A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece saying how I wanted a new smartwatch, but couldn’t give a Jonathan Ross about sports features. Shortly after I bought a Huawei Watch 2 Sport. I’m nothing if not contrary.
What changed my mind? Two things. First, the price of the Huawei Watch 2 Sport had been chopped from £329 to a much more tempting £200 (it’s since climbed back to £240 at most retailers). Second, because my former colleague David Hewson said he loved his and wasn’t bothered about the sports features either.
Was it £200 well spent? A fortnight later, I rather think it was.
Huawei Watch 2 Sports review: design
One of the things that drew me to the Huawei Watch 2 Sports was that it wasn’t overtly ‘sporty’. There are no luminous straps or massive diver’s watch dials. It’s dark, demure and doesn’t look out of place on your wrist in a business meeting. There is a non-Sport version of the Huawei Watch 2, but the design is almost identical.
Unlike other Android Wear watches I’ve tried, it’s not too chunky, either. I’m a reasonably big fella, but it glides gently under my shirt and jacket sleeves. It doesn’t look like a clock strapped to my wrist, and the watch straps are interchangeable if you don’t like the black plastic one it comes with. Talking of black plastic, that’s the material used for the construction of the body too, but you’d do well to spot that from a distance. It has a premium, metallic look.
The screen is spot on. A sharp, 1.2in 390 x 390 pixels display with a touchscreen that’s as responsive as a sheepdog to a shepherd’s whistle. It’s well lit and as easily readable in bright sunlight as it is unobtrusive in a darkened cinema. And it’s a Gorilla Glass touchscreen, which makes it impervious to scratches. The watch looks spotless after a fortnight of daily wear, which is more than can be said for the scuff-ridden Pebble Time that went before it.
Huawei Watch 2 Sport review: features
When it comes to features, the Huawei Sports 2 ticks most of the boxes. The watch has both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and there’s a more expensive 4G version that gives you even greater independence from your smartphone, should you wish. There’s NFC for making Android Pay payments – although this requires an awkward security pin, which is more hassle than it’s worth, if you ask me.
There’s GPS on board for those who want to accurately measure their run or bike journeys, although that obviously takes a hit on the battery life. GPS engaged seems to drain the battery at a rate of around 10-15% an hour, so it should easily see you through a marathon, although a day-long bike ride may wear it out.
Talking of a battery life, it generally falls agonisingly short of two working days of moderate use. By the end of the second day, it’s gasping into battery-saving mode, which switches the screen off and reduces alerts. You could extend battery life further by switching off Wi-Fi and GPS, but then again charging every night isn’t the greatest hassle in the world.
There’s 4GB of onboard memory if you want to load the watch with music and go running with a set of Bluetooth headphones, leaving your smartphone at home. The Sport has a microphone and speaker too, so you can pretend you’re David Hasselhoff and answer phone calls on the watch itself. You look a proper spanner doing that in public, but it works well.
The microphone is better deployed for sending quick replies to texts, WhatsApp messages or tweets. You can tap the mic button and dictate a quick reply, which is transcribed on Google’s cloud with almost unerring accuracy. It’s certainly quicker than getting your phone out and tapping a reply if you’re issuing a one-line response. Even the tiny onscreen keyboard can be used to issue such replies – and that works a whole lot better than I ever imagined it could.
The Huawei Watch 2 Sport is also meant to respond to “hey Google” voice commands, but I find this more miss than hit. You almost have to scream at the watch to get it to respond, and it stopped responding altogether last week, forcing me to reboot the watch to bring the feature back. It’s far easier to simply hold down the top button and then issue a voice command. Plus it makes you look like a spy, which is enormously satisfying.
Huawei Watch 2 Sport review: non-sporty stuff
For day-to-day notifications and activities, the Huawei Watch 2 is magnificent. Notifications are rich and well presented, and you can always tap through to read the full length of a Slack message or email, if you wish. Listen to Spotify or Google Music on your phone, and the watch will instantly switch into music player mode, displaying artist and track name and letting you skip forward whenever a Bob Dylan tracks infiltrates one of your playlists.
You have the full range of Android Wear apps at your disposal and plenty of storage in which to keep them. Few are standalone gems, but I’ll come back with my favourite Android Wear apps at a later date.
My favourite feature is getting directions on my watch screen when I’m walking or cycling to a strange venue. Being able to quickly glance down for directions is far more convenient than wandering around with a phone in front of your face, and far less likely to get you mugged when wandering around a strange city.
Huawei Watch 2 Sport review: the sporty stuff
Here, I’m going to start with a caveat: this stuff barely interests me, and I’m by no means a fitness watch expert, but from what I can gather the Huawei Watch 2 Sport is well stocked for parkrun addicts and their like. The watch has a battery of sensors, including a 6-axis A + G sensor, 3-axis compass, a heart rate monitor and a barometer.
The sports activities are all activated by pressing the bottom button, from where you can choose which type of activity you want tracked: different types of runs, walk, cycling and other custom plans are all on offer. Huawei wants you to download its accompanying Health smartphone app to tailor these plans and present detailed results, but you can, of course, use your favourite Android app for the job too. Google Fit and Runtastic are already pre-installed, but you’ll find Strava et al in the Store.
Relevant info is displayed on the watch face as you pound the pavements, such as pace, heart rate and distance covered. I can’t imagine what more I’d need, other than a defibrillator.
Huawei Watch 2 Sport review: verdict
I never thought I would own a sports watch, let alone love one, but here I am. Ignore the sports features, and the Huawei Watch 2 Sport is a perfectly good day-to-day smartwatch that doesn’t look as if it fell off Chris Hoy’s wrist. If you need the sport stuff, even occasionally, it’s there when you want it. It’s almost making me feel guilty about not getting my bike out more often.
It’s a fine all-rounder, and if you can still find it at £200, arguably the best value Android Wear watch on the market today.