Review: The Watch 3 is the start of a new era for Huawei

Harmony OS is still a little rough around the edges at times, and there are not a huge amount of apps at present for it

The Watch 3 look more like a traditional watch than a smartwatch

Product name: Huawei Watch 3

Price: €369.0

Where to buy: consumer.huawei.com

Website: consumer.huawei.com

Thu, Jul 8, 2021, 05:36

   

Huawei Watch 3

€369

Huawei’s newest wearable marks the start of a new era for the company. The Watch 3 is the first to use its Harmony OS, the operating system that Huawei has designed in response to its ongoing issues with access to Google Mobile Services. But more on Harmony and its potential later.

First, the watch itself. Huawei has refined the look of its smartwatches with the Watch 3, making the new device look more like a traditional watch than a smartwatch. It has a 46mm round face, a crown on the side, and a single button; the only tell-tale sign that this might be more than a standard watch is the thickness of the device.

Even that isn’t over the top; at 12.5mm it’s not exactly unwieldy, and the version I tested weighed in at 54g. This may not be for those of us with smaller wrists though; the watch is slightly chunkier than what I would normally wear.

Part of the size issue is the size of the display. The screen is 1.43 inches in size and AMOLED, which makes is vibrant and sharp. It’s touch-enabled too, supporting gestures such as swiping, tapping, and pressing and holding. The digital crown lets you zoom in on the apps but for the most part it all feels very Apple Watch-like.

The company has dumped Lite OS in favour of the shiny new Harmony, and so far it’s not the worst decision in the world. Is it the point of no return for Huawei? Who knows what the future holds, but for now Harmony OS is the choice.

There are few apps available, but the truth is that you’ll probably only use a handful on your smartwatch anyway. Smartwatches are generally used for a small number of purposes–notifications, fitness and health tracking, some music, perhaps a couple of custom apps that tie in with your smartphone usage.

Not having a native WhatsApp app for your watch or ditching Google Fit isn’t going to be the end of the world. But Harmony OS is very new, and although you can install apps from the watch itself, the choice isn’t overwhelming right now. It will be interesting to see how it develops in the coming months and years.

In general, though, Harmony OS looks like it has potential. It is clean, bright and reasonably easy to use. The software – and the screen – is responsive, and the size of the display, while not overwhelming, makes it easier for you to see what’s going on.

What does the Watch 3 actually do for you that other watches won’t? It has many of the same sensors that other smartwatches offer, tracking everything from your sleep and activity to your stress and blood oxygen. The Watch 3 adds one thing that isn’t commonplace in most smartwatches – it tracks your skin temperature. It may not seem like an essential but add it in with oxygen levels and heart rate data, and it helps add to the overall picture of your health. It has a barometer too, if gathering that data matters to you.

Like other Huawei smartwatches, the Watch 3 keeps automatic stress tracking, prompting you to take some time to focus and calm yourself if things get a bit too much.

There are plenty of workouts built into the device, from running and hiking to swimming and exercise machines. There’s even an option for using it at the driving range, if you are so inclined.

You can also use the watch to take calls, with a built in microphone and speaker, while it also has a built in esim, if you can find an operator who will offer that functionality.

One thing that Huawei has done well with other fitness trackers and watches is battery life. The Watch 3 is okay on this score – not outstanding but not the worst either. The battery life varies depending on a few factors. There’s the mode you choose: the longest you’ll get is two weeks, with an ultra-long battery life mode that excludes certain functions but keeps things like heart rate monitoring and sleep tracking.

The device you have it connected to also matters. Android wins out over Apple here, doubling the battery life when in full-on “smart mode” from 1.5 days on an Apple device to three days on Android, according to Huawei. That allows for about 60 minutes of app use every week, constant bluetooth connection with your phone, and about 30 minutes of bluetooth music. Most people will find things land somewhere in the middle, with about five days of usage about the average that I found.

Turn off that always-on display and you’ll find your battery life goes a lot further, for example.

Good:

The Huawei Watch 3 looks good, with a bright display and an easy to use interface. It is also accurate at tracking heart rate when compared with other watches and heart rate monitors, and will keep a good track of your activity levels.

Not so good:

Harmony OS is a step in the right direction, but it’s still a little rough around the edges at times, and there aren’t a huge amount of apps right now for it. There were issues with pairing the watch, although that may well have been solved for future purchasers thanks to some software updates.

The rest:

Skin temperature may not be high on your list of must-have sensors but it helps provide an overall picture of your health when taken alongside other metrics. In Covid times that may be a little more useful than you might think.

Verdict:

A good first shot for Harmony OS, the Huawei Watch 3 is a decent smartwatch for Android users.

huawei.com