A smartwatch can be a handy business tool, but not every model pairs well with business casual. That's why the Huawei Watch stands out from the competition: It looks like a classy wristwatch instead of a clunky toy. It features a round face and is available with a range of handsome bands, with options including leather and stainless steel.
And just as important, it does a good job of pushing alerts, messages and other crucial information right to your wrist, where you can't overlook anything. And although it's an Android Wear watch, it can actually pair with your iPhone.
But starting at $349, this is one pricey smartwatch. Can good looks justify its steep price tag?
We got our hands on two different versions of the Huawei Watch for this review. The first (pictured here) sports a black, leather band and a silver, stainless steel face. At a glance, you'd be hard-pressed to identify this as a smartwatch and not a classic wristwatch, and that's a good thing. We also tested a more expensive model, which has a black, stainless steel face and a black, stainless steel band. It's a more masculine look that's also very attractive, if you don't mind paying a premium for it.
A few accent details give all versions of the Huawei Watch a bit of extra appeal, like the faux crown on the side of the device that actually serves as a power button.
In comparison, many competing watches look downright dorky. Your tastes may vary, but I think the look of the Huawei Watch is a big leap ahead of the awkwardly square Apple Watch.
But women and others with small hands and wrists might be turned off by the Huawei Watch's relatively large face; it can look a bit bulky on your wrist compared to the average women's watch. Measuring 1.4 inches across, it's bigger than competing watches like the Moto 360 (1.37 inches), LG Watch Urbane (1.3 inches) and Apple Watch (1.3 inches).
This is easily one of the nicest smartwatch displays I've seen. The fact that it's round is certainly noteworthy, though that's nothing new; many other smartwatches, including the Moto 360, LG Watch Urbane and Pebble Time Round also offer circular faces.
The 1.4-inch, 400 x 400-pixel display is also the sharpest smartwatch display I've seen. That's important, since a sharp display makes text look crisper, so messages are easier to read. In comparison, the Apple Watch has a resolution of just 272 x 340 pixels, while the Moto 360 tops out at 360 x 330 and the LG Watch Urbane at 320 x 320.
Pebble's Time Round smartwatch, meanwhile, has a low-res, 180 x 180-pixel display that's also much less vivid than the screens of competing smartwatches, though it allows the device to last much longer on a charge.
The Huawei Watch display is quite bright, which makes it easy to view when you're outdoors or in direct sunlight. The screen automatically dims after a few moments of inactivity, but you can wake it up just by turning your wrist toward your face. The gesture was reasonably responsive, though it does take a moment for the screen to turn on, so glancing at the time isn't as convenient as it would be with a traditional wristwatch.
So how can a smartwatch make you more productive, anyway? Think of it as an extension of your smartphone. The Huawei Watch can fetch notifications and messages from your Android phone or iPhone, then display them on your wrist, where you won't overlook them. In other words, it ensures you receive every alert right when it arrives.
When you receive an alert, the watch will discreetly vibrate on your wrist. Some alerts, like alarms and calendar notifications can be dismissed with a swipe, while others can be acted upon without ever touching your smartphone. For instance, you can send short responses to text and email messages using the Huawei Watch's built-in microphone (no, there's no tiny keyboard to type out messages manually).
If maintaining a social media presence is part of your job, the Huawei Watch can help with that, too. It supports alerts with apps including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The Huawei Watch runs on Android Wear, a mobile operating designed by Google specifically for smartwatches. The interface is simple, letting you flick up and down to swipe through incoming alerts and notifications. Swiping right dismisses an alert, while swiping left lets you access extra actions, depending on the type of alert you're dealing with. The main screen is a clock face, which can be swapped out for dozens of different designs.
A microphone on the Huawei Watch lets you use voice commands to achieve all sorts of tasks. Just say, "OK, Google," to activate the voice-command prompt, then state your command. I like using this feature to save quick notes, set calendar appointments and perform quick Web searches.
In my opinion, voice-command capability is one of the best reasons to own a smartwatch. Setting a reminder or saving a note manually on your smartphone is almost more trouble than it's worth, but doing so with the Huawei Watch is effortless and takes mere seconds.
In the past, Android Wear devices like the Huawei Watch paired exclusively with Android smartphones. But thanks to a recent update, the Huawei Watch is one of the first that can pair with iPhones. But understand that not every watch feature is compatible with iPhones.
Here's what you can do. The Huawei Watch can pair with an iPhone to fetch incoming calls and text messages, as well as alerts from Google apps such as Hangouts and Gmail.
But other functionality is restricted. For instance, you can't use "OK, Google" voice commands when the watch is paired with an iPhone, nor can you use the Huawei Watch's microphone to verbally dictate a text-message reply. And many iOS-specific alerts can only be dismissed from the Huawei Watch, forcing you to dig your iPhone out to act on them.
Prospective buyers should also remember that the Huawei Watch costs just as much as the Apple Watch, which is much more useful when paired with an iPhone. The Pebble Time Round smartwatch is another good option for iPhone owners.
Very few smartwatches can last much longer than one full day, and the Huawei Watch is no different. During my testing period, I eked out roughly a day and a half of usage between charges. That means you'll need to recharge the watch nightly, but you'll still have enough juice left to make it to the office if you forget one night.
I really like the circular magnetic charger, which snaps easily to the back of the watch. This makes it easier and more convenient to charge the Huawei Watch, which removes some of the burden of nightly charges. The Apple Watch uses a similar system.
Most other smartwatches offer similar single-day battery life, with one major exception. The Pebble Time Round has a low-power e-paper display, which lets it run for three to four days between charges.
Huawei sells its smartwatch in a variety of different materials. The entry-level model (pictured in this review) includes a stainless steel face and black, leather strap for $349. You can upgrade to a stainless steel mesh or link band for $399. An even pricier model gives you a black, stainless steel face with a black, stainless steel link band, all for $449.
The band can be swapped out on the fly. Huawei sells the extra bands for $80 to $170.
Smartwatches don't get much classier than this. And the Huawei Watch won't just look great when paired with your work attire; it can actually make you more productive by ensuring you never miss an alert. Other perks include good battery life, a gorgeous display and responsive voice commands.
On the other hand, the $349 Huawei Watch is more expensive than rival devices. The Moto 360 ($299), and the LG Watch Urbane ($273) look nearly as slick at a lower price, though their screens aren't as sharp as Huawei's. And if you want to pair the Huawei Watch with an iPhone, you'd probably be better off with either the Apple Watch ($349) or the Pebble Time Round ($249).
Still, if you're an Android user who loves how the Huawei Watch looks, it's worth paying a premium for this device.