The Huawei Watch Buds is a weird idea I love, but it's not quite there yet

A surprisingly good effort by Huawei to bring smartwatch and earbud together.

Huawei Watch Buds on blue background
(Image: © Michael Sawh)

TechRadar Verdict

You have to applaud Huawei for trying to do something different with smartwatches. While not everyone will need a smartwatch with a pair of secret earbuds, the Watch Buds proves it can be done with panache, and can hopefully be refined in future versions to make it a more attractive proposition.

Pros

  • +

    Added earbuds doesn’t equal a chunky design

  • +

    Powerful sounding earbuds

  • +

    HarmonyOS runs smooth

Cons

  • -

    It’s not cheap

  • -

    Not as slender as other Huawei watches

  • -

    Not suitable for swimming and showering

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Huawei Watch Buds: One minute review

The Huawei Watch Buds is a smartwatch that wants to appeal to those people who never want to leave without their smartwatch and truly wireless earbuds. Instead of scrambling around looking for where you left those buds lying around outside of the case, Huawei wants to keep that case and buds where you can always find them - on your wrist.

Enter the Watch Buds, which becomes one of Huawei’s priciest smartwatches that in return for more of your money gives you a watch running on its HarmonyOS operating system and inside of the watch case lies a set of dinky truly wireless earbuds.

Do we need a smartwatch with earbuds inside? Huawei certainly thinks we do. Does it work? Surprisingly well is the answer to that question, but (and forgive us for sounding slightly dramatic) at what cost? What compromises has Huawei had to make to bring the two wearables closer together? 

Despite the fact it works well, this is clearly an initial iteration of a unique idea. it's neither the best smartwatch, nor the best wireless earbuds, but a perfectly average attempt at both. These compromises might put some people off from grabbing the first-generation version of this inventive take on the smartwatch.

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Huawei Watch Buds specs:
ComponentHuawei Watch Buds
Price£449 / 499
Dimensions47 x 47.5 x 15mm
Weight66.5g (without strap)
Case/bezelStainless steel
Display466 × 466px, 1.43 inches, AMOLED
GPS?Yes, single-band
Battery life3 days
ConnectionBluetooth
Water resistant?No

Huawei Watch Buds: Price and availability

The Huawei Watch Buds is available now and is priced at £449, or 499 Euros. It doesn't currently have any official pricing in the US and Australia, likely due to Huawei's ongoing disputes with the US government. 

That price does mean it’s more expensive than Huawei’s Watch GT 3 Pro, so those added earbuds do come at a considerable extra cost. 

Huawei Watch Buds on blue background

(Image credit: Michael Sawh)

Huawei Watch Buds: Design and display

  • Watch case thickness isn’t overly chunky
  • Uses same AMOLED screen as Huawei Watch GT 3
  • Lower waterproof rating due to lid design

At first glance, the Huawei Watch Buds just looks like a very nice (albeit rather thick) smartwatch. It veers more on the side of a traditional watch look with a stainless steel case that comes in black or silver and a 22mm leather strap that can be removed if you’re not a fan of the leather.

Look at the watch from side-on and it’s surprising how passable the Watch Buds is for a regular-sized smartwatch. It is absolutely thicker than other Huawei Watches, but at 14.99 mm thick, it’s not a hulking beast that protrudes from your wrist as notably as, say, the Huawei Watch D is. Huawei has had to make the case thicker to accommodate those buds, but it’s a lot slimmer than we’d anticipated it would be.

Then we get to the 'buds' part, which you can locate by pressing a button at the front of the watch case, which then lifts like a lid to reveal a set of two, small black earbuds. They’re tiny little things that come with a set of small, medium, and large eartips. They magnetically snap into place inside the case, which is where the buds also get charged up. The lid design thankfully feels well-made rather than cheap, and hasn’t posed any issues opening and closing it throughout our testing.

As a result of hosting those buds inside the watch's casing, Huawei needed to change things on the durability front, specifically on how well it can deal with water. Unlike the 5 ATM protection used on most of Huawei’s watches, the Watch Buds is only IPX7 rated to guard against sweat and rain. The earbuds are IPX4 rated, making them fit for sweat mainly. If you want to take it swimming, or in the shower, don’t. 

This is a real drawback to the watch, as many of the best running watches at this price point are fully water-resistant and can be taken surfing, swimming, showering, paddleboarding... basically, wherever your adventures will take you. The Watch Buds isn't an adventuring fitness watch – the gimmick simply doesn't allow for it.

Elsewhere it’s all a pretty familiar story. There’s the same colorful, vibrant 1.43-inch, 466 x 466 resolution AMOLED screen as found on the Huawei Watch GT 3 and a watch crown-style button to offer a way to physically interact with the watch. The result is an attractive smartwatch that doesn’t show any obvious sign that it’s hiding away some earbuds.

  • Design score: 3.5/5

Huawei Watch Buds on blue background

(Image credit: Michael Sawh)

Huawei Watch Buds: Features

  • Harmony OS is nice and slick
  • Earbuds integration works well
  • Familiar sports and fitness tracking

If you’ve used a Huawei Watch, then using the Watch Buds will feel like a familiar experience. It uses basically the same version of HarmonyOS as the Watch GT series with a few features that are missing in action but are not hugely missed. There’s no temperature sensor or microphone or speaker, but in terms of the latter two things that’s where the earbuds come into play.

Those earbuds and how they work in conjunction with the watch is slick on the whole. You need to pair the watch to your phone if you want to listen to audio via your phone and they can be connected to other devices too. When you whip them out that opens up additional settings for the earbuds offering an EQ and both awareness and active noise cancellation modes.

The earbuds are small and we didn’t have an issue getting a good fit and when they’re in and your audio is playing, it does punch out very good audio quality for music and calls. There’s power, bass and there’s a good level of clarity and detail there too. Huawei has launched a fair few bright sounding truly wireless earbuds and these buds follow suit.

Using the awareness and active noise cancellation modes offer a good but not immaculate performance, particularly on the ANC side where it really depends on getting a good fit to block out that exterior sound. You’ll find earbuds that will deliver a more consistent ANC performance, but in the right environments it works well enough to make its inclusion useful.

While you can control the earbuds from the Watch you do also have some control on and around the buds as well. You can use a combination of taps on the buds on themselves or in specific areas around the ear to skip tracks, answer a call or enable one the ANC or Awareness modes. If you’re stationary, the responsiveness of those controls is very good, as soon as you introduce movement into the equation, things get a little trickier.

Outside of those buds, this is every bit a Huawei smartwatch. You’ve got that strong suite of sports tracking and activity tracking features. It doesn’t get the dual-band GPS mode featured on the GT Runner to improve outdoor tracking accuracy, but still gets good features like running courses and rich sleep tracking too. We found sports tracking in general to be good, though it doesn’t feel like the kind of watch you’d want to spend extended exercise time with unless you’ve got a more gym-friendly strap on it. You do get Huawei’s latest optical heart rate sensor here as well which is definitely a better fit for resting heart rate insights as opposed to exercise HR readings. 

As a smartwatch, it handles notification support well, particularly when paired to an Android smartphone, which does also support sending quick replies. You can carry around music on it as well, but you’ll need to load your own purchased and downloaded files yourself as opposed to storing offline playlists from a third party streaming service. You’ve got well implemented music controls and scope to add payment cards as well to use it to pay your way.

Adding the buds into the mix doesn’t adversely change what the Watch Buds is like to use as a watch, but you do have to live without a few features that you will find on Huawei’s cheaper smartwatch options.

  • Features score: 4/5

Huawei Watch Buds watch on wrist

(Image credit: Michael Sawh)

Huawei Watch Buds: Battery life

  • Less battery than Huawei Watch GT series smartwatches
  • Short 4 hour battery life for earbuds
  • Buds charge quickly inside case

Huawei has made big strides with smartwatch battery life in more recent years, but you’ll have to live with a smaller battery life on the Watch Buds.

When using both watch and buds regularly, you will get up to 3 days before both need charging. The watch part has the ability to go for 7 days in a power-saving mode, but that means turning off charging the buds each time you drop them back in the case.

The earbuds promise up to 4 hours of battery life or 2.5 hours of handling calls when you’re not using the active noise cancellation. When you enable ANC, then you can expect 3 hours of music streaming and 2 hours to make your calls.

We’d say those battery quotes in general are on the money, particularly when using the buds and watch each day. The earbud battery life feels a touch generous though, especially if you’re using them with ANC turned on and at louder volumes. 

For the watch, there’s a pretty standard white Huawei charging cradle you need to drop it onto while the earbuds charge in the case hogging battery from the watch is why you’ll see a more severe drop-off compared to other Huawei smartwatches. Those buds do charge quickly and you can get back up to 100% in under an hour spent in that case.

  • Battery life score: 3.5/5

Huawei Watch Buds: Buy it if…

You always forget your headphones

It’s much harder to forget your buds when you quickly get used to putting them back into the watch, meaning they’re always nearby if you need them.

You like punchy-sounding, dinky earbuds

The earbuds are small, but do offer a good fit overall and they can deliver some pretty good sound for both music and calls.

You like a classy-looking smartwatch

It’s less GT Runner and more GT 3 Pro in look and if you prefer a more elegant, traditional watch look, the Watch Buds will appeal.

Huawei Watch Buds: Don't buy it if…

You’re happy with carrying truly wireless earbuds

If you have no problem remembering to pack your buds, you can pick up a cheaper Huawei smartwatch and bud combo for less and have some money left over to spend on something else.

You want a swim-friendly smartwatch

That all-in-one design comes at a cost of durability and means the Watch Buds are not fit to be submerged underwater.

You want a super slim smartwatch

While it doesn’t make it screamingly obvious there are buds in that watch case, you can definitely pick up a much slender smartwatch from Huawei.

Also consider

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Also consider:
ComponentHuawei Watch BudsGoogle Pixel WatchHuawei Watch GT3 Pro
Price£449 / €499$350 / £340 / AU$550£299 / €315
Dimensions47 x 47.5 x 15mm41 x 41 x 12.3 mm47 x 47 x 11 mm
Weight66.5g (without strap)36g (without strap)54 g (without strap)
Case/bezelStainless steelStainless steelTitanium (ceramic available)
Display466 × 466px, 1.43 inches, AMOLED450 x 450 px, 1.2 inches, AMOLED466 x 466 px, 1.43 inches AMOLED
GPS?Yes, single-bandDual-band GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou, GalileoDual-band GPS. Beidou. GLONASS. Galileo, QZSS
Battery life3 days24 hoursUp to 14 days
ConnectionBluetoothBluetoothBluetooth
Water resistant?NoYes, 5ATMYes, 5ATM
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Google Pixel Watch

if you want something available in the US, capable of taking into the shower and operating brilliantly with non-Apple phones, the Google Pixel Watch is a great bet. 

Read our full <a href="https://www.techradar.com/reviews/google-pixel-watch-review" data-link-merchant="techradar.com"">Google Pixel Watch review

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Huawei Watch GT 3 Pro

Want a superior Huawei Watch that doesn't include headphones? Go for the GT 3 Pro.

Read our full <a href="https://www.techradar.com/reviews/huawei-watch-gt-3-pro-review" data-link-merchant="techradar.com"">Huawei Watch GT 3 Pro review

First reviewed March 2023

Michael Sawh

Michael is a freelance journalist who has covered consumer technology for over a decade and specializes in wearable and fitness tech. Previously editor of Wareable, he also co-ran the features and reviews sections of T3, and has a long list of bylines in the world of consumer tech sites.


With a focus on fitness trackers, headphones, running wearables, phones, and tablet, he has written for numerous publications including Wired UK, GQ, Men's Fitness, BBC Science Focus, Metro and Stuff, and has appeared on the BBC Travel Show. Michael is a keen swimmer, a runner with a number of marathons under his belt, and is also the co-founder of YouTube channel The Run Testers.