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Honor Watch GS 3 review

A good smartwatch that’s held back by its software

Honor Watch GS 3
(Image: © Future)

TechRadar Verdict

Honor Watch GS 3 is the company’s first smartwatch to be released after parting ways with Huawei but the watch has a very familiar look and feel to the older watches from Huawei and Honor. The Honor Watch GS 3 comes with an abundance of fitness modes, an elegant look, and a slew of health-tracking sensors that put it in the path of being a great watch. But it’s held back by its software that seems rushed and undercooked.

Pros

  • +

    Elegant design and great looks

  • +

    An abundance of fitness modes

  • +

    Accurate and diverse health-tracking sensors

Cons

  • -

    Software is lacking in many areas

  • -

    No contactless payment feature

  • -

    No support for iOS

One-minute review

Honor Watch GS 3 comes with an elegant, sporty look with a plethora of fitness modes and a slew of health tracking features such as heart-rate monitoring, stress monitoring, and blood oxygen monitoring, all of which make for a good fitness watch. But if you’re more into in-depth fitness tracking apps and stats, you’ll find that this watch isn’t the best choice.

Smart features like native apps, contactless payments support and a proper notifications system are still nowhere to be found making it a less favourable option compared to options like Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 and Fitbit versa 3.

Battery life is where this watch shines, giving a lengthy lifetime on a single charge to the extent that you’ll be worry-free about the watch going out of juice for a very long time.

Honor Watch GS 3

(Image credit: Future)

Honor Watch GS 3 price and release date

The Honor Watch GS 3 (opens in new tab) is available for preorder (opens in new tab) until the 24th of June after which it will become available for purchase on shelves. It will cost you AED 799 for the more sporty-looking midnight black version, and AED 849 for the classic-looking ocean blue and classic gold variation.

Currently, you can also get the watch for free along with the Earbuds 3 pro when you preorder Honor’s Magic 4 Pro (opens in new tab) smartphone.

With that price point, Honor Watch GS 3 will get fierce competition from the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, and Fitbit Versa 3, which both undercut the watch GS 3 with third-party apps support.

 Design and display

The design on this watch is exceptionally well rounded and has a lot of things to admire. It comes with a diameter of 46mm and an AMOLED display that has a pixel density of 326 PPI with good brightness that’s very usable outdoors. We found the display to be sharp and crispy too.

The Honor Watch GS 3 has an always-on display mode with multiple watch faces you can choose from. The always-on display works well for checking the time on the go but it makes quite a dent on the battery life.

Honor Watch GS 3 always on display

Honor Watch GS 3 always on display has a big impact on the battery life (Image credit: Future)

At 44 grams, the watch is fairly light and doesn’t cause fatigue or discomfort through long wearing sessions. The strap also is very comfortable to wear for long sessions.

The display design is great with a curved glass that melts right into the edges, although the black bezels are a bit thick, we didn’t necessarily find that bothersome in our experience.

There is no digital crown or rotating bezel on this watch. Honor has opted for traditional touch controls paired with two buttons on the side. The upper button is used to bring up the menu of functions you can use and the bottom one can be customised to work as a shortcut for your favourite function. Both the buttons are clicky and protrude from the side but aren't uncomfortable.

On the back of the watch, you can see the 8-channel heart rate sensor and the SpO2 sensor that sits right in the middle of the watch- again with a small protrusion but one that isn't thick to bite on the skin or cause any discomfort. The magnetic charger are present on the back and we will discuss them later.

 Performance and software

With a proprietary OS that’s yet to be named, this watch gives an identical experience to Huawei’s lineup of watches with swipes to the left and right to access different shortcuts like the SpO2, heart monitoring and stress monitoring. Swiping down gives access to notifications, while a swipe in the opposite direction brings up quick settings. The OS is pretty clean and you can navigate through it with fluid animations but it's not as smooth as wear OS or WatchOS.

Honor has introduced the Honor Health app to substitute for the long-standing Huawei Health app which seems like a rushed release. While it has the same look and feel as Huawei Health, it lacks the polish of the former and is lacklustre in many areas.

While using the Honor Health app (Android only), we ran into some problems, first of them was when we connected the watch the first time, the app started counting the steps and with each step, the watch kept on pinging the phone with vibrating notifications. The Honor health app treated every step with an individual notification and needless to say, we had to switch notifications off to avoid this.

Honor use dual-frequency GNSS which is supposed to cut the time to first fix (TTFF) in half, the Watch GS 3 took a lot of time to pinpoint our location the first time we used this function. It needs to calibrate and once it did that, it fixed to our position fairly quickly.

Honor Health app

Honor Health app seems like it's cloned from Huawei Health app but with less functions and watch faces. (Image credit: Future)

You’ll be asked to log in to the app every day as it keeps on logging you out which is very frustrating. The watch face market still has limited choices, but we’ve noticed that Honor is adding more and more watch faces to the app every day. 

There’s no support for third-party apps or a proper notifications system- the notifications you get on the watch are lacking in details. For instance, you can’t find out who the sender for a message is, and there’s no support for emojis. To make matters worse you can’t interact with notifications in any way. Even though their phones support GMS, Honor still didn’t build support for Google Fit app like the one you could get with Huawei Fit. Lastly, if you’re an iOS user, you should look elsewhere as this watch doesn’t support the iPhone.

The Bluetooth calling function comes in handy for making and receiving calls, but we came across a bug with that function where multiple times, we would receive a call from someone but the watch would show a different person calling. Needless to say, this created a lot of confusion and we had to double-check on the phone to make sure that the watch is showing the right caller.

You can control music playback on your phone via the watch and also store music on the watch’s internal storage to listen to via the embedded speaker or by pairing it to a Bluetooth speaker or earbuds. This lets you listen to music without having a phone connected and is useful if you like to leave your phone behind when going for a run.

Overall, Honor really needs to up their game when it comes to contactless payments, building a better notifications system and supporting 3rd party apps. Seeing what Honor has done with the AI Space app found with its latest Earbuds 3 pro, we’re inclined to give the company the benefit of the doubt and keep our fingers crossed for a better application.

 Fitness Features 

The Honor Watch GS 3 comes with an abundance of workout modes with over 100 modes and a custom function where you can choose "other" type of workout if you can't find the workout mode you’re looking for.

Using the GPS in outdoor workouts works great for measuring your run courses precisely and maps it out for you on the app so you can check later.

Honor Watch GS 3 fitness session tracking

The fitness tracking interface in the watch was simple and gave good metrics for the status of your workout session (Image credit: Future)

The improved heart rate monitoring function is snappy to catch up with your workouts and measures the heart rate accurately to almost give instant updates.

Reminders for being active are also useful but they seemed to pop up at random hours of the day and there’s no way of controlling their frequency or timing.

 Battery life

Honor is known to deliver excellent battery life on their smartwatches, and the GS 3 is a no different. While the advertised battery life of 14 days ins't realistic unless you sacrifice the constant heart-rate monitoring, SpO2 tracking and turn off GPS capabilities. 

We were able to reach 5 to 7 days of battery life on a single charge with the continuous functions enabled. That is pretty solid and stopped us from worrying about having another device that need charging every couple of days. 

Using the bundled proprietary charger proved to be a fun task. The charger is now a simple puck with USB C connectivity which we prefer over the previous models where the cable couldn't be detached from the charging puck making it less flexible.

The advertised fast charging experience that Honor states is good, giving a full day of use with just five minutes of charging. Charging the watch entirely took near an hour which is also quite acceptable.

 

Honor Watch GS 3

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

You want an elegant stylish smartwatch

While it doesn't use premium materials, the Honor Watch GS 3 is still one of the best-looking smartwatches in the market.

You need comprehensive fitness features

With the Honor Watch GS 3, you’ll get all the fitness modes you could possibly want that, paired with comprehensive sensors, does a great job tracking fitness sessions.

You don’t want to charge your watch every day

A great feature of this watch is the battery life it provides, with up to 14 days of battery life and not less than 5 days in intense usage modes, you’ll find that this watch will give you great battery life.

Don't buy it if...

You’re an iOS user

There’s no app to support the Honor Watch GS 3 on iOS at this moment. So if you’re an iPhone user, you’ll be missing out on the software support on your phone and you’re better off looking for another option.

You need third-party fitness app support

While you’ll get a plethora of fitness modes and health tracking sensors, you won’t find support for fully-fledged smartwatch applications or third-party applications support.

Mostafa Eltaweel
Sub Editor at TechRadar Middle East

Mostafa has been working in the tech journalism industry since his teenage years following his childhood passion for PC hardware, tech and video games. Besides tech, his new interests are Esports scene and regional competitions.