Some of you may know that for the last year, reviews withstanding, I have been wearing the Huawei Watch GT2 as my daily watch, and I’ve been loving it. Any of the issues I had with the GT2 could be fixed in software, so when I heard that Huawei was releasing a new watch and that it would massively update the outside, I was intrigued.
- Lovely build quality
- Material choice was perfect
- 2-week battery life
- Great fitness and Health Tracking
- Just a shell upgrade over GT2 at double cost
- Limited interaction with notifications
- No fitness synching outside of Huawei
- 46mm diameter
- 11.4mm thick
- 52g (without strap)
- Titanium casing
- Sapphire cover crystal
- Ceramic rear casing
- Kirin A1 SoC
- 1.39” 454×454 AMOLED screen
- Bluetooth 5.1
- 455mAh Li-Ion battery
This is a stunning watch. Internally sure it is almost identical to the GT2 from a year ago, just with the added Barometer, but on the outside, these are two different classes. The Titanium casing feels so much better than the aluminium of my model, the ceramic back on my skin feels nicer and the sapphire cover glass feels different and actually looks different due to the way it refracts light.
If you’ve never held titanium, or rather a titanium accessory like a watch or bracelet, it’s hard to explain why it is better than aluminium. Sure it is stiffer than aluminium at the same weight, and at much lower weights it can be just as stiff, but that’s not all, it feels different even with the same brushed texture, and it has a lower thermal conductivity than aluminium, so when you pick it up after not wearing it, it won’t feel cold as it saps the heat from your hand. It’s harder to scratch and dent it is just such a nice material as a consumer. The problem with Titanium is, it is an absolutely pain to machine into things and it is expensive to make, which is why you rarely see it used in less expensive items.
This also extends to the other two premium materials on this watch, the sapphire crystal cover glass and the ceramic rear covering. The sapphire cover glass is actually quite common in the watch space. Manufactured/Lab-grown sapphire is chemically and geologically identical to stuff we dig up but we found out how to make it. And whilst make sheets of it big enough for phones is really hard, for small watches like this, it is been done for a long time and it once again feels different and looks different. Sapphire’s thermal conductivity is almost 30 times higher than that of borosilicate glass meaning it does feel cold when you touch it. But Sapphire also reacts with light in a different way and in so the screen is slightly more reflective than standard glass, but when not in direct light the colours on the screen appear brighter. This could also be due to how OLEDs emit light, but I do know that. The main reason you’d use Sapphire though? it’s ridiculously scratch resistant. using the Mohs hardness scale, the higher the number the harder the material is to scratch. most Glass used in phones is some version of a chemically toughened glass, one of the most well known is Gorilla glass by Corning. in the words of the venerable Zack Nelson, “the glass has light scratches at a Level 6, with deeper grooves at a level 7”, Sapphire, on the other hand, doesn’t start to scratch until 9, with 10 being diamonds, so yeah, a scratch-free watch? yes please.
Lastly is the ceramic back, which compared to the plastic back on the GT2 isn’t even really a comparison. it is heavier, it is more slippery, but it is also incredibly scratch resistant, and importantly for the GT2 Pro is able to let electrons pass so Qi Wireless charging is possible (Qi is also doable through plastic, but ceramic is cooler). Ceramic also has this cool iridescent almost liquid metal-like look to it, and these three things together really do elevate the feel of the GT2 Pro and make it feel much more expensive compared to the previous watch.
Now I’ve waxed poetic about the hardware changes, let’s do a small tour. Upfront is the watch face. The sapphire glass has a much shallower chamfer on the edge and forgoes the chronograph markings for simple lines. On the left-hand side is the slit in the case for the microphone, this is actually cut out of the ceramic back and sits flush to the titanium. The right-hand side has the two pushers, both elegant and beautifully knurled for more texture. Whilst they do spin, there is no encoding so you can’t use it to scroll like on the Apple Watch or some WearOS watches. Below the pushers is the speaker for listening to music or taking phone calls. That Speaker is surprisingly capable actually, paired with a microphone array that doesn’t suck, if I was in a relatively quiet or open enough space, most people didn’t know I was speaking to them through my watch. Volume was louder than expected but did lack some body to the sound, but this is a tiny speaker in a tiny watch, what do you expect.
Above and below the screen is where the lugs are, whereas the GT2 had separate spike type lugs, the GT2 Pro’s are covered and the top part of the watch strap is actually covered. I’m actually not so much of a fan of this change, it feels cheap to me, but this is one of those things that is very subjective. On the rear, when compared to the GT2 the sensor layout has changed, but I’m not sure if the sensors themselves have changed. With a heart rate sensor, a Blood Oxygen (spO2) sensor on the rear using different types of lights emitted and reflected back, the heart rate sensors are usually pretty accurate, but as many have mentioned, the SpO2 tracker is usually done somewhere meaty, like the fingertip, the back of the wrist is just too thin to get an accurate measurement, and something as important as blood oxygen saturation even 1-2% can be a big difference.
The included leather strap that Huawei provides is absolutely gorgeous, and whilst I wanted to use it, this is a review unit, and in our current pandemic, I wouldn’t feel comfortable sending back the watch strap that I had worn, so instead my testing was done in the silicone strap (which I can wash easily) and my own leather watch strap from the GT2, this doesn’t look as nice as it is a year old and started to wear, but it is incredibly supple and more comfortable than trying to break in a new leather watch strap. Thankfully, these are just standard 22mm watch straps, so maybe you don’t like the leather one or the included silicone one, you want a metal butterfly clasp one, well you can use one here as long as its 22mm, nice.
Whilst internally the GT2 Pro is the same watch, the external changes are what make the difference and make this “Pro”. These are materials used in horology for a reason, and Huawei took the sensible approach here of taking the proven platform of the GT2 and fancying it up, and they did a great job.
This is a section that I could almost copy and paste from last year’s review. Whilst the LiteOS Huawei uses is very stripped back, and the Kirin A1 is a potent chipset, this still has the few odd hiccups that I can only describe as “frame hitching” wherein the animation is almost done and the watch is about to start something else and it remembered it had to finish the animation first. This doesn’t happen very often, but on a watch this price, it should happen at all.
As with most watch operating systems, the navigation paradigms are pretty similar. You start at your watch face, swiping down from the top gets you to quick settings, which on here has Do not disturb, Screen on for 5 minutes, find my phone, alarm, and Settings. With indicators for whether it is connected to your phone, the battery percentage and the current date. Swiping up from the bottom of the watch face gets you to your notifications. Whilst you can see your notifications and dismiss them, that’s all you can do, after a year I was really hoping Huawei would have allowed us to send quick replies or voice replies, but sadly not.
Swiping left and right from the watch face is a carousel so whichever place you start you end up the same. So, swiping from right to left has the heart-rate scanner, next is the stress monitor, then there is Weather and lastly sleep tracking. Within the settings, you can change these, either remove any of those or add in music control and activity rings. Music Control has been iffy for me on the GT2 Pro, when playing music stored on the watch it’s flawless, as it should be. When playing music stored on a phone on an offline media player app (such as the built-in music app or Shuttle) it was mostly fine unless I have rebooted the phone recently then I would need to open the app up once, and it was fine thereon in. With Streaming services, much more finicky. I was a Google Play Music user (may it rest in peace) and that was a crapshoot as to whether it would communicate properly with the watch sometimes controls would but cover art was wrong, or volume wouldn’t work. Now I have begrudgingly moved to YouTube Music and when it works it’s pretty flawless, the problem is that the watch rarely thinks of YouTube Music as a music app (which is a mood), so the watch doesn’t show any controls. I have heard that Spotify control from the watch is a lot more consistent, which is good as Spotify has a large user base.
Pressing the top pusher opens up the applications menu with entries for workouts, workout records, Workout status, Heart Rate, SpO2, Activity rings, sleep tracking, stress tracking, breathing exercises, call logs, favourite contacts, music control, Air Pressure, Compass, Weather, Stopwatch, Timer, Alarm, Torch, Find your phone and finally settings. There is a lot built into this watch, more than I’ll need, but there are people who will be sad there is nothing like Strava support, however, I feel like Huawei could if they wanted to, add Strava sync to the Huawei Health app on your phone.
Talking about the Huawei Health app, this is how you change certain settings, add new watch faces, apply system updates and check your sleep and workout logs. The Health app has 4 tabs along the bottom: Health, Exercise, Devices, Me. Health is your logs data logs, how many steps you’ve taken, how long that is, how many calories you’ve burnt. Your Heart rate logs, how you slept last night and more, this is presented in a really nice way, it’s clean and information-dense without suffering from information overload.
The second tab is the exercise tab. This is one of the better on device companion apps I’ve seen you can start a run, walk or cycle session from here, it has a GPS map overlay here, but also if you aren’t quite sure how you want to work out there are courses at the bottom of indoor and outdoor running, which is awesome. For example, if I look into the Outdoor run/walk primary course, it’ll tell me it’s a level 1 basic course, it should take about 22 minutes and you should burn 132kcals. Then it breaks down the course. This is so much more detailed than others I’ve seen and need to give Huawei credit here.
The third tab is the devices tab if you’ve got any Huawei devices connected they show up here, so, for instance, my GT2 is here, my GT2 Pro is here and so if the Honor Watch ES as I’m reviewing that as well. If you click into the active device, in this case, the GT2 Pro we see a render of the watch up top, below that we use connection status and current battery life, below that is your steps, calories, the distance for this day. Below that is your watch faces, which you can open up and go to the watch face store and update your watch faces.
Below that is a set of 7 sections with watch specific settings ranging from health monitoring, music management, your alarm, weather reports, favourite contacts. There is also a help section and a troubleshooting section as helpful as they are you’re likely to never need them.
Lastly, the “other” section has the settings for notifications, which lets you check which apps are allowed to send you notifications, below that is a seemingly wasted section for “Device settings” that has 2 toggles, one for raise to wake, and the other to alert you if the watch disconnects from the phone. Below that is the factory reset switch, and lastly, the Firmware update setting, which will be something you’ll be seeing quite often as Huawei has sent out near bi-monthly updates to the GT2 over the year I’ve been using it, and the GT2 Pro has had 2 updates in the 2 weeks I’ve had it.
Much like I said in the Zepp E review, this is a very limited software set on purpose, there are no assistants, there are no app stores or keyboards or LTE, this is a Bluetooth tether to your phone, it is a cracking fitness companion and health monitor too, and the limitations make the watch a better platform for me, even if it might not be for you.
Battery and Charging
Having used the GT2 for the last year, this was great for me, because there was no change. The same 2-week battery life (this entire review was conducted on one charge) and the same 1 hour-ish charge to get those 2 weeks again, nice.
What has changed this time around is the charger itself. Instead of a rather strong magnetic puck attaching to the rear using 2 pogo pins to initiate charging, the GT2 Pro eschews pogo pins for Qi charging, the downside to this, paired with the more slippery rear panel the charger does seem to have a weaker magnet thankfully alignment isn’t an issue and it is the same size as the base meaning as long as the magnet is attached, it’ll charge, there is a standard USB-C port on the side of the puck so any USB-C power cable you have will work to charge the GT2 Pro, or because it’s just Qi, any wireless charger you have, or even your phone if it features reverse wireless charging.
The GT2 Pro, as the title says, is much of the same, but fancier. Is that a bad thing? Not one bit, but at nearly double the price you can currently buy a GT2 for, the materials alone, I do not feel make up the cost delta, at £300 it is just a bit much, especially when you can get an Apple Watch SE for as little as £269, you get a lot more functionality and polish there, even if the selection of the materials is weaker.
If you’ve got a GT2, do not upgrade, but if you know you like the experience that Huawei provides and can appreciate the new materials on offer, I can’t think of a better-built device, it just exudes premium and craftsmanship to me. Now I need to not cry as I box this back up to go to Huawei.