Huawei Watch 2

The first Huawei Watch, released back in 2015, was all about high fashion. The Chinese firm hosted glitzy launch events across the globe, as it focused on producing a wearable which, first and foremost, looked good. Huawei seemed to understand that watches, fundamentally, are fashion items, and that anything worn on the wrist has to look attractive in order to succeed.

A year and a half later, the priorities have changed. The Huawei Watch 2, in both its incarnations, isn't even attempting to be a fashion watch.

The Watch 2 is split into two distinct models: the Huawei Watch 2 and the Huawei Watch 2 Classic. The Watch 2 is your all-singing, all-dancing 4G-connected smartwatch, with a definite fitness angle. Think of it as Huawei's take on the Gear S3 or LG Watch Sport, with LTE connectivity and a focus on fitness. Meanwhile the Classic is a more traditional watchy watch, with a (partly) leather strap and connectivity over Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. But it's not trying to be as universal in its appeal as the original Huawei Watch, with its understated metal aesthetic.

Unlike the first-gen Huawei Watches, these are not even trying to be fashion items.

Both are decidedly chunky timepieces, with big, angular, very masculine looking bezels and lugs. You'll get a handy dual-button setup on both models, and despite the presence of a prominent numbered bezel on the regular Watch 2, there's no rotation input — i.e. a rotating bezel or crown — to be found on either model. That's disappointing considering it's an important new feature in Android Wear 2.0, one which is leveraged really well by LG's new smartwatches.

The Huawei Watch 2 does at least offer a little more customization than the LG-made Watch Sport. There are three color options, including a nauseating orange option which feels even more like a toy than the rest of Huawei's new wearable lineup. The black and speckled grey-plus-yellow options are slightly less offensive to the senses. And even though the Watch 2 includes LTE support, you can still swap out the straps — the SIM tray is hidden between the strap and the lug, and the antennas themselves located in a ceramic area around the bezel. So unlike LG's watches, there are no vital components in the strap — though good luck finding something to match the aggressively bright lugs of the orange Huawei Watch 2.

The Huawei Watch 2 Classic takes the design DNA of its larger sibling and transforms it into something with a less overt fitness focus, with a stainless steel body and part-leather, part-rubber strap. Unlike the 4G-connected model, the Classic works over Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, like the majority of Android Wear watches, so it's not intended to work as a standalone device. It's still a hefty watch, though with slightly smaller lugs and a (somewhat) more neutral overall appearance. It wouldn't look entirely out of place worn with a shirt, or even a suit, but like many smartwatches the illusion of quality quickly dissipates when you examine it up close. Personal tastes will come into play here, of course, but for my money the Watch 2 Classic doesn't look anywhere near as nice as its predecessor. The simplicity of the first Huawei Watch has been replaced with so much extra cruft that the new models bear basically no resemblance to their forerunner.

So these aren't necessarily pretty watches, but they pack the latest internals, and a ton of functionality along with it. They're powered by a 1.1GHz Qualcomm processor — likely the latest Snapdragon Wear 2100, but that's not yet confirmed — and run a 390x390-resolution circular AMOLED display, measuring 1.2 inches across. Huawei's packed in the usual loadout of fitness features, a heart rate sensor, IP68-rated water resistance and a 420mAh battery, which the company says can keep things running for up to two days in the 4G model (that number is with LTE connected, we're told), and up to three days on Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. (In "watch only" mode with all the fancy stuff disabled, Huawei says its new devices manage 26 days between charges.)

Huawei says it's able to get up to three days battery life on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and two on LTE.

Having used the LG Watch Sport and Watch Style, which pack similar specs but struggle to get through a single day, we're skeptical of these numbers. But unless Huawei is grossly exaggerating here, the Watch 2 could represent the breakthrough in Android Wear battery life many have been waiting for. It's just not entirely clear how Huawei's getting so much more out largely the same off-the-shelf components that everyone else uses.

Being an all-out sports watch, the regular Huawei Watch 2 includes a wealth of fitness-focused features atop Android Wear 2.0. Paired with the Huawei Fit app on your phone, the Watch 2 lets you track the main stages of your workout, and keep the correct pace in order to build strength, burn calories and avoid over-exertion. That's all handled through real-time tracking of your heart, which the watches can match to specific heart rate zone indicators.

Outside of individual workouts, the Watch 2 and Huawei Fit app let you build long term training plans in order to meet specific goals over a period of weeks or months. And by assessing your VO2Max — the measure of the maximum volume of oxygen that your body can use — it's able to quantify how your fitness is improving over time.

As well as Huawei's home-made software, there's everything we've come to expect from Android Wear 2.0, such as easier watch face switching, direct app installs through Google Play and support for more comprehensive apps on the watch itself. Google Assistant is onboard too, and accessed via a long press of the physical app button. And Android Pay is supported on both devices thanks to the presence of NFC antennae. (Unlike LG's watches, you don't need to settle for the larger, more expensive wearable to be able to pay with your wrist.)

So Huawei seems to be following the prevailing smartwatch trend of late 2016/early 2017, focusing on advanced fitness features and LTE to sell to the hard core of people already invested in the idea of a computer on your wrist.

But there's no delicate way to put this: the Watch 2, in both its incarnations, doesn't look great. The devices' expansive feature sets are impressive, and the boast of 2-to-3-day battery life (assuming it plays out) is potentially groundbreaking for Android Wear. But for me, neither can make up for the fact that these watches just look worse than the first-gen Huawei Watch. The orange-strapped Huawei Watch 2 looks and feels like a toy, and the black version was only marginally more palatable. The Classic looks a bit more like something I'd be prepared to put on my wrist, but the tiny display, chunky aesthetic and cheap-feeling buttons and strap detract from its premium feature set. The contrast compared to the shiny and compact first-gen Huawei Watch is jarring, to say the least.

At the time of writing I've only seen a few different Huawei Watch 2 styles, and so it's possible Huawei has some better-looking color and material options up its sleeve. It's possible the chunky look and feel of this watch will grow on me with time, which I'm also open to. For the sake of having a more varied, interesting Android Wear ecosystem, I hope it will. But I'm also holding out hope for somebody to make an Android Wear 2.0 watch that follows in the footsteps of watches like the Moto 360 and the Huawei Watch: clean, simple, and classy design that looks good with everything and everyone.