Hands on: Huawei Watch GT review

Huawei's latest smartwatch doesn't come with Wear OS

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

The Huawei Watch GT doesn't look to be the most accomplished smartwatch, but that's not what the company intends with this device. If fitness and battery life are the most important things for you, the Watch GT may be worth it if the price is right.

For

  • Great battery life estimates
  • Strong fitness tech

Against

  • Limited software
  • No mobile payments

The first two Huawei Watch products were a big part of the success of Android Wear, so it comes as a surprise that the company has backed away from Google's wearable platform for the new Huawei Watch GT.

The company has now switched to its own software away from the world of Wear OS, as a way to focus on improving the battery life on the watch.

We've had some limited time trying out the Huawei Watch GT, and below you'll find all of our first thoughts on the latest smartwatch from the company.

Huawei Watch GT release date and price 

The less premium Huawei Watch GT price is set at £199 (about $230, AU$320), while a more elegant version is set to cost around $290, £220 or AU$400. Pre-orders are open in the UK, but we don't currently know if you'll be able to get it in the US or Australia.

Retailers in the UK including Very and Littlewoods are claiming the watch will be ready for delivery on November 1.

Huawei Watch GT

Design and display 

This is a thin and light smartwatch with a full color display, and we found it comfortable to wear during our limited testing time. The design is similar to the Huawei Watch 2, but this is a very different product.

It's 10.6mm thick to be exact, and that means it sits on your wrist comfortably and won’t be weighing it down like some smartwatches can do in 2018.

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There's a 1.39-inch AMOLED display that we found to be bright and clear, but we don't currently know the exact resolution of the display. It looked to have similar clarity to the Huawei Watch 2.

The touchscreen display seemed to work well under the finger, and there are two buttons on the right hand side of the watch that help you navigate around its interface.

The top button works to take you back a menu, while the one on the bottom is designed for you to set up your own shortcuts.

The design itself is very similar to the Huawei Watch 2 and it's a combination of ceramic and metal that looks premium.

You've got the choice of a silver body on the watch with a brown leather strap (that has silicone on the inside to make it comfortable while you're exercising) or a black watch body with a black silicone strap at the same time too. 

We preferred the silver and brown option, but both look good on the wrist and you'll especially like it if you're a fan of Huawei's last smartwatch.

Fitness

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We don't currently know all of the fitness features available on the Watch GT, but it seems to be one of the biggest focuses of the product.

It comes with GPS onboard, and there's a heart rate tracker on the rear that we found worked quite well in our quick testing. There are modes on this device for a variety of exercises, and we'll be sure to share all of the details with you during our full review.

It's 5ATM waterproof, so you’ll be confident when taking this in the pool when you're swimming and working out there.

Software 

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Here's where the Huawei Watch GT looks to struggle, and it's because the company has included its own LightOS software on the watch.

This isn't Wear OS like a lot of smartwatches from Android phone manufacturers, and instead this own software seems to be particularly limited.

There's no support for third-party apps, and when we questioned whether the company was looking to bring in support it seemed like the company has no intention to bring that to this platform. 

That may be subject to change, but at the moment what you see on the Watch GT is what you get.

That includes lots of fitness tech, customizable watch faces and notifications, but apart from that it's quite limited. For example, there's no Google Pay support here as there's no NFC chipset or suitable software on the watch.

That feels quite limited when there are lots of alternatives out there that allow you to have all of these features on the watch alongside some others.

Battery and performance 

Huawei Watch GT

Our very limited testing also found the watch to be quite slow. When rolling through the apps it looked to be very jolty and it took a few seconds to find the right app for whatever you’re looking for. 

Our unit did have pre-production software so we are hopeful this is an issue that will be sorted by the time the watch is ready to buy on shelves.

Battery life is where the Huawei Watch GT gets truly exciting though, and the company believes this watch should be able to last almost a whole month without needing a charge.

Depending on what features you’ll be using, you’ll find different levels of battery life. Estimates from the company include a two week battery for mixed usage, but around a day for when you’re using the GPS features.

If you’re using the watch without its always-on display active or GPS, Huawei says the watch should be able to last for a whole 30 days. 

That would be quite impressive, and it’d provide similar battery life to the long-life mode on the Ticwatch Pro. It's worth bearing in mind that the Ticwatch Pro has Wear OS software onboard, so if you're after a watch with top battery life but you want Google's software that could be an option for you.

Early verdict

This isn't the sequel to the Huawei Watch 2 that we had been expecting. Instead this is a different type of product that will sit alongside the company's Wear OS watches, and while it does seem to have limited software the improved battery life may be worth it for some users.

If you're looking for a smartwatch with a design similar to the Watch 2 and you want to focus on the fitness features of your wrist companion, it'll be worth checking back soon for our full review of the Watch GT.

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.