Huawei Watch and Huawei Band 6 – useful, affordable smartwatches of 2021/2

If you’re looking for a smartwatch consider the Huawei Watch / Huawei Band / family of wearables

If you’ve yet to get yourself a smartwatch I’ll have a guess at the reason. One negative may be that Google Wear OS and Apple Watches typically just last the day, or longer if you switch off a feature. This is the same issue as seeing that electric cars travel too few miles. A next issue is that £200 or $200 seems like too much for too many compromises. Another might well be that you get no benefit from wearing a watch.

My smartwatch ‘journey’ began with the ‘Pebble’ watch. It had a monochrome screen, cost about £150, had lots of useful apps and its battery lasted a week. I valued that it could tell me the next bus or train home wherever I was. And it could point me back to where I’d parked a car. I might still have it today if Pebble hadn’t been shut down by fitbit.

I bought the first TicWatch for £100. It had Wear OS, it was good at navigation and well integrated with the phone. It could run apps (good but mostly fanciful) and it could answer the phone (nice but no need for that). When the watch fell into a washing machine, I took this as the end of my experiment with this technology.

Lastly, I didn’t buy anything. I was stuck between watch choices. I didn’t need a well-featured watch and I wasn’t sure about the proprietary OS watches (Amazfit/Huawei) that last ages between charges. It was time to reassess and realise that my needs were mostly to do with walking, cycling and sleeping.

A look at the Huawei Watch GT 2 / GT 2 Pro / GT2e / Watch 3

The sale season landed me with a delightful Huawei Watch GT2e, chosen from a range of other Huawei watches. I actually liked that it didn’t take calls or play music from a speaker or respond to voice commands. I prefer a quiet device but your need will be different. If so, see the other models above as they have more or less features. The GT2e is in no way slow or laggy.

The watch is smart and metal and comfortable to wear all day. It measures pulse and sleep, it records walks in steps and on a map plus it measures a range of ‘workouts’ including walks and bike rides. It is easy to set wake up alarms and set cooking timers that fire off after x minutes. Plus there’s a lovely screen showing the local weather. There are other features, some of which may feel more useful over time including spO2 and stress measurement. Incidentally the watch can be paired with a Bluetooth speaker or headphones and play music stored as mp3 files internally. If you’re playing music via your phone (eg through Spotify) the watch music app will stop, skip a track, start or adjust the volume. There are dozens of beautiful watch faces to download but there’s no app store. The apps you get are the ones you get. Then again the GT2e might have enough apps for me. Usefully, I can turn on/off notifications for apps I have on the phone. With always on pulse monitoring from sensors. the watch lasts a week before needing a recharge on a magnetic disc. If I compromise on monitoring that could be improved to 14 days.

The phone app that records data and controls settings is called Huawei Health. I’ve explained how it’s set up here. It’s an attractive app and ever more competent as you become familiar with it. For example, when I go for a long walk I choose Outdoor walk from the workouts and my steps, pulse and location are recorded on a map and these go into an archive of past events to recall. The GPX track from the map can be exported to use in Google Maps or sent to a contact in the usual ways. Time spent on this app rewards by delivering the export or share features some of us need.

I also have a Huawei Smart Scale which is paired with this app to provide a history of weight (and much more) in Huawei Health.

Huawei Band 6 / Watch Fit

If a downside of Huawei Watch GT 2e was wearing a not small watch in bed, Huawei have fitness bands that have many of the watch’s features in a smaller form. The Huawei Band 6 has a gorgeous screen and a long lasting battery and this has become my ‘indoors’ watch. It tracks my sleeping hours better than expected and syncs my activity to the same Huawei Health app. When I go out I switch to the bigger Huawei watch or not. This two device idea seems to work well. The Huawei app is pick up all the data I’m creating on either wearable.

All the features I need without extra apps

Let me list all the things I value in any watch and put out of mind wanting any features that haven’t been invented. (There are two extra things that I want: I want to be able to turn on/off a switch or read a temperature. I also want a watch to guide me along a saved walk or GPX track). The Huawei devices do all the following:

  • tell the time
  • quickly set a timer to do something or start a stop watch
  • set an alarm to wake up or do something regular
  • monitor a walk and record where I’ve been
  • record how much I sleep, adding naps to that
  • monitor exercise or energy use.
  • immediate measure of distance travelled or steps
  • quick access to a weather report
  • find phone
  • easy export of a walked route
  • send data transparently to integrating apps such as Google Fit
  • a bit of intelligence to improve battery life
  • a selection of notifications from my phone

Other watches

On the way to buying into the Huawei ecosystem I was also impressed by watches from Honor (a Huawei brand) and Amazfit. The latter has the similarly titled Amazfit GT2e watch. If you’re needing a fitness / health device the fitbit and Garmin might be considered – this is not my domain so I couldn’t say whether they’re better or their marketing is better. I’ll leave my story here and recommend a read of reviews and Youtube assessments to set your choice.

My conclusion is that just as I wait for electric cars to become better value, the other expensive watches also need to mature and provide value. Just now I find enough style, fun, value and benefit to be had with watches with a smaller feature set.

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