The Huawei Watch 3 is a watershed moment in what’s destined to be a busy year for Huawei’s wearable division.
It’s a return to its flagship smartwatch brand, last seen with the Huawei Watch 2 back in 2016, and with it the launch of Harmony OS – the company’s new operating system.
It’s a more premium device than the Huawei Watch GT2 (and GT2e), although it shares many of their best features.
But is it Huawei’s best smartwatch? We strapped it on to find out.
Price and competition
At launch the Huawei Watch 3 costs £349. There’s no US price as it won’t get a formal launch there, but it’s already on Amazon US for $432. We’d expect it to drop in price over the coming months.
It’s a big price tag for a brand that’s offered cut-price smartwatches until now. But there is a some value for money, given the excellent materials and screen.
We’ll come onto whether it’s worth the money further down, but what else can you consider?
Naturally the Apple Watch Series 6 starts at $399, so if you’re an iOS user you can go straight there.
And it’s also worth considering the Amazfit GTR2e, which also offers similar fitness features, stress, temperature tracking and Alexa for half the price.
Huawei Watch 3 specs
- Android compatible and iOS (but not yet)
- Stainless steel case
- Ceramic back
- 16GB 2GB RAM
- 1.43-inch AMOLED screen 1000 nit
- 466 x 466, 326ppi
- Rotating crown
- Interchangeable strap
Design and specs
As we unboxed the Huawei Watch 3, we were tangibly impressed. The Huawei Watch 3 is an elegantly designed smartwatch, which lets the premium materials do the talking.
The 46mm case isn’t going to be super comfortable for small wrists and there’s no smaller option here – so it’s certainly skewed towards men.
The case is stainless steel, the reverse is ceramic and the 3D glass is sapphire. The mix of materials is excellent at this price.
There are three versions of the standard Watch 3, and this essentially changes the strap material. On show here is the Elegant version, with the stitched leather strap. Then you have Classic with a silicon band for swimming and workouts, and Elite with the metal link bracelet. If you opt for the Huawei Watch 3 Pro you get a titanium case.
In our time with Elegant the leather band stood up to workouts well, although each strap is swappable with a quick-release catch so you can swap things up.
There’s a big piece of borrowing here from the Apple Watch: the rotating, twizzling crown. This enables you to access the main menu and return to the watch face (just like the Apple Watch) and scroll through menus. It works, and it’s nice to have a tactile control away from just a touchscreen.
The screen is excellent, and one of the brightest and punchiest we’ve seen on a smartwatch. The display isn’t quite as edge-to-edge as it appears in many of the press images, and has a noticeable black ring around it.
However, the 1.43-inch display is generous enough to display Harmony OS and make navigation of the operating system pretty seamless. There’s a decent selection of watch faces and design is a cut above rivals, too.
It has options for always on or raise-to-wake – although the former will dent battery life faster than the three days quoted by Huawei.
There’s also a slightly shonky app set up. You need to download the Huawei App Gallery from the Google Play store and then install the Health app from there. Huawei promised there would be iOS support at launch, but at the time of writing the Watch 3 isn’t listed in the iOS version of Huawei Health, and we’ve not received an update of when this will happen.
Fitness and health features
Huawei has gone hard into health and fitness on its smartwatches since 2019, and much of that has been brought over here.
In fact, the fitness tracking and sports tracking experience is pretty much identical to what you’ll find on the Huawei Watch GT2 range.
Most of the best health features are turned off by default, so you’ll want to head to the settings to turn these on.
This includes continuous stress tracking, continuous SpO2 monitoring and temperature tracking – but these will annihilate battery life, so you may want to think carefully about what you care about.
Activity and step tracking
Step tracking was broadly in line with other devices (Fitbit and Apple Watch) and data was close enough not to cause any alarm.
The familiar looking ring system also tracks active minutes, which were spot on against other devices.
You also get a daily stand goal, completing an activity tracking line-up that’s nearly identical to the Apple Watch. Is it as motivating? Well, the goals aren’t as baked into the Huawei Watch as they are on watchOS, but the celebration animations are nice.
The Huawei Watch 3 will offer sporadic move reminders if you haven’t got up and moved for over an hour – if you like that sort of thing.
There are watch faces that will show off your goals if you want, or you can swipe right from the watch face to get an overview.
Huawei’s sleep tracking has been a highlight – and it’s more of the same on the Huawei Watch 3. You get a lot of data and insights, and your nightly sleep score and sleep duration is available on the watch.
We found sleep duration to be a little over-estimated, and it’s not as sensitive to wakeups as something like the Fitbit Sense or Apple Watch.
But generally, the data is in the right ballpark, and the sleep stages (light, REM and deep) were all in line with rivals. It picked up on our tendency to not get enough deep sleep, and contains enough interesting and actionable insights to be a useful tool.
An all-new feature that’s headed to the Huawei Watch 3 is skin temperature readings – something we’ve seen pop up on the likes of the Fitbit Sense.
It’s not a hugely exciting feature – but one that can provide an interesting data point about your overall wellness.
Changes in skin temperature can be a sign of illness, so keeping an eye on large fluctuations is useful. The Huawei Watch 3 doesn’t warn you of big changes, and the metric doesn’t appear in Huawei Health either.
What’s more, the on-watch app tracks temperature over the course of the day and we feel a week would be more insightful. We’re not sure what a 24 hour summary of skin temperature can tell us. What’s more, Huawei doesn’t add context on what’s normal for you from your own baseline, as everyone runs at different temperatures.
Thus, we’re sceptical how useful the feature is at all, apart from ticking a box on the spec sheet.
Heart rate monitoring
The Huawei Watch 3 boasts an all-new TruSeen 4.5 optical heart rate sensor, so there’s an expectation here that things should be pretty accurate.
And things were off to a good start with resting heart rate. During a routine blood donation we had a nurse manually check our pulse against the Huawei Watch 3, and were pleased that the two readings matched up perfectly.
Resting heart rate is tracked in the Huawei Health app, and was in-line with rival devices that we’ve come to trust. We had a RHR of 51 in Apple Health and 52 in Huawei Health – so everything checks out well.
There’s no subsets of heart rate tracking on offer, so heart rate variability (HRV) isn’t measured, like you’ll find on Apple Watch or Fitbit. HRV powers features such as stress tracking, but it’s missing as a standalone metric. That’s fine because it’s a pretty opaque, but it does mean you have less raw data here than other smartwatches.
In terms of heart rate during workouts, we tested the Huawei Watch 3 during a 10K race.
Looking closely, the Huawei Watch 3 did tend to report slightly under a chest strap (although was actually steadier in the beginning part of the race) – and this led to a lower average HR overall. It did manage to report the same max HR for the session, right up at 191bpm.
So it’s a capable sensor that can offer a decent guide of exertion during intense workouts.
Like all optical sensors, throwing in intense intervals with fast rises and falls did flummox the sensor – so if you are passionate about spot on heart rate when jumping around in HIIT classes, a chest strap is advisable. The Huawei Watch 3 does not support Bluetooth HRMs.
You can opt to have stress tracked 24/7, which you can see in the Huawei Health app.
This will take an hourly stress reading which it will turn into a score out of 100 – and it will show this score over the day.
You can use this score to advise yourself when to try guided breathing (there’s an app on the Huawei Watch 3) or other stress-busting meditations, if you fancy.
Is it accurate? It certainly picks up fluctuations as you go through the day, so if stress is a problem for you, it can certainly do a job of highlighting when to take action. There were lots of gaps in the daily graph, however, and we feel its implementation needs some work to be a proactive tool for managing stressful feelings.
The Huawei Watch 3 has a built-in SpO2 monitor, which is used in in a couple of ways.
First, you can spot check blood oxygen at any time – should you be at altitude or simply interested. As a note we would always recommend using a medical grade sensor if you’re sick.
And you can have SpO2 continuously tracked, as well. Unlike Garmin devices, there’s no option to have a sleep-only SpO2 reading taken, which offers a better compromise between usefulness and battery impact in our opinion. Low night time SpO2 can be a sign of sleep disorders, and the most useful application for the technology.
SpO2 readings seemed accurate when compared to other tracking devices and a medical grade sensor – so no complaints there.
Sports tracking has largely been ported over from the Huawei Watch GT2 range, and the experience looks and feels identical from the moment you head to the Workouts app.
Runners are still well catered for with the same pre-programmed running training modes that offer guidance on things like intervals and cadence targets, if you’re looking to improve your fitness. They’re don’t offer a mind-blowingly experience, and we prefer something like Nike Run Club, but it’s nice you can do things like guided intervals or fartlek from the wrist without taking your smartphone out.
There are also plenty of modes, such as a smart companion, that offers stats-based guidance on your workout, and there are alerts for pretty much every metric such as pace, distance and heart rate.
By default you get an awful lot of data read out every kilometre using the Huawei Watch 3’s built-in speaker. We found it really annoying, and a bit embarrassing, as we rarely had headphones hooked up to the watch itself.
Given there’s no music streaming support (we left all of our MP3s back in 1999) there’s little need to have headphones connetced. So it’s just embarrassing to be running in the park and have your split times shouted out to people as you pass. We turned that off immediately.
Otherwise the running experience is excellent. We had no issues with distance data or accuracy, and everything worked seamlessly.
GPS tracking was accurate – although a 10K race was tracked at 9.79km. However, every km was perfectly tracked until the last, so we don’t have major complaints. Every other run was spot on in terms of accuracy.
Disappointingly, the move to Harmony OS hasn’t seen the ability to export data to Strava which was our major gripe about previous Huawei Watch GT2 smartwatches. We assume Strava is now free to create its own Harmony OS app – but we’re not going to hold our breath for that.
And that’s kind of a gripe about the Watch 3 in general – the sports tracking is the same as you’ll get on the Huawei Watch GT2e…but at nearly three times the price.
Fatigue and Training Mode
Because of the unfamiliarity with the Huawei design language, the App Launcher is a little confusing. So it took us a while to notice the excellent workout stats menu.
You get three screens: fatigue percentage, which will measure the recovery time until your next workout.
You also get the Firstbeat-driven Training Load, which assesses how much training you’ve done based on intensity and VO2 Max.
Our VO2 Max scores were slightly elevated from Garmin, which we’ve previously determined to be one of the best estimators compared to a lab test. Both Garmin (based on runs with the HRM-Pro) and Apple Watch had us at 49 m/g/l, while the Huawei Watch 3 rated us at 53, which is a little too high.
Harmony OS and smartwatch skills
There’s no doubt that Harmony OS makes for a bigger set of features, but the jury is still out on whether this worth the big hike in price over the Huawei Watch GT2 series.
Large parts of the older (and cheaper) smartwatch experience has been ported over wholesale. So why pay more here?
First apps: the ability for third parties to use apps on Harmony OS is a big part of its future – but right now the selection is not good. There are no big hitters (such as Strava, Map My Run) and there’s not even an Uber app – and there’s ALWAYS an Uber app. Huawei needs to get out there and entice developers. We’re sure it will do that easily in China where it has a huge market, but Europe seems ambitious.
There’s a voice assistant here – Huawei’s own Celia is on hand for a “Hey, Celia.” It works fine for things like timers and alarms – if you like that kind of thing. Is it worth spending an extra $100 over rivals? Not for us, but perhaps those invested in Huawei’s smartphone ecosystem will find more value.
Notifications worked well, so no complaints there. However, the ability to interact and reply to notifications is lacking – which does put it at a disadvantage to Wear and Apple Watch devices when run on their native platforms.
It’s clearly an OS that’s still being heavily worked on, and was subject to constant nagging updates in our weeks with the device.
It also needs to be connected to Wi-Fi manually to run updates, and doesn’t take that information from your smartphone, instead requiring input by an on-screen keyboard which is pretty frustrating to deal with.
The Huawei Watch 3 does support LTE via an eSIM, but we didn’t test that out.
The Huawei Health app also feels like it needs some work. It’s clean and easy to navigate, but the main Health screen is a little bare, and we’d like to see more glanceable, and actionable daily data.
A huge part of the Huawei Watch 3 is battery life, which is powered by two modes.
In normal mode you will get between 2 and 4 days battery life – depending how you use it.
The always-on screen did reduce battery to around 2 days. Without that we enjoyed around four days – but note we didn’t use an LTE connection.
Turning everything on, including continuous SpO2, stress and temperature monitoring and the always-on display, did drop battery life some way short of a single day. This was after a large battery life-focused update dropped, which was a little disappointing.
However, there’s an ultra-long battery life option tucked away in the Settings menu. If you turn this on it puts the Huawei Watch 3 into a different mode, much more akin to the Huawei Watch GT2. Here you only get a single, basic watch face and the amount of workout modes is reduced to just 14.
However, it will last around 10 days – and still offers activity monitoring, heart rate and sleep tracking.
The performance of the entire smartwatch is also reduced, so menus do feel sluggish and juddery to navigate in ultra long mode. For that reason, it’s not something you’d want to run 24/7, but does mean you could get through a weekend away without taking your charger – and still not lose much of the experience.
This mode would also disable LTE and Wi-Fi is also disconnected.
However, it’s actually a perfectly serviceable smartwatch in this mode and totally comparable with the likes of Amazfit and Huawei Watch GT2 series devices.
Huawei Watch 3
The Huawei Watch 3 looks and feels great, offers a strong set of features, and it’s one of the best smartwatches for Android users. Harmony OS has the potential to grow into something exciting, although at launch it doesn’t feel that far removed from the GT2 series that went before. To recommend the Watch 3 relies on you valuing the design, because if you take that away, and it’s too close to the GT2 family at three times the price.
- Great build, materials and style
- Accurate GPS
- Versatile battery life
- Close to the cheaper GT 2 series
- Health features need better implementation