Huawei Watch GT 2 review: Highly capable GPS sports watch with advanced sleep tracking

Huawei's best wearable yet launches with advanced activity tracking, GPS, and offline music support. It's a solid GPS sports watch, but you can't buy it in the US.

Six new sports watches for the casual athlete to the ultrarunner Wearables today have advanced sensors to help you track your activity 24/7. Matt Miller says that while the Apple Watch is a great smartwatch, there are many other wearables focused on helping you collect data and use it to improve your health and fitness. Read more: https://zd.net/2lobqlP

The Apple Watch dominates the smartwatch market and there is really no other competitor if you are looking for a watch with third party app support. Garmin and Samsung do well with GPS sports watches that have advanced activity tracking and offline music support. Huawei's latest watch, the Watch GT 2, offers many features and functions similar to Garmin and Samsung at a lower price, but it's not available for buyers in the US.

The new Huawei Watch GT 2 is available for £179 for the 42mm model and £199 for the larger 46 mm model. For the past few weeks I've been testing the 46mm Watch GT 2 Sport variant and have been impressed by its capabilities and disappointed its not an option for US customers.

See also: Garmin Forerunner 945 review: Music, mapping, payments, pulse, and incident detection

The Watch GT 2 is a high quality wearable focused on 24/7 tracking with GPS capability. It also has a speaker onboard so like an Apple Watch or Samsung Galaxy watch you can carry on phone calls with a connected phone. It provides basic notifications from your smartphone and there is no third party app store to add apps so it's not really considered a smartwatch competitor.

Specifications

  • Display: 1.39 inch 454 x 454 pixels resolution AMOLED touchscreen
  • Storage: About 2GB of internal storage for offline MP3 storage
  • Water resistance: 5 ATM
  • Bands: Silicone with quick release pins
  • Connectivity and sensors: Bluetooth 5.1 LE, GPS, optical HR, air pressure, gyroscope, accelerometer, geomagnetic
  • Battery: Rated for 14 days in typical watch mode
  • Dimensions: 45.9 x 45.9 x 10.7 mm and 41 grams (w/o the strap)

Hardware

The Huawei Watch GT 2 I tested has a black stainless steel case with smooth black high quality plastic on the back. Huawei also has stainless steel and titanium grey stainless steel case options available.

Its AMOLED display has a very high resolution for a smartwatch and it looks fantastic. The glass transitions into the front bezel that has large numbers that go from 0 to 22 with five tick marks between the even number count. I'm not sure what these numbers mean, other than giving it a sporty look.

The back of the watch is mostly matte finish hard plastic with a center heart rate monitor area that protrudes up a bit. This center area also fits into the charging puck that has magnets for proper alignment and a USB-C port for connecting to a charging cable.

On the right side there are two large buttons and an opening for the speaker. The Watch GT 2 has a mic and a speaker so you can have phone calls right from the watch with a connected phone placed somewhere else. The speaker can also play music if your headphones died or you wanted to work out with just some background music. It's a fairly loud and perfectly adequate speaker.

The top button on the right side jumps to the app launcher and back to the watch face while pressing one on the bottom button takes you to the activity launcher. While on the workout launcher screen pressing the bottom button works to select items too. Holding in on the top button lets you restart or power off the watch.

The silicone straps are comfortable for extended use and have quick release pins so you can swap them out for other 22mm bands as well. I used the included straps for the last couple of weeks I was using the Watch GT 2.

See also: Fitbit Versa 2 review: Buy it for its outstanding sleep and health tracking, not for its limited smartwatch functionality

Watch software

The Huawei Watch GT 2 is powered by Huawei's own Lite OS, which is comparable to Samsung's Tizen OS in many respects. It works with both Android and iOS devices through its Huawei Health application.

When you enable the watch, the watchface is the first screen shown. Press and hold on the display to view available watch faces. There are 14 available faces with some of them having options for basic customization. The selection is fairly comprehensive with both digital and analog options.

You can also enable an always-on watch face, either an analog or digital option, but Huawei states this cuts the battery life in half. I used it for about a week, but went back to raise-to-wake in order to enjoy longer battery life.

In addition to using the two hardware buttons for navigation, swipe left or right from the watch face to view the various available widgets. You can view your activity summary, music player, weather, stress summary, and heart rate summary. A swipe from left to right also takes you back when you are in one of the apps. Tapping on the display works to select the option. Scrolling up or down gets you through various lists.

Swipe down on the display from the watch face to access quick settings. These include do not disturb, show time, find phone, alarm, and settings. The connection status, battery life remaining, date, and day of the week also appear under these quick controls.

Within the settings are you will find more extensive options for earbuds, display, sounds, vibration strength, do not disturb, down button customization, system, and about.

Within the workout screen, you will find options for running course (13 available types of running training are provided), outdoor run, indoor run, outdoor walk, indoor walk, outdoor cycle, indoor cycle, pool swim, open water swim, climb, hike, trail run, triathlon, elliptical, rowing machine, and other. Each of these workout options has a gear icon you can tap on to setup goals and reminders. Selecting a workout then initiates active heart rate monitoring and GPS navigation.

Tap on the center of the workout screen and get started. By default ,you will hear audio prompts during your workout for passing through different intervals.

Also: Polar Vantage V review: Advanced technology and coaching help athletes achieve their best

Smartphone software and website

To setup and use the Huawei Watch GT 2, you need to install the Huawei Health app on your Android or iOS smartwatch. There are four tabs in the app for health, exercise, devices, and profile. The health page shows you the latest steps and active time synced from your watch. Below this you will see small thumbnails for exercise, heart rate, sleep, weight, and stress. You can edit and rearrange these too.

The exercise tab is used when you want to use your phone to track exercise in the Huawei Health app. The devices tab is where you manage your watch from your phone and also where you select and sync music from your phone to the watch.

While the Watch GT 2 supports offline music playback via Bluetooth or the watch speaker, you need to load MP3 music onto the watch from your phone. There is no support for any subscription music service. Music playback worked well though even when the Watch GT 2 was placed on either one of my wrists.

Tapping on the Watch GT 2 on the devices tab gives you access to several settings that you can enable or disable. These include Huawei TruSleep, activity reminders, continuous heart rate (necessary for REM sleep tracking), notifications, weather reports, and more. This is also where you initiate firmware updates.

The profile tab contains your particular measurements, unit selector, heart rate limits, and data sharing options. Exercise data captured in Huawei Health can be synced to Google Fit and MyFitnessPal so that you can use it outside of the Huawei system.

Daily usage experiences and conclusion

The Huawei Watch GT 2 is a very capable 24/7 activity tracker with some of the latest advanced sleep tracking capability we have seen from the latest Garmin, Polar, and Fitbit products (sleep score and REM). It even offers a smart wake option where you can choose a band around your alarm time to wake you during a light sleep cycle. Fitbit is adding this to its devices in December, but no one else has this option.

It is a very well made watch that is comfortable for 24/7 wear and has a battery that has proven to last me a full week with a couple of GPS run tracking events during that week. It's nice to not have to charge up your watch daily while still having a lovely AMOLED high resolution display.

The watch is not very useful for smartphone notifications as you can only view some notifications. No actions, even on basic text messaging, are supported with the watch. You can make and receive phone calls from the watch via a connected phone so that is useful at times.

The GPS tracking was fairly accurate, when compared to other GPS watches, but there is not enough customization available for the screen you see while working out. It's a solid basic GPS sports watch and at the price it is selling for that is as much as you can really expect.

It's too bad the Huawei Watch GT 2 isn't available in the US as it does offer a good option for those who want more than what Fitbit offers, but less than what Garmin offers.