Huawei thinks your smartwatch should look and feel like a watch all the time. So far, we agree with the sentiment.
It has been a little more than six months since we last saw Huawei on a stage talking about its entry into Android Wear, and now that you can actually put money down for one of these pretty wrist computers it seemed like a good time to take a look at the final hardware and software. While not much has changed on the outside of the Huawei Watch from our initial hands-on, there's a lot less secrecy around the tech on the inside now. Additionally, Android Wear 1.3 is now here to take this experience and offer some additional functionality.
Here's a more detailed look at what you can expect from the first Android Wear Watch from Huawei, from simple Stainless Steel to rich Rose Gold.
Despite the relatively short time the product category has been around, Android Wear watches have changed dramatically from the first launch. Unlike smartphones, most of these changes have been external. Android Wear watches have quickly transformed from gadgets you wear on your wrist to stylish accessories that also keep you connected to your phone, and Huawei wants to take that experience even further.
It may seem obvious for a company to want its smartwatch to be a watch first, but if you look at the current crop of Android Wear watches you'll see that few of them actually fit that description.
Huawei's first step into step into this watch first thinking is an always on display, which is accomplished by using a 400 x 400 resolution AMOLED display. Anytime you aren't tilting your wrist to look at a colored display and flip through notifications, the Ambient Mode display is on. Unless your battery is dead, the Huawei Watch is always a watch.
According to Huawei, the use of an AMOLED screen makes it possible to get well over a day of battery, so as long as you charge it every day you've got a smartwatch that is always a watch.
The next step is another one of those things that seems obvious, but so far hasn't really happened. The Huawei Watch is launching with several quality watch bands. The base model stainless steel variant with a leather strap is fantastic, completely blowing away straps that have been included on other Android Wear watches so far. In fact, the entire strap lineup is great, with quick-release pins that don't require tools and a healthy variety of branded options available at time of purchase. You can still supply your own strap if you've already got a favorite, but the out-of-the-box experience here is quality.
There's a clear focus on making sure the watch suits you out of the box.
Finally, Huawei is cramming each of its watches with 40 faces to offer personalization out of the box. Most of these faces don't offer much more than the ability to tell time in one or two places, but the idea is to offer watches for each of the color options so there's plenty to choose between before you go hunting around in the store. If you've already used Android Wear before, you've probably got a favorite already installed on your phone.
For new users, however, the ability to switch between several classy faces and a few sporty options out of the box is a nice change addition to the defaults Google includes with every watch. There's a clear focus on making sure the watch suits you out of the box. Included in each of these faces is a nice-looking ambient mode face, so the watch keeps looking like a nice watch when not in active use. There are very few digital readouts in this lineup, which is either a great thing or enough to send you hunting for alternatives anyway.
There's not much more we can add to what has already been said about the Huawei Watch in our last hands on. It's a beautiful accessory from every angle, and it's lighter on your wrist than it feels like it should be. The sapphire glass cover on the display doesn't look or feel any different from a normal glass cover, and placing the button at the 2-o-clock position makes actually using it a lot more comfortable. It's not appreciably smaller than the LG Watch Urbane, but the smaller lugs with their gentler slope dramatically increases the number of straps that will look nice on this watch. The 400x400 display packs in more pixels than other watch, but we wouldn't say it's demonstrably better than the 320x320 watches we've used.
Huawei claims one to two days of battery life, and the ability to charge it from dead in an hour.
Huawei is releasing the Watch in three colors — Stainless Steel, Black IP, and Rose Gold. The black and gold are plated or coated on the same cold-forged steel casing, which Huawei says is especially corrosion resistant. The Black IP coating is resistant to scratches and scuffs, such that Huawei thinks it is unlikely you'll expose the stainless steel underneath unless you're deliberately trying to do so. Despite the Rose Gold variant having some deliberate positioning for women, especially with the smaller band being made available, those of you with small wrists are likely to have the same problem with this design that you've had with the other Android Wear offerings.
While the Huawei Watch is a nice overall offering, it's not without caveats. That perfect circle display is quite nice, but there's no auto-brightness functionality due to the lack of a sensor. The magnetic pin charger snaps right into place every time you place it behind the watch, but neither wireless charging nor microUSB are supported in this design. We already know the 1.2Ghz Snapdragon 400 with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of storage are enough to enjoy a watch because that's what almost everything else is using already, and that makes the 300mAh battery included in this design somewhat worrying. Huawei claims 1-2 days of battery life and the ability to charge it from dead in an hour, but we've yet to test that ourselves.
At $349 for the stainless steel model with a leather strap, the list of reason's you'd consider this watch over some of the other Android Wear watches isn't as big as we initially thought it might be. It's made of slightly nicer materials that you aren't likely to notice on a daily basis, the design is a little more universal if you switch straps frequently, and the always-on mode as a standard feature is fantastic. Ultimately it feels like Huawei successfully created a smartwatch that is a watch first, and in doing so doesn't offer much more than the existing offerings as a gadget.