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Huawei Watch 2 with Wear OS Review

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Last year, Huawei unveiled its second-generation smartwatch known as the Huawei Watch 2. It was met by some pretty positive feedback from reviewers, but if you’ve been keeping tabs on Matridox, you know we haven’t had a chance to check it out. Luckily, Huawei was able to provide us with a unit of their watch to review. And we couldn’t have asked for a better time what with Google’s rebranded Wear OS (formally Android Wear) being all the rage as of late. This watch was one of the first to run the software so it only makes sense to see how the device is doing this far into 2018.

In short, it still holds up, but I’m not sure if you should actually buy it or not.

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If you’re in the market for any sort of watch, the first thing you’re probably concerned over is how it looks. The Watch 2 Huawei sent us is the sport variant which is more tailored for active people rather the average Joe. Still, the watch does look pretty nice. It’s made mostly out of plastic which feels a bit cheap and makes you question whether the device is actually worth $299, but it’s still well-built and doesn’t creak or anything when you move it around.

The body of the Watch 2 isn’t that bulky, either. Opposite to something like the LG Watch Sport, the Watch 2 is much slimmer and more flattering on your wrist. Its band, while also made of plastic, fits nicely around your wrist and is adjustable enough to fit around even the thickest arms. Luckily, if you’re not a fan of this look, you can always swap out the band for something more your speed.

It’s also worth noting the Watch 2 is rated at IP68 for water and dust resistance. You probably don’t want to go swimming with it on, but a quick rinse under a faucet won’t ruin your watch.

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This design isn’t for everyone, though. Like I said, the entire watch is basically plastic which makes it feel kind of cheap. The yellow accents on the two side buttons also give off a fitness vibe which probably isn’t what you want while wearing a suit. And while having an analog clock face would make them sensible to use, the imprinted minute indicators around the watch’s bezel don’t really serve any function since the watch comes out of the box with a digital face preset. Therefore, unless you’re in love with the watch’s speckled design and fun accent colors, you’ll probably want to opt for something a bit classier in Huawei’s lineup.

On the front of the Watch 2 sits a 1.2-inch circular OLED display with a resolution of 390×390. It’s a fine looking screen that gets bright enough so you can see it outdoors, but with the thick bezel surrounding it, it does tend to feel a bit on the smaller size. Perhaps if the bezel weren’t in the way, I wouldn’t feel the way I do, but I think if Huawei increased the size by around 0.15 inches, you’d be better off.

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Back in 2017, the Watch 2 was a top-tier smartwatch with the finest internals you could find. Now, though, things are getting a bit dated. Not because there are new versions of the specs, but because they’re simply a year old at this point.

Inside the watch, you’re getting a Snapdragon Wear 2100 chipset with 768MB of RAM and 4GB of storage. These specs are usually fine, but it’s 2018 and they’re beginning to show their age. I’ve noticed things slow down once in a while during casual use which I didn’t notice while using the LG Watch Sport last year. This stuff usually only happens to aging hardware, and that’s exactly what we have here.

Luckily, hope isn’t entirely lost for smartwatches running the year-old 2100 processor. The Huawei Watch 2 was recently updated with Google’s Wear OS, a rebranded version of Android Wear based on 8.0 Oreo. I have to say, even though there aren’t a ton of new user-facing changes present in Wear OS, it did help to speed up the Watch 2 over using it on Android Wear. Apps launch quicker, menus are smoother to scroll through, and clearing notifications isn’t a painful experience.

But don’t let this distract you from my previous point. Even though Wear OS is helping to make things smoother, the Watch 2’s internals simply can’t handle some of the things we’re now used to seeing on smartwatches like calling upon the Google Assistant with your voice. It’s little things like this that run the background which cause the device to stutter once in a while, and it’s clear time isn’t being all that friendly to Huawei’s flagship wearable.

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I’d also like to note the Watch 2 comes with Huawei-branded bloatware. Things like the company’s fitness, reminders, and heart rate apps all come pre-loaded which don’t help to achieve a smooth experience. I would’ve preferred Huawei use Google’s own suite of apps to provide the same services since they’ll undoubtedly run better, but companies like to tack on their extra stuff all the time and, from what I’ve seen from Huawei in the past, that idea isn’t changing.

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Aside from the aging processor and RAM count, the rest of the Huawei Watch 2’s specs are pretty great. It comes with a GPS for using apps like Google Maps and tracking runs, a heart rate sensor that’s one of the more accurate ones I’ve seen, and NFC for Google Pay payments. It also comes with a vibration motor for alerting you about incoming notifications, but it’s extremely weak and feels pretty janky. In other words, I’ve been absolutely spoiled by the Apple Watch’s Taptic engine that literally feels like someone’s tapping you on the wrist. The Watch 2 feels nothing like that whatsoever.

Also worth noting is the exclusion of LTE. If you’re one ot walk around often without your phone and depend on your watch to make phone calls and send texts, the Watch 2 isn’t for you.

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As far as battery life goes, the Watch 2 comes with a 420mAh cell that can usually get me through a full day’s worth of usage. Actually, let me scratch that: the Watch 2 always sees me through a full day. However, you’ll need to charge it every night since it’ll drop to around 30% by bedtime. In other words, you won’t be able to get two days worth of usage out of this guy.

When you do need to charge, you can do so using the magnetic puck-style charger that comes in the box which uses pogo pins to deliver power to the device. It’s a nicer solution than something like plugging the watch in via a USB port, but it can still be a bit awkward to set the watch down on your nightstand.

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In 2018, the Huawei Watch 2 is still pretty good. Its design can certainly last another year or so, the battery life should serve most users without much worry, and the software will continue to get better and better with future updates to Wear OS (including an eventual upgrade to Andriod P). But with the aging Snapdragon Wear 2100 chipset inside, it’s hard to tell just how much longer the watch has. This goes for every watch with the processor as well since the part is a year old at this point.

Admittedly, Qualcomm is developing a new chip for wearables that should start shipping soon, but for the majority of smartwatch buyers in 2018, you’ll be stuck with the 2100. And to me, I’m not sure if it’s worth the investment.

If you need a smartwatch today, the Watch 2 is a great pick. But if you can wait a few months to see if any OEMs include the new Snapdragon Wear 3100, you’d be better off. Regardless, the Huawei Watch 2 has me hopeful for the future of Google’s smartwatch platform and the smart wearable industry as a whole.

Rating: 7/10

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