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This is a fine-looking flagship, but it isn’t without its flaws.
While our experiences on iOS were frustrating, the Huawei Watch 3 is an undeniably classy flagship smartwatch. Its standout highlight is, without a doubt, the bright and vivid AMOLED display, while the functions are by and large reliable and the design and build both very nice indeed. We're confident this is a great fit for anyone with a smartphone that runs Huawei's new HarmonyOS.
First things first: to test the Huawei Watch 3, we paired it with an iPhone. Which you could very well argue is not a wise choice of smartphone to review a wearable that's undoubtedly aimed foremost at Android users. Plus, there's the simple fact that anyone who uses an iPhone or other iOS device, and is looking for a flagship wearable, will gravitate instead to an Apple Watch.
That may be true – but we doubt it’s the party line over at Huawei. And the fact of the matter is, while Apple's characteristic insularity means its Watch range is only compatible with its own devices, the reverse doesn't apply. Huawei's watches can very much be paired with iPhones – they just have mixed results. And that was certainly what we encountered when we put the Watch 3 to the test.
The Watch 3 belongs to an 'ecosystem' of new devices from Huawei, including the MatePad 11 tablet and Freebuds 4 earbuds, that are all supported by the all-new HarmonyOS, an umbrella operating system designed to tackle the cross-device glitches that can happen with connected smart devices. This is great news for Huawei phone users: handsets like the Mate 40, P40 and 30 series were recently updated with HarmonyOS, with other phones to follow. But how does it perform when paired with iOS?
Read on for our expert verdict on the Huawei Watch 3. This is one of a number of Huawei wearables we’ve put to the test – be sure to read our Huawei Watch Fit, Watch Fit Elegant, Huawei GT2 Pro and Huawei Band 6 reviews.
This is a fabulous-looking smartwatch, and definitely a leading flagship for Android users. We loved the smoothness of the 60HZ, 1.43-inch display, the reliability of the fitness functions, the classicism of the design and the build quality. But a couple of wince-inducing snarl-ups made this a bad fit for our iPhone, and if you belong to that tribe, we advise you to steer clear. We have a feeling this truly sings on HarmonyOS devices, however.
The Watch 3 is Huawei’s latest top-of-the-line smartwatch, released in June 2021. There’s been quite the delay in seeing this wearable land – the Watch 2 was released back in 2017. Given the turbulence Huawei has experienced on the Western market in the intervening years, we weren’t sure if we would see a successor to the Watch 2. But here it is.
Here’s a run-down of the Huawei Watch 3’s various functions and features:
The Huawei Watch 3 has an RRP of £349.99, and since it’s such a recent release, we don’t expect that price to fall any time soon. The next down in terms of price is the Huawei Watch GT2 Pro – and that’s considerably cheaper at £179.99. But the true reigning monarch in the brand’s line of wearables is the Huawei Watch 3 Pro, which offers a longer battery.
Being honest, we think Huawei is over-reaching a little with its asking price, but that's with the caveat that other brands like Apple and Samsung do exactly the same with their own flagships. This is largely down to the wealth of flashy-but-not-obviously-useful metrics offered in these high-end devices: examples here include the blood oxygen and temperature check controls, which come with little scope for analysis. (Should it need to be said, you should never rely on a tech device for medical advice over your doctor).
But hey: this only makes us more excited for further innovations and developments from wearables manufacturers in the years to come. Who knows what smartwatches in a few generations' time will be able to do?
In design, build and aesthetics, the Watch 3 is a masterwork. It very much looks like a £349.99 smartwatch, that's for sure.
While it’s not unique to this generation of Watch, we want to reassert that Huawei chose very wisely in not trying to ape the boxy, space-age style of the Apple Watch series. It offers a luxe and credible alternative to a futurist look that, we suspect, lots of Apple fans tolerate rather than like. Were it not for the fact that its face is blank when not in use, the Watch 3 could easily be mistaken for a high-end analogue watch. It comes with a leatherette strap that can be easily swapped out by two slide catches. We really appreciate the fact the Watch 3 is compatible with universal watch straps – so if you're thinking of retiring your current analogue watch but you like its strap, you'll have no trouble attaching it.
The classic look extends to the series of face designs, some of which are built into the watch itself, with many more available in the Huawei Health app. There's a huge array of exquisite analogue-style designs to pick from, and plenty more digital-style ones too if that's more your cup of tea.
At 54g, it’s a weighty smartwatch, without being cumbersome. As with most smartwatches that are packed with latest-generation internal parts, it's pretty deep at just a little over 12mm. That 1.43-inch (46.2) watch face might look pretty big on more slender wrists, but the amount of visual information it offers in comparison to slimmer smartwatches and fitness trackers still makes it worthwhile, we'd say.
Lastly, we were delighted to find two buttons on the right-hand face, the upper of which strictly is a crown that you can rotate, whether it be zooming in and out of the honeycomb-style grid launcher or scrolling through functions.
And here’s where the Watch 3 is something of a curate’s egg: some parts are good; some less so.
Let’s start with the positives. The Watch 3 is chock-full of all the leading fitness metrics you would expect from a flagship wearable, and those we tested all performed very well indeed. The heart rate sensor logged our details accurately, as did the sleep sensor, tracking our sleep duration and REM levels with excellent precision. It also did the same with our SpO2 levels (though, as we’ve said in multiple other reviews, this data isn’t exactly illuminating on its own: you’re best off taking it to your GP for substantive analysis).
We also made good use of the Watch 3’s workout modes – in our case, an 11-mile walk in the Pennines. The Watch 3 did an excellent job of tracking our progress, albeit in kilometres, announcing each unit covered at regular intervals. And of course, there’s the three-ring system that will show your daily exercise, steps and calories. Swipe down, and you can compare that day’s efforts to those of previous days.
Now, to the less good stuff, which largely comes from those ongoing iOS compatibility issues. The Huawei Watch 3 should be able to both play music from your phone, and store it so you can listen via the watch’s speakers if you want to. Unfortunately, when we tapped the music tile in the functions screen, the following message appeared:
'Respect of customer, huawei [sic] temporary does not support the device and the IOS [sic] mobile music matching provide online music service, after waiting for system upgrade can be normal use, if there is any inconvenience locations.'
Which, frankly, is a little embarrassing. Huawei’s iOS hiccups are well-publicised, but to be met with a message in non-proofread, broken English doesn’t exactly scream ‘industry-leading wearable’. It’s this kind of seat-of-the-pants stuff that continues to tarnish Huawei’s reputation, and it's unlikely to convert any Apple Watch devotees, either.
Also to our disappointment, we couldn’t get the Watch’s built-in assistant Celia to work either. You’ll need to go into the settings to switch on the wake-word setting – but no matter how many times we tried ‘Hey, Celia’, we were met with a ‘network error’ on-screen message, and nothing we could find online solved the issue. This may well be another iOS-related problem, but was a letdown all the same.
We wanted to end this section on an upbeat note, which is why we left discussing the Watch 3's gorgeous AMOLED display until last. From the moment we charged the device and the words 'HarmonyOS' appeared on the screen, we knew we were looking at one of the most bright, sharp and vibrant smartwatch displays we've yet tested. The Watch 3 boasts a screen refresh rate of 60HZ, and it shows in the fluidity of every last graphic: even watching it charge was almost mesmerising. This, paired with a smooth UI, made the Watch 3's usability a fantastic experience.
Huawei advertises the battery life of the Watch 3 as anywhere between 14 days (in ultra-long battery life mode and with next-to-no usage) and 1.5 days when paired with an iPhone. For our three-day review period, during which we did some extensive testing, the Watch 3 lasted for about 48 hours before it needed charging via the magnetic cable.
We got the Huawei Watch 3 up and running in the space of around an hour. That was largely down to it arriving minus charge, but in that time we got it up to 90 per cent in power.
The Watch 3 arrives in a very slick-looking black box, the inside of which features the Huawei logo in embossed gold. Included in the pack is the watch itself, the magnetic charging cable and a set of paper instructions. The strap already comes attached to the watch face.
The fitness features and metrics needed to be accessed via the Huawei Health app, so you'll need to make sure you've got that installed on your phone.
Are you an iOS user? Don't bother, buy an Apple Watch instead. We can't offer first-hand feedback on the Android experience, but on the assumption that the music playback feature works, and Celia the voice assistant steps up, this is a definitively exceptional smartwatch. And if you've got another device with HarmonyOS to pair it with? Lucky you.
Overall star rating: 3.8/5
Still on the hunt for your perfect wearable? You may want to see what's on offer right now in our pick of the best smartwatch deals.