At the Launch of the Mate 20 Pro, Huawei surprised us all with the Watch GT, a fitness watch with a difference. It had a great screen, 2-week battery, GPS for running and all this in a package that looks like a real watch. So I reached out to Huawei to see if they could send one over for review, and here it is.
- Very well made
- Battery just goes on and on
- Fitness tracking is superb
- Looks nice
- Not a smartwatch
- Stuttery performance
- Poor notifications
- Uncomfortable to sleep in
Disclaimer: Huawei provided this Watch GT for review, but they have no bearing on the outcome of the review. Once this review goes live, the GT will be on it’s way back to Huawei. The Watch has received 3 major software OTAs since I’ve been using it (nearly 3 weeks) the latest being 18.104.22.168.
- 1.39” AMOLED screen
- 454×454 screen resolution
- 46mm face
- 10.5mm thickness
- 46g weight
- 128mb of internal storage
- 16mb RAM
- Bluetooth 4.2 BLE
- Optical heart sensor
- Ambient Light sensor
For a more complete spec list, hit up the Huawei site here
I feel like, for the most part, Huawei nailed the design and hardware here. This is a stunningly built watch. The watch GT is thin enough that it doesn’t get caught on shirt cuffs, the buttons actuate with a nice click and the screen looks great for the most part, but I will say im not a fan of the dial indicators on the bezel, that seems like a misstep to me, and no variant of the Watch GT doesn’t have them as far as I know.
The Watch GT nails the part about Looking like a normal watch. It doesn’t look like a computer on your wrist, which is great, something that many others can’t claim. The style of Watch Huawei is going for is very masculine, with very exposed lugs for the straps (which are standard 22mm straps by the way) which you’ll either like or not, I prefer the aesthetic o the Ticwatch C2 personally, but I know people that will like this more “active” look, and that’s fine.
Speaking of those straps, it’s a standard 22mm band, meaning you can buy any type of strap from online, but the one I received with my GT was the black and dark grey silicone strap, and it was a great pairing, because whilst the GT looks like a normal watch, it is first and foremost a fitness device, and I personally wouldn’t want a nice suede or leather trap to go in the pool when I get my GT to track my workout. Huawei ship a nice, soft, high-quality silicone strap with the GT, I had no issues wearing it day one, no breaking in needed, which is a nice change from some fitness devices.
Taking a bit of a hardware tour of the GT, up front is the big bright 1.39” AMOLED display, and for the most part, this is a gorgeous screen, and it makes sense, it’s big at almost 1.4inches, it’s got a nice high resolution at 454×454, but something feels off here. Whether the software isn’t doing any anti-aliasing or it is just doing bad anti-aliasing, something feels wrong here, the Watch GT screen looks stunning… as long as you aren’t looking at text, which looks a little bit off on the Watch GT’s screen.
Colours? Gorgeous. Viewing angles? Gorgeous. Power consumption? I assume to be amazing. The Screen on the Watch GT really is good, even the daylight visibility is pretty good. The UK at this time of year doesn’t have much sun to contend with, but even so, the bright daylight is nothing compared to what the screen as able to produce and I was able to see everything perfectly fine.
The left hand side of the watch has the two buttons, a main select button which doubles as a power button and a home button, and a secondary function button. These work fine. The main button opens the application tray and the second one opens the workout tracker. Ling pressing the top button gets you into the power screen, letting you power off or reboot the watch./ the lower button allows you to lock the screen of the watch so if you’re going swimming but don’t want to track it I guess?
On the back is a decent amount of gear, there are two magnets for the charger (for lining up as well as charger polarity) and the rest is for the optical heart rate scanner. I can’t pretend how it works, so I can say the colours look nice and the output seems reasonable compared to the other devices I’m using. My one complaint with the Watch GT is the size of the face. I have smaller wrists. That’s not a secret, I’ve written it in reviews for years, so for me, I feel that the Honor Watch Magic would have been a better fit for my minuscule wrists. The Watch Magic is a smaller 42mm watch at 9mm thick, much better for my teeny tiny baby wrists.
I’m going to try and be as level-headed as I can be here, but if I’m honest, the software on the Watch GT is just kind of a mess. Starting with some of the good bits shall we. The Navigation paradigm, taps and swipes only, not rotational input devices here I’m afraid. Aside from that though, getting around the OS on the Watch GT is pretty simple. The Main “home screen” is your watch face, swiping down from the top gets you to the quick settings panel. Swiping up from the watch face gets you to your notification hub. Swiping from left to right gets you to the fitness panel, which shows you your step count and goal rings etc. and lastly swiping from right to left opens up the heart rate tracking features in real-time. The two buttons on the side also help you navigate, the top button from the watch face will open the app launcher screen, but pressing it anywhere else on the watch just returns you to the watch face. The bottom button works as a quick shortcut button to the exercise tracker with an entire pre-programmed list in there.
All this works really well and doesn’t have much of a learning curve at all, but my problem with this is that it is just slow and unoptimised. This was massively improved in the last update, but swiping around the watch just judders and drops frames like a cheap phone or an RTX 2080ti trying to play something with Ray tracing turned on. I am almost 100% sure that it is a software optimisation problem and not a problem of there not being enough resources to run a watch, because if it is the latter, Huawei has really dropped the ball.
Let’s talk about the things the GT is meant for, fitness tracking. This is where the GT shines. Whether it’s counting my steps as I walk to the pool, or clocking my times and measuring my strokes per minute on a speed run, the Watch GT just does it perfectly. I bring up swimming a lot as that is my main form of exercise. 3 times a week I swim 750m (soon going to 1000m) and I track my times, but with the Watch GT I’m able to measure so much more. When it goes into swim mode it even locks the screen so the water doesn’t trigger the touch screen, neat!
The Watch GT also does sleep tracking, and whereas things like my Mi Band 3 from Xiaomi will say you slept for 8 hours, and 50 minutes of that 8 hours was deep sleep. The WAtch GT will tell you that you slept for 8 hours, that 50 minutes of it was deep sleep, and 10 minutes of that deep sleep was REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement). It then plots your sleep against what the range for normal is. The Watch GT is able to give you so much more data that could be useful or just interesting, and almost gamifies sleep. The problem with this though is that a 46mm watch is kinda huge to wear to bed, even if it is a slim and relatively lightweight watch it still felt a bit like a dinnerplate on my wrist at night.
Now we come to the worst part of the software for me: Notifications. This is, without a shadow of a doubt, the part that makes me dislike using the Watch GT. I wear a smartwatch as one thing above all else, a Notification Screener, or as I call it an “is it important?” machine. Is that notification important? *checks wrist* no, gets back to work. And if it is important acting on it there and then. On my TicWatch 2, I can respond to notifications, I can mark as read from the watch to deal with it on the phone, I can take phone calls through the speaker on the watch. On the TicWatch Pro with WearOS I can do all of those, and I also have the Google Assistant on my wrist for queries. But on the Watch GT, it just pops up a bubble with the notification and then goes away. Nothing else. If I then go to the notification hub at the base of the watch face, it’s just a long stuttery scroll through these messages with a “clear all” button at the bottom. There is no triage for your notifications, this might as well just say you have a message, because it is not much more useful than that currently.
The Best way I can describe the experience of the Watch GT is that one day, a Fitbit style fitness tracker got a wish from a Genie, and like Pinoccio wanted to be a real boy, the Fitbit wanted to be a real watch!, and the genie granted the wish, but while it now looked like a watch, the Watch GT still only knew how to be a Fitbit, so it was great at it is fitness stuff, but it doesn’t know how to be a smartwatch and that’s it’s problem.
Now, this is unequivocally awesome. The Watch GT easily got me 2 weeks of battery even with continuous heart rate monitoring through the day and sleep tracking. This is also with 6 workouts in that period where it has to work out some extra stuff.
Huawei put in a big enough battery that only takes about 2 hours to fully charge and lasts you 2 weeks, and I’m sure you can probably get to 3 or 4 weeks if you didn’t have continuous heart rate tracking, I just wanted to see if I could kill the watch quickly, but I couldn’t. The Watch GT has been on the charger twice since I’ve gotten it and one of them was day one when it arrived dead.
I also want to speak about the charger which is pretty great. The Charger is a standard magnetic puck affair, which is fine, but holy crap these magnets are strong. I’m not saying you should, but you can place the watch on the puck, turn it upside down and shake the puck and the watch is being held on for dear life. The other good thing? The charger has a detachable cable, and that cable is USB-C! Huzzah! Even peripherals are moving towards it now, and I am so excited. The one weird thing about the charger though, is the magnets have a clear polarity. The USB cable sticks out the right side where the two buttons are, and you cannot turn it around, which sucks.
The miscellaneous section of my reviews tend to be about those things that deserve to be said but don’t need their own section. For the Watch GT, this amounts to a single thing, The Updates. The Watch GT has had 3 major updates since I’ve been using it, and man is it an ordeal. Downloading the 3-5mb updates is a breeze, you do it through the app, but then comes the issue, transferring it to the watch. The Last update, the 22.214.171.124 update took 57 minutes to transfer from my BlackBerry KEY2 to the watch. Almost an hour to transfer a 5.88mb update from the phone to the watch, that is utterly insane. You know what is worse? The fact that it failed… twice, and that 57 minutes is only for the third attempt. This is ridiculous Huawei.
So overall, do I like the Watch GT? Yes, yes I do, but Im not sure who it is for. it’s a piss poor smartwatch, but it is a really really great fitness tracker, but it is a bit big to be a fitness tracker for most, and it is too pretty to really be an outdoors-y fitness tracker. For a lot of people wanting the fitness functions of this, the Huawei Band 3 Pro would be a better choice. It does all the same amazing stuff, in a slimmer, sleeker, lighter and cheaper package, the only potential downside is that it is a band not a watch.
Maybe if you’re the person that wakes up at 5am to go to the gym before work, then takes a run in your lunch break, and then goes for a Dinner with your colleagues, and then goes to the gym once more before bed, and you really don’t want to change your watch, this is for you. But for the rest of us? Buy a band and a better smartwatch.