Huawei Watch GT 2 ups the ante in functionality

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When you put last year’s Huawei Watch GT and a Huawei Watch GT 2 side by side, it’s hard to tell them apart. The bezels are slightly different (the GT 2’s is narrower and more subtle), but the displays are the same size (46 mm). However, beneath the covers, the two devices are quite different.

Yes, they’re both good smartwatches, but the GT 2 ups the ante with functionality. Let’s take a look.

Like its predecessor, the GT 2 models sold in Canada have a 46mm display (there’s also a 42 mm version, but it’s not sold here). Despite the generous size, it’s quite comfortable to wear, even for someone with skinny wrists like mine. And it only weighs about 41g, without the strap. My review unit came in basic black, but you can also get straps in orange fluoroelastomer, or brown leather.

The display is a generous 1.39 inch AMOLED 454 x 454 HD touchscreen, and the watch is water-resistant up to 50 metres for up to 30 minutes under ISO standard 22810:2010. In English, that means you can swim while wearing it, or wander in the rain, but don’t try water skiing, scuba diving, or, in the words of the specs, “other activities involving high-velocity water or submersion below shallow depth”. The splashes from the perpetual hand-washing we have to do these days haven’t bothered it, at any rate.

The watch talks to both iOS and Android phones – and you need to pair it via Bluetooth at least once because it’s impossible to set the date and time on the watch; it uses the phone’s settings. This drives me crazy – I travel a lot between time zones and like to set my watch to the destination time when the plane door closes, and that’s not possible unless you manually reset your phone’s time zone.

You need the Huawei Health app for time setting and for controlling functions like the continuous heart rate monitor, automatic stress test, the ‘raise wrist to wake screen’ control (which rarely works for me because I wear the watch with the screen on the inside of my wrist), the activity reminder that gives you a haptic nudge if it senses that you have been sitting for an hour, and to configure which applications can send notifications to the watch. You also use it to add music (up to 500 songs, only on Android) or up to 10 contacts to the watch (caution, however: if you answer a phone call through the watch, it will use the phone’s speaker for audio, NOT  earbuds – Huawei recommends using earbuds attached to the phone to handle calls).

You can view all of your fitness stats on the device itself, in Huawei Health, or sync them to third party apps like MyFitnessPal or Google Fit.

And there can be a lot of stats to view (Huawei says about 190 data types). There are fifteen preconfigured workouts to choose from, plus a configurable “other”. The watch also tracks sleep, stress, heart rate (including watching for bradycardia and heart failure), provides weather reports, has a compass and flashlight, and even offers breathing exercises. You cannot, however, add apps to the device – what you see is what you get.

The Watch GT 2 comes with the same five sensors as the Watch GT (accelerometer, gyroscope, optical heart rate sensor, capacitive sensor, and ambient light sensor), plus a geomagnetic sensor and an air pressure sensor.

Fifteen possible watch faces let you choose your look and which stats you want to see at a glance – step count, calories burned, battery status, even barometric pressure (seriously). I’m not as fond of the ones on this device as I am of those on the Watch GT, but that’s a personal preference. You pick the watch face you want by touching and holding the screen for a moment, then scrolling through the options. Touch again to make your choice.

Despite all of these functions, the Watch GT 2 has miraculous battery life. Huawei says you’ll get two weeks of wearing it 24 hours a day, with heart rate monitoring and sleep monitoring enabled, 90 minutes per week exercise with GPS enabled, 30 minutes of calling per week and 30 minutes of music. Oh – and that includes turning the screen on 200 times a day. Whew! In practice, I regularly get three weeks out of a charge since I’m not a sporty type. The watch charges in less than two hours.

All in all, the Huawei Watch GT 2 is an attractive device that does a good job at what it does. I like its feel on the wrist, the easily read screen, and the killer battery life. But if its built-in functions don’t fulfill your needs, you can’t add anything else.

The Huawei Watch GT 2 46 mm Sport Model with activity-friendly rubber-like fluoroelastomer strap has an MSRP of $300, Watch GT 2 46 mm Classic Model with an elegant leather strap has an MSRP of $320. Both are available from Visions Electronics.

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