Huawei is taking a new step with its Watch 3 connected watch. To an equipment that claims to be exceptional, the manufacturer is adding a new operating system, rich in features and designed for connected objects. What make the difference against the best competitors?
Test carried out by Alix Denoyers
Huawei has just launched its new line of connected watches, the Watch 3, at the same time kicking off its Harmony OS operating system, at the heart of their operation. In the field of smartphones, if this new system appears to be a cheeky challenger against iOS and Android, it intends to distinguish itself from the competition by offering a unified experience, regardless of the device on which it is installed, whether it is a smartphone, a tablet … or a watch. Enough to give the brand’s smartphones a new lease of life without Google services and, as Huawei claims, to speed up its watches, while offering them extended functions.
Beyond the hardware novelties brought by the Huawei Watch 3, Harmony OS and its Célia integrated assistant do they manage to put them on an equal footing with the best connected watches of the moment, whether they run on WatchOS, Wear OS or Tizen? To answer this question, we tested the Watch 3 in its “Classic” version, just available in store.
Pricing and availability
Marketed for a few days on the Huawei site and at the main specialist retailers (Darty, Boulanger, etc.), this new range of connected watches is available in two main models, the Watch 3 and the Watch 3 Pro, available in various strap versions (leather, steel or even silicone or nylon for the Watch 3).
The prices of the Watch 3 start at 369.99 euros to reach 449.99 euros and those of the Watch 3 Pro go from 499.99 to 599.99 euros, depending on the type of bracelet chosen. For any purchase of a watch, Huawei currently offers on its site FreeBuds 4i headphones worth 80 euros with the Watch 3 and FreeBuds Pro headphones worth 150 euros with the Watch 3 Pro, within the limit available stocks. Both Watch 3 and Watch 3 Pro models are based on eSIM technology offering the possibility of being 100% connected, even if the smartphone is at home. You couldn’t buy a “Wi-Fi and Bluetooth only” watch that would cost a little less. On the other hand, it is possible to (almost) fully enjoy your Watch 3, even if you do not want to subscribe to an eSIM service with an operator. SFR will offer the option in July, then Orange.
We tested the Watch 3, the smaller of the two models, in its “Classic” version sold for 399.99 euros and which includes a brown leather strap with stitching. We would have appreciated the presence of a silicone bracelet in the box – in our opinion essential for the practice of the most intense sports activities – but you will need to acquire it separately. Fortunately, they are found at a very reasonable price on specialized sites. Those who already own a Huawei GT2 Pro, for example, will be able to use the strap of this watch without any problem.
Watch 3 watches are delivered in an elegant packaging which includes, in addition to the watch and the bracelet chosen, an induction station for wireless charging, with a USB-C cable to be plugged into a power adapter (not supplied). There is also a card with a QR code to scan to download the Health application, useful for the operation of the watch. Android users with Google services will be invited to download the Huawei AppGallery (via an APK file) to retrieve the latest version of Health.
Huawei Watch 3 technical sheet
|Huawei watch 3|
|Dimensions||46.2 x 46.2 x 12.15 mm|
|Weight||54 grams (excluding bracelet)|
|Screen||1.43 inch AMOLED with “Always-On” function|
|Definition||466 x 466 pixels|
|System||Harmony OS 2|
|Connectivity||2.4 Ghz Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.2 + BLE, NFC, GPS|
|Sensors||Accelerometer, gyroscope, compass, heart rate monitor, pressure sensor, ambient light sensor, altimeter, skin temperature sensor, blood oxygen saturation (SpO2) sensor|
|RAM / Storage||2 GB / 16 GB|
|Compatibility||Android 6.0, iOS 9.0 or later|
|Audio||Microphone and speaker|
|Autonomy announced||3 to 14 days|
|Materials||– Stainless steel case
– Curved 3D glass screen
– Sapphire crystal + ceramic back
Choosing between the Watch 3 and the Watch 3 Pro will be more a matter of taste or budget than use, since both models offer the same functions. With its larger dimensions and even more premium materials, based on Titanium for the case, the Watch 3 Pro has a higher capacity battery (790 mAh). Huawei therefore announces for it, a greater autonomy of 5 to 21 days.
Watch 3: an impeccable premium design
Huawei watches are among the most massive on the market, but also the most elegant, with a design that meets watchmaking codes and a sophisticated design based on noble materials (glass, steel, leather, etc.). The Watch 3 is no exception to the rule with its huge curved and circular 3D glass screen, as visually impressive as it is pleasant to the touch. The case is made of stainless steel and offers a mirror appearance that reflects light.
The back of the watch combines ceramic and sapphire crystal, with a shiny and smooth feel. At no time do we feel any discomfort in wearing this watch. However, it is 12.5 mm thick (and even slightly more if we count the domed part which encompasses all the sensors and delicately sinks into the skin) while its weight is around 65 grams, bracelet in leather included.
Despite these generous measurements, Huawei has accomplished the feat, through the choice of its materials and the design of the lines, of offering a watch that can be forgotten every day, day and night, on the smallest wrists.
Even if that means buckling the bracelet to the last notch. Despite an admittedly quite masculine design, the Watch 3 will not swear on a woman’s wrist, but it will probably be better to avoid the metal strap (heavier) and the Pro model (very imposing).
Huawei completes the equipment with two buttons. The first, striated, acts as a rotating crown while the second, configurable, acts as a shortcut to a function.
Finally, we appreciate the elegant and functional leather strap delivered with our Watch 3. It benefits from a classic buckle closure system that is very quick to open or close. Better yet, changing the bracelet – to go to workout, for example – only takes a few seconds! No need to visit the local jeweler! You just have to think about getting an extra bracelet.
A huge and perfectly responsive screen
At the heart of this very successful design sits the large 1.43-inch screen, with a further refined border facing that present on the Huawei GT2 Pro watch. So, for a comparable case size, the Watch 3’s screen is 0.5 inches larger than that of the previous model (1.39 inches). In memory, we have not yet seen such a large display area on a round dial. Perfectly responsive, this screen is also among the brightest ever designed by the brand. By cranking up the brightness, the screen remains perfectly readable outdoors, even on sunny days. A light sensor, for its part, automatically adjusts the intensity.
The sensitivity of the screen is such that you can also type a text with your fingertip, quite easily, from the available mini virtual keyboard. Not that it is possible to reply from the watch to a text message – and that’s a shame, hopefully that becomes possible in the future – but to search from the AppGallery, for example.
With its new Watch 3 series, Huawei pushes personalization further. Many free “WatchFaces”, with an analog (with hands) or digital look, are available from the Health app or directly from the watch. It is accessed with a single long tap on the screen, prompting the user to change them regularly. But beware of slightly gimmicky dials that could be resource-intensive (Huawei warns users, when this is the case, about their energy-intensive use). We find in particular new animated models: a surfer in his wave, a skier who goes down a snowy slope or a hiker who walks on the top of a mountain (with still some bugs to the key, impossible to change his animated screen for a other, once you have chosen one). It is also possible to personalize your dial with your own photos, or even your videos, as long as you convert them into animated gif.
Our tests were quite inconclusive, not at all up to Huawei’s animated gifs. Remember, however, that the OS is young and should be subject to corrective updates over time. As for the aid made available, which is already fairly comprehensive, it should also continue to grow.
Harmony OS: a promising system
If we were to retain only one new feature on this Watch, it would probably be its new HarmonyOS operating system, unveiled in early June and which replaces Lite OS on the manufacturer’s watches. This system should gradually impose itself on all the brand’s devices (excluding laptops). It is now – in addition to the Watch 3 – available on the new FreeBuds 4 headphones, pending its arrival on the MatePad 11 tablets, and later on the P50 smartphones. It’s hard to judge whether HarmonyOS will keep its promises as a global ecosystem aimed at connecting all types of devices. On the other hand, using the Watch 3 allows us to determine whether its ergonomics are well thought out and whether it replaces its predecessor LiteOS.
Let users of Huawei connected watches and bracelets rest assured, they will not be confused by the Watch 3 interface which remains close, for most of its menus, to that of previous watches and continues to work with the Health application. . The new touch of HarmonyOS is nevertheless felt and this, for the greatest comfort of all.
Caption: By pressing the crown (top striated button), you access The new “grid” which displays applications like a smartphone.
The main button of the smartphone is associated with a rotating crown that makes it easier to navigate the interface menus. With a simple press marked with haptic feedback, you access the main menu which groups all the apps. They can be grouped together in a grid (default) or in a list as before. By turning the crown, it becomes possible to zoom in or out in this grid, or to navigate within an app. A system that is unmistakably reminiscent of the Apple Watch interface, but you might as well pick the good ideas from the best!
Caption: By turning the crown, you can zoom in or out in the general applications menu.
The zoom, which can also be achieved with a pinch of the fingers on the screen, in our opinion deserves a little more roundness from this main screen, for example by taking care of the transitions. We appreciate much more, for example, the navigation between the different types of physical exercises, thanks to a small ripple effect.
Among the novelties of Harmony OS, we note the appearance of the AppGallery for watches, intended to increase the functionality of the watch.
As the navigation, fluid and intuitive, is exciting, this store struggles to convince. It’s hard to find a really relevant app there. Point of Spotify or banking app that would allow you to pay in NFC with your watch and the mini-games featured are a little lacking in interest.
On the other hand, the download is easy to perform with a search made possible thanks to a mini virtual keyboard. Download times are quick as long as the app is lightweight. In short, Huawei just has to expand its AppGallery or better highlight the best applications to make it really interesting. We imagine that this will happen over time.
With HarmonyOS, we also appreciate, when activating a function, the ability to manage almost all permissions from the watch, without having to dig into the smartphone’s settings. Finally, we note the timid appearance of gestures to control certain commands, such as suddenly releasing your fist to take a call. We also note the integration of the in-house voice assistant, Célia, to which we will come back later, while access to the personalization of the dial is now carried out with a single long press on the screen, as were saying previously.
HarmonyOS is therefore an important development for Huawei watches and if everything is not yet perfect, for a first draft, this system seems to have a bright future. Let’s just hope that Android and iOS users will be able to benefit almost as much from the functional richness provided by this novelty as those of HarmonyOS. And from this point of view, it is not won. Moreover, some advanced functions, as we will see now, are reserved only for users of EMUI, the Huawei overlay for smartphones and tablets, or even HarmonyOS.
Everything for sport and communication
Beyond the system that runs a watch and offers it (or not) a satisfactory level of performance, it is the functions accessible from its dial that largely motivate the purchase of one model over another. From that perspective, the Watch 3 offers a full spectrum of what you can expect from a watch in 2021, aside from the electrocardiogram (ECG).
To the integrated GPS and the multiple sensors already present on Huawei watches (heart rate sensor, light sensor, pressure, SpO2, etc.), the manufacturer adds a new skin temperature sensor. This arsenal perfectly complements the activity and sleep monitoring offered by Huawei watches, providing it with increased value in terms of the relevance of the health data collected.
From this point of view, the operation remains strictly the same – including from the point of view of the Health application which is still so pleasant to use. We invite you to refer to the test of the Huawei GT2 Pro watch for more information.
The great novelty of the Watch 3 is that it supports the services of an eSIM, which allows calls to be made and received from the watch thanks to the built-in microphone and speaker, independent of the smartphone! It is therefore possible to take full advantage of all the functions of your watch in 4G, even when you have left your mobile at home. Only downsides, subscribing to an eSIM service incurs an additional cost (around 5 euros in general) and only SFR should offer this service in July, followed shortly by Orange.
Those who do not wish to subscribe be reassured: it will be possible to enjoy calls on their watch without eSIM, in Wi-Fi at home or in Bluetooth outdoors, by keeping their smartphone near the watch.
And it is clear that you quickly get a taste for exercise, both the microphone and the speaker offer satisfactory quality. Of course, in a very noisy environment, it would be better to connect earphones or headphones to your watch … Regarding notifications, the large screen size provides undeniable comfort and we appreciate the support for emojis.
For its part, the Celia voice assistant currently only offers functions such as voice commands (weather information, voice commands such as dialing a call, setting an alarm, playing music), intelligence is limited to the good understanding of the voice, which is already not so bad! But we imagine, once again, that this assistant will gain in maturity over time. This wizard is accessed with a “Hey Celia” or a long press on the bottom button. Note that Célia was very responsive with a P30 Pro, much less with a competing Android smartphone, because of network problems that slowed her down… Momentary or recurring bug? We don’t have enough hindsight to tell.
Finally, it is now possible to take voice notes that will remain stored on the watch, unless you transfer them to your smartphone or tablet … provided that he or she is running HarmonyOS. The same goes for the triggering from the watch of photos taken with a smartphone (and which will now be viewable on the dial) or the synchronization of the agenda. It will be necessary to use a device under the new Huawei OS.
As for listening to music from the watch, it is currently only possible with Huawei Music … which unfortunately is not up to the level of Spotify, more particularly in terms of the richness of the catalog . However, it will be possible to control the playback of a Spotify playlist installed on the smartphone, keeping the latter within Bluetooth range.
We begin to wish for developments such as the possibility of responding vocally to our SMS thanks to Celia, for example. Let’s just hope that the next functions offered by Huawei through updates will not be reserved for HarmonyOS users alone.
Battery life: Huawei still the best
Huawei announces 3 days of battery life with its watch in connected mode and you never fall very far in Wi-Fi mode (we were indeed unable to test 4G). It all depends of course on how you use your watch. To make it last, it is better to activate the automatic mode for the brightness of the screen, avoid the “Always On” mode, which is necessarily consumer-intensive, do not continuously activate skin temperature measurement or even avoid animated dials. Note that this autonomy would however be reduced to 1.5 days for iPhone users.
On this type of device, this remains an excellent performance when you consider that an Apple Watch like the Series 6 must more or less be recharged daily. In addition, thanks to the new Ultra Battery mode, Huawei allows you to quadruple this autonomy … provided you do without Wi-Fi / 4G connectivity. Like a GT2 Pro, the watch will continue to offer GPS activity tracking and sleep tracking. You can even receive calls on the watch via the mobile’s Bluetooth connection and your notifications. On the other hand, the more sophisticated dials will be deactivated. Annoyingly, in our test, text messages and other notifications could not be received … on the P30 Pro (although it worked on the competitor’s smartphone). Some adjustments are still necessary, but remember that the watch has just arrived on the market!
On the recharging side, the Watch 3 is delivered with the same fast wireless charger than that of the GT2 Pro. We recharged the watch from 0 to 100% in just under 2 hours (1:47 to be precise). It is especially on partial recharging that the notion of “fast” takes on its full meaning. It only takes about ten minutes to recover 20% of the battery with this Watch 3, which means you can finish your day without risking a breakdown.