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Huawei Watch GT 3 Review: Great Looks, The Best Battery Life

I’ve been reviewing Huawei consumer products for about half a decade now, and in that time Huawei’s consumer business has gone through a roller coaster ride of ups and downs. Despite that, I feel like the theme of my reviews have remained consistent: Huawei products have in my opinion the best design and hardware in the industry—from laptops to smartwatches to smartphones, they consistently offer a premium, classy yet unique design. Its software is where it usually falls short of my admittedly high standards.

That’s true with the company’s new smartwatch, the Huawei Watch GT3. It’s the best looking and most premium feeling smartwatch I’ve ever tested and seen in person—and I am only testing the mid-tier “Classic Edition,” not the more luxurious/pricier “Elite” or “Elegant” edition.

It’s so good looking with so many subtle premium touches, in fact, it makes the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic—which I gave a glowing review, by the way—look slightly cheap by comparison.

Design

I am testing the Classic edition of the Huawei Watch GT 3, which goes on sale soon in the U.K. for £249.99 (around $344). It comes with a leather strap, and in my view this is an immediate win. Similarly priced smartwatches from Apple, Samsung, and Fitbit ship with cheap feeling, rubbery straps that I have never enjoyed rubbing against my skin all day.

The Galaxy Watch 4 Classic’s strap, by comparison, is tacky and poorly designed, leaving wide gaps around my wrist due to the way the rubber strap tucks into the watch’s casing.

As I said, the Classic isn’t even the highest tier model in this series. There are “Elite” and “Elegant” editions that look like something that’d belong at a fashion show.

My Classic model in 46mm size (there is a smaller 42mm version) features a stainless steel casing with meticulously crafted chamfered sides. The glass panel that covers the OLED display subtly curves downward around the edges to meet the casing in a more seamless fashion than most other Android smartwatches, which have a relatively sharp edge where the glass meets casing.

Huawei is clearly going for a classic timepiece vibe with this smartwatch, so there are minute markings around the watch bezels.

On the right side of the casing is a digital crown that can be pressed or rotated, along with a click button. I like that the dial is positioned in the 2’o clock position instead of 3’o clock, as it doesn’t get in the way when I bend my wrist backwards (which happens when I’m doing pushups).

The casing is only 11mm thick so it doesn’t protrude from my wrist too much. This 11mm figure beats most Android smartwatches, but it is slightly thicker than the 10.7mm casing of the new Apple Watch however.

The display is gorgeous—it measures 1.43 inches across and packs 466 x 466 resolution. It’s also the brightest smartwatch display I’ve ever seen. In all these product shots, I actually had to lower the screen brightness to 50% to avoid blowing out the screen on camera. At maximum brightness, this is a watch face that I can read easily even under heavy sunlight.

Around the back side of the watch in the redesigned sensor that packs eight photodiodes in a circular layout, along with two light sources, so together they can scan your wrist clearly and precisely. The watch can track the usual measures such as heart beat, blood-oxygen levels, step count, skin temperature and over 100 workouts automatically.

Huawei didn’t specify the processor inside the watch other than it’s an ARM-based silicon, nor did it specify battery size, but rest assured, performance in either area is no issue. In fact, in typical Huawei fashion, the Watch GT 3 offers the best battery life on any smartwatch, up to 14 days of use on a single charge under normal usage.

Topping up this watch will be easier than other smartwatches, too, by the way, because the Watch GT 3 can be charged wirelessly via any Qi charger (the same ones used to charge smartphones). This is so much better than other smartwatches requiring you to use a proprietary charger. If I’m going on even a three-day trip with an Apple Watch, I must bring that charger with me. I will almost never have to worry about bringing a charger with me if I’m wearing the Huawei Watch GT 3, because two week-plus trips are rare, and Qi wireless chargers are ubiquitous.

All the other sensors and hardware components that you’d expect from a premium smartwatch are here: gyroscope, geomagnetic sensor, air pressure sensor, microphone and speaker.

One area where this watch goes above and beyond is in GPS connectivity: the Watch GT 3 packs L1 and L5 dual-band GPS, meaning it can connect to more satellite systems than typical Android smartwatches. I live in a major city and I’m not much of an outdoorsy nature person, so I was not able to test the GPS capabilities.

Software

The Huawei Watch GT 3 runs on Huawei’s HarmonyOS, and the new operating system runs smoothly on the watch. The UI interface is clean and easy to navigate, and although there aren’t many third party apps right now, it comes with all the necessary first party apps.

The watch’s fitness tracking seems on point from my testing. Whether it was step count, or heart rate, it showed numbers similar to the Apple Watch 6 or Fitbit Sense.

When connected to an Android device, I can take and receive calls, and the loudspeaker sounded surprisingly good.

But then there’s that one shortcoming I mentioned earlier: the Huawei Watch GT 3 can only receive static notifications from the smartphone, meaning I cannot interact with those notifications. For example, if I get a WhatsApp or Slack message, I can only read the message on my wrist, but I can’t respond to the messages. Both the Apple Watch 6 and Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 let me respond via voice dictation or typing.

This is unfortunate, but not a problem unique to Huawei’s smartwatch. Xiaomi smartwatches, Fitbit trackers, and many other brands wearables also do not let me respond to notifications. I don’t know what it is that makes such a seemingly basic feature hard to pull off, but as I wrote in my Galaxy Watch 4 review, Samsung’s about the only Android wearable maker to really get this right.

Wanting to respond to chat apps directly via my watch is a particular usage need of mine, and I concede many other users don’t ever feel the need to do this. So for them, this “problem” is a non-issue.

Conclusion

While its starting price of £249.99 (around $344) is a bit high for those used to Xiaomi prices, it is comparable to other premium smartwatch offerings from big name brands like Apple and Samsung. And as I said, I think the Huawei Watch GT 3 is better looking than both the Apple Watch and Galaxy Watch.

Huawei is helping sweeten the deal for consumers in the U.K. by offering a free set of Huawei’s wireless earbuds (the FreeBuds 4i) if they pre-order on Huawei’s website before November 9. There will likely be similar deals when the smartwatch launches other parts of Europe and Asia.