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Hands on: Huawei Watch 3 review

The Huawei Watch 3 introduces Harmony OS, but are its extra smarts enough to give it the edge over Apple and Samsung?

What is a hands on review?
Huawei Watch 3
(Image: © Future)

Early Verdict

The Huawei Watch 3 is Huawei’s first Harmony OS wearable to date, and while it shares previous Huawei Watch highlights, including 14-day battery life (thanks to a fully-featured power saving mode), it also brings the smarts, with installable apps, eSIM support, and a slick new interface. The first smartwatch to feature a temperature sensor, it also sports a voice assistant and 16GB storage. With so many features, has Huawei done enough to compete with Apple and Samsung? It’s too early to say.

For

  • Excellent extended battery mode
  • Temperature sensor is novel
  • Premium design

Against

  • Limited app availability
  • Notifications aren’t interactive
  • Limited iOS functionality

The Huawei Watch 3 marks a break from the norm for Huawei, running neither Wear OS nor the company's own Lite OS.

The Huawei Watch and Huawei Watch 2 ran Android Wear, complete with the operating system’s typically terrible battery life, but it was switched out for Lite OS on the Watch GT and Watch GT 2 series. What made Lite OS different? It sacrificed smarts in favor of battery life. 

For its 2021 flagship wearable, Huawei is ditching both operating systems, as it introduces a solution that strives to deliver the best of both worlds: app support, as well as a battery saver option that helps the Watch 3 Pro last for up to 21 days. Meet HarmonyOS 2.0.

Huawei Watch 3 price and release date

  • Availability to be confirmed
  • Starting at £349.99 in UK
  • No US availability expected

The Huawei Watch 3 will be available from June 18 2021, starting at £349.99 (about $500 / AU$650). The Watch 3 Pro will go on sale on June 28 2021, starting at £499.99 (about $700 / AU$900).

International pricing has yet to be confirmed, but it is expected to launch in regions Huawei has traditionally launched its phones and wearables, including Asian markets, Australia, Europe, the Middle East, New Zealand, and the UK.

As with all Huawei products, no US availability is expected. 

Huawei Watch 3

(Image credit: Future)

Design and display

  • Large 1.43-inch screen with 466 x 466 resolution
  • Strap options include fluorescein, leather and metal links
  • 63g weight, 46.2 x 46.2 x 12.15mm dimensions

Huawei’s gotten very good at making wearables that look like watches. Big, bold, round faces, modest bezels, and buttons on the right side. For the Huawei Watch 3, those buttons include a familiar rotating crown, giving you all the scroll-wheel familiarity of an Apple Watch, but none of the WatchOS rectangular vibes. The watch also ditches the rotating bezel of some of Samsung’s smartwatches for an amalgam experience that works well.

Huawei Watch 3

(Image credit: Future)

Available in a range of flavors, the Watch 3 can be picked up with a silver or black body, and an active, soft-touch strap, a leather strap, or, if you pick up the Pro, a titanium body and a metal link strap. 

Bright and sharp, the Huawei Watch 3’s AMOLED display climbs up 1,000 nits, making for easy outdoor viewability even in direct sunlight. Add automatic brightness to the mix, which in our experience worked well, and the 60Hz screen, which is instantly smoother than Watch GT models as you scroll through menus looks a treat. At 326ppi, the 1.43-inch AMOLED panel screams quality, while the curved glass atop it is comfortable for a finger to swipe over.

Software

  • Runs Harmony OS 2.0
  • Smart and battery-saving modes both feature health tracking
  • Third-party app support in smart mode

Install the Huawei Health app on your iPhone or Android device, and the Watch 3 will pair over Bluetooth, with varying degrees of functionality. 

While previous Huawei wearables ran either Android Wear or LiteOS, the Watch 3 sort of runs both. In its full-power guise, it packs what feels like a forked version of Android Wear, with full app support through the Watch’s AppGallery, slick menus, and an Apple Watch-style grid of apps. Switch to the wearable’s power-saving mode, and the smarts take a backseat in favor of battery saving. The result is an umbrella operating system, HarmonyOS 2.0.

Huawei Watch 3

(Image credit: Future)

In smart mode, features like 4G support via an eSIM enabling call functionality, third-party app downloads, online music streaming, and more are made available. Huawei’s navigation solution, Petal Maps is also expected to drop on the Watch 3 from July.

 What’s so Pro about the Watch 3 Pro?

  • Dual GPS for improved location accuracy
  • Titanium body with sapphire glass
  • Larger battery with up to 21 days battery life

The Huawei Watch 3 Pro upgrades the materials, switching them out for sapphire glass and higher-quality titanium body, with a ceramic feel on the back. The watch also sports dual-channel GPS, for even faster locking on when taking it out for a run. 

In terms of straps, the Pro also ditches the leather and silicon in favor of premium metal links. Admittedly, less workout friendly, but there’s certainly no sacrifice on style. It's worth noting that the Watch 3 Pro is very large though, so if the Pro features we’ve covered don’t sway you and you’re a fan of lightweight watches, the vanilla option is the best. 

Health and wellbeing

  • New temperature sensor
  • Over 100 workout modes
  • Fall detection with SOS calling

The Huawei Watch 3 wouldn’t be a competitive smartwatch without a laser focus on wellness, but it’s the first mainstream smartwatch with a temperature sensor loaded up, so you can track another aspect of your health throughout the day. 

Lifting a few familiar features from the Apple Watch, Huawei’s new wearable also offers automatic fall detection with SOS calling if a fall is detected. Additionally, SpO2 monitoring, over 100 workout modes, heart rate monitoring, stress management, and sleep tracking have all made a comeback, and unlike other wearables, they all work even in the watch’s battery saver mode. 

Huawei Watch 3

(Image credit: Future)

Battery life and additional specs

  • Watch 3 lasts up to three days in smart mode
  • Watch 3 Pro lasts up to five days in smart mode
  • Both charge wirelessly

The Huawei Watch 3 and Watch 3 Pro charge wirelessly with Qi charging. While the Watch 3 promises three days in smart mode, and 14 days in battery saver mode, the Pro lasts five days in smart mode, 21 days in battery saver mode. 

Loaded up with a Huawei-made bespoke dual-processor powering high and low power modes, the Watch 3 is matched with 16GB storage and 2GB RAM. 

Huawei Watch 3

(Image credit: Future)

Early verdict

Huawei is doing something very right with its wearables. Having become known for great battery life with past devices, the Watch 3 carries forward this power-saving story while matching it with a performance mode for power users.

The fact the Huawei Watch 3 looks good, performs smoothly in early testing, locks on quickly to our location when out and about, and comes in a few flavors ensures it’s off to a good start out of the gate.

The addition of a temperature sensor is hardly a game-changer, but a welcome feature nonetheless, and while at this stage, app support is poor, the base experience is good. How easy the watch is to recommend will come down to how it compares with competitors at the same price.

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.