Staying connected without a phone
As a standalone device, the Huawei Watch 2 lets you stay in touch without having to carry your smartphone with you. Apart from making/receiving calls and SMS, you still can get WhatsApp notifications and reply to messages from your wrist while your phone is left behind. It definitely won’t replace your smartphone completely but it’s probably all you need to stay connected for that short moment at the gym or while going for a run.
When it comes to music, you can’t stream Spotify from your wrist. The official app is merely for playback controls while the music is still played through your phone. The recommended way to stream from your watch is via Google Play Music which unfortunately isn’t available in Malaysia yet. If you can’t run without your favourite tracks, you would still need to carry a phone or you could get a pair of wireless Bluetooth headsets with built-in storage.
Another annoyance that I had with the Watch is its vibration intensity. I’ve used several smartwatches including Apple Watch, Pebble and Samsung Gear S2, and I’ve no issues when it comes to notifications. On the Huawei Watch 2, the vibration feedback is quite weak that I missed a couple of incoming alerts during the review period. Fortunately, incoming calls are more noticeable as the Watch 2 rings loudly with your preferred tone.
Speaking of calls, the voice quality on the Huawei Watch 2 is quite good. The loudspeaker volume is loud enough in places with moderate ambient noise and during my test, the other person could hear me clearly as if I was talking through a phone. Text inputs can be handled by voice rather well and Google has done a good job in recognising Malaysian accents. Of course, there’s the option to type using an on-screen keyboard but seriously, don’t bother on a tiny screen.
Being a chunky sports smartwatch, the Watch 2 has a dedicated button on the lower right which gives you instant access to your workouts. It is easy to get started and long pressing this button during your session lets you pause or resume your current activity. Alternatively, you can also reconfigure this button to launch something else.
The Watch 2 still comes with a built-in heart rate monitor and it even tells you what heart rate zone you’re in (Warm-up, Fat-burning, Aerobic, Anaerobic, Extreme) during your exercises. New on the Watch 2 is built-in GPS which makes fitness tracking and even map navigation possible without a phone. There’s also IP68 water resistance but it isn’t recommended that you take this out for a swim.
The default workout app covers most essential details including calories burned, distance, elevation, standing count and resting heart rate. Since it’s Android Wear, you can always load 3rd party apps like Strava, Runkeeper and Runtastic to suit your needs.
Don’t bother if you’re using an iPhone
The Watch 2 supports iOS via Google’s Android Wear app but the connection is terribly unreliable. Reconnecting the watch to an iPhone 7 Plus after it goes out of range can be very frustrating. There are times where I ended up depleting the Watch’s battery as it stayed connected via 4G instead of Bluetooth for an extended length of time. Furthermore, your fitness data from Android Wear will not sync up with Apple’s HealthKit.
On Android however, it works like a charm and I have no issues on my Galaxy S8+. The Watch 2 also has NFC for Android Pay but it will only work in countries that are supported.
The only smartwatch + fitness + phone you can buy
The Huawei Watch 2 might not be a premium successor to the original but it makes up for it with added functionality. The built-in 4G LTE connectivity and GPS would appeal to fitness buffs that want to free themselves from being tied to a phone.
At the time of writing, you can only get it exclusively through Maxis along with a Huawei smartphone bundle. If you’re interested in getting one without any strings attached, Huawei Malaysia will be offering the Watch 2 standalone later for RM1,999.
For that price, it is quite steep and there are other affordable smartwatch options out there. However, if need a smartwatch that’s good at keeping you connected even without a phone, the Watch 2 is probably the wearable that you’ve been waiting for.