you want, the Wi-Fi only model is still available. 

Early verdict

The Huawei Watch 2 does something bold: it shakes up a winning formula for something that looks nothing like what made it popular and beloved in the first place.

But that’s certainly not all bad. For those who love to sport, this may be the best choice around. It’s got a full waterproofing and a suite of sensors that cover a swath of physical activities. So long as you can swallow the design, the Huawei Watch 2 could very well be the smartwatch you’ve been waiting for. But then again, maybe it’s not. We’ll see shortly in the full review. 

MWC (Mobile World Congress) is the world's largest exhibition for the mobile industry, stuffed full of the newest phones, tablets, wearables and more. TechRadar is reporting live from Barcelona all week to bring you the very latest from the show floor. Head to our dedicated MWC 2017 hub to see all the new releases, along with TechRadar's world-class analysis and buying advice about your next phone.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cameron is the US mobile editor at TechRadar, covering the tech that's in your pocket, wrapped around your wrist, and strapped to your face. He's based in New York City.

Find him on Steam, or listen to some of his favorite tunes on Google Play Music.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.