Think smartwatches and the Apple Watch and a plethora of Wear OS watches are likely to be the first that come to mind. However, Samsung and others have also realized that Wear OS isn't the only option when it comes to smartwatches, and Huawei's new Watch GT builds on this premise with its own in-house Lite OS, which also runs on the company's TalkBand series.
The Watch GT – which stands for Grand Turo and is meant to symbolize the long distance you travel while on holiday – aims to offer long battery life, and the key features you expect from a modern wearable. Unremarkable to look at, the Watch GT represents more than just a smartwatch – Huawei has designed it with the world's first wearable double chipset architecture to deliver its claims of up to 30-day battery life.
The low-speed chipset is used when you're in a more sedentary state such as sleeping, or at the movies, and uses about a sixth of the power of similar products. The high-speed chipset kicks in for power intensive operations like when you're using the display, the heart rate monitor and other dynamic activities where you need the full power like running and actively using the watch. Of course, the company that loves to tout its AI prowess included AI in the chipset, with it automatically switching between the two chipsets and optimizing based on your usage.
On the face of it, the Watch GT looks… just like a watch. It's designed to be comfortable in any environment and certainly lives up to this claim, even if it does so while being unremarkable to look at. Being unremarkable is part of the Watch GT's DNA, as is the fact it doesn't run Android Wear – opting for its own in-house OS presents its own challenges but also allows Huawei to optimize the battery in a way that it can't with Wear.
Huawei promises up to 30-day battery life, although the exact battery life will depend on exactly how you use your device. For the heaviest of users, the Watch GT is rated as lasting for 22 hours of continuous exercise tracking with GPS, heart-rate monitoring and the screen always on. That's 22 hours of continuous usage, and unless you're tracking it for a very slow marathon, it's likely to last you a couple of days with heavy usage.
It's when you reduce your usage that the Watch GT gets interesting. The mid-point of the Watch GT battery life is 2 weeks, which includes heart rate monitoring and 90 minutes of exercise per week (including continuous GPS and activity tracking). On the high-end, the battery can last up to 30 days when you are only engaging the lower power features such as making and receiving calls, with the heart rate monitoring and GPS features turned off.
Huawei's AI actively monitors where the watch is placed on your wrist and uses the placement to adjust the heart rate data for accuracy. For example, placing a heart rate monitor on your wrist bone will throw up several inaccuracies and Huawei claims the Watch GT will actively scrub these from your results to increase the accuracy.
The AI is also able to recognize which stroke you're using when swimming, and whichever is the dominant stroke is the one that'll be reflected in your activity log. The AI also recognizes open water swimming, allowing you to plot the exact path you took and accurately measure your distance and time, for leisure or in preparation for a big swim meet.
Android Wear has its faults, but it offers a familiarity that isn't present on Lite OS, and the lack of it, will be a deal breaker for most users.
These are all impressive claims, but the lack of Android Wear will be a deal breaker for most users. Despite the benefits of an intelligent sleep monitoring program conducted with Harvard Medical School CDB Center, the ability to recognize all sorts of different exercises, and 3 satellites support for precise location tracking, the unfamiliarity of Lite OS means this won't stand out against Android Wear watches, especially the ones that launch on Qualcomm's new Snapdragon Wear 3100 platform. Android Wear has its faults, but it offers a familiarity from the way it handles notifications to the third-party customization options, which aren't available on Huawei's own custom OS.
Looking at everything the Watch GT offers, it may appeal to the right type of user, but it won't be breaking any sales records. Precise location tracking, the promise of excellent battery life during long workouts, and the AI features will be handy if your principle use for a smartwatch is to track your workouts, but for everyone else, there's plenty of other Android Wear smartwatches out there that you'll be more interested in.
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