Huawei Watch 2 vs Apple Watch 2 comparison review

Huawei’s presence at MWC 2017 in Barcelona wasn’t difficult to notice with not only the launch of the colourful Huawei P10 and P10 Plus, but also the Huawei Watch 2 and Watch 2 Classic. Huawei’s new sports-focused smartwatch offers impressive fitness tracking abilities, but is it enough to take on the Apple Watch Series 2, which some consider to be the best smartwatch currently on the market? Here’s our Huawei Watch 2 vs Apple Watch Series 2 comparison review, where we discuss the pricing, design, features and software of the two smartwatches.

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Huawei Watch 2 vs Apple Watch 2 comparison review: UK pricing and availability

Before we delve too deep into how the Huawei Watch 2 and the Apple Watch Series 2 compare, let’s first discuss UK pricing and availability. The Apple Watch Series 2 was announced by Apple back in September 2016, and was made available to buy soon after from the Apple Store. In terms of pricing, the cheapest Apple Watch Series 2 available costs £369 with a variety of models available, right up to the £1,249 ceramic Apple Watch Edition.

How does the Huawei Watch 2 compare? While there’s no clear UK price or release date just yet for the Huawei Watch 2, we can speculate on price based on the first-generation Watch and the European pricing, which has been confirmed.

The Huawei Watch 2 will cost €329 or €379 depending on whether you want 4G connectivity (we’ll come to that in more detail below), putting it around the £300-350 mark. This makes it more expensive than the Fashion-focused Huawei Watch, which was released in the UK with a £289 price tag back in 2015, although we expect that this has something to do with the weak GBP at the moment.

This puts the Huawei Watch 2 and Apple Watch Series 2 in line in terms of price: yes, there are more expensive variants of Apple Watch 2 available, but these only offer changes in material and not performance.

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Huawei Watch 2 vs Apple Watch 2 comparison review: Design and build

The second-generation Apple Watch features a square 1.65in (or 1.5in if you opt for the smaller variant) display, although the material the body is made from will change depending on how much you want to pay. The cheapest Watch Series 2 features Series 7000 aluminium, while users will have to pay a minimum of £549 for a stainless steel body. The great thing about the Watch Series 2 is that it’s hugely customisable thanks to a wide range of straps, from sporty silicone straps to high-end stainless steel link bracelets and everything in between.

Meanwhile, the Huawei Watch 2 offers a slightly smaller 1.2in circular OLED display with a rather generic sports smartwatch look. It’s a bit of an odd decision when you consider that Huawei is usually heavily focused on design, as is seen with the recent release of the colourful Huawei P10. The look is fairly unassuming and is coupled with, in true sporty style, silicon watch straps available in either bright orange or black, although there will be no other options available at launch. Those looking for something a little more classy can opt for the Huawei Watch 2 Classic.

Now, the issue with the Huawei Watch 2 is that it comes in a single size – 45mm, which is pretty bulky. While this is fine for some, those blessed with thin wrists might feel that Huawei’s offering is a little too big for them and looks a bit out of place. The Apple Watch, on the other hand, offers a smaller 38mm variant for those with smaller wrists, accommodating to the needs of both men and women. The Apple Watch 2 is also thinner than Huawei’s offering, measuring in at 11.4mm and 12.6mm respectively.

There’s also a big difference in the way that you interact with the smartwatches. While both the Apple Watch Series 2 and Huawei Watch 2 both support touch input, Apple’s Watch Series 2 features the digital crown. The digital crown is a hat-tilt by Apple to the traditional watch that uses a crown to adjust the time, although Apple now uses it to zoom and scroll on the Apple Watch. It’s intuitive, and one of the best ways for users to interact with tiny displays.

The Huawei Watch 2 on the other hand features nothing of this sort. It has two buttons on the right-hand side – one for Google Assistant activation and one to access recently used apps – although there’s no intuitive way to scroll. Samsung and others have come up with various ways to get around this, like the Gear S2’s rotating bezel, but with no option available for Watch 2 users, you’ll have to get used to manually swiping around that 1.2in display.

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Huawei Watch 2 vs Apple Watch 2 comparison review: Features and spec

So, the Apple Watch Series 2 seems to have the upper design when it comes to design, but can it keep the crown when talking about the features and specs of the two smartwatches?

The Apple Watch Series 2 features Apple’s own S2 chipset which houses everything it needs within it. That includes the dual-core processor, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, touch controllers and accelerometer, although Apple plays its cards tight to its chest when it comes to the specifics. What it does translate to is 50 percent higher performance than the first-generation Apple Watch, although that doesn’t really help us compare how it performs against the Huawei Watch 2.

The Huawei Watch 2 features Qualcomm’s first wearable-focused chipset, the Snapdragon Wear 2100. The small processor offers gains in terms of both power and efficiency, and with a 2-3-day battery life compared to a single day on the Apple Watch Series 2, the benefits of Qualcomm’s chipset are clear. The biggest benefit of the Snapdragon Wear 2100? It allows for 4G connectivity, which the Huawei Watch 2 (not Classic) takes full advantage of.

The 4G nature of the Huawei Watch 2 means that it can be used when not tethered to a smartphone. You can use apps, go for workouts and even make and receive phone calls via the smartwatch without needing your phone nearby. In fact, the Huawei Watch 2 features a standalone app store for users to browse and install smartwatch apps without the need to use a smartphone.

The Apple Watch Series 2 can’t compete with this as, despite offering standalone app support, the Watch still requires an iPhone for a connection to the internet and thus, to function. There are rumours of a 4G-enabled Watch Series 3 coming in 2017 but it’s still unconfirmed.

As well as that, the Huawei Watch 2 matches almost everything that the Apple Watch Series 2 offers in terms of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, a heart rate monitor and an accelerometer.

Both the Apple Watch Series 2 and Huawei Watch 2 have a focus on fitness tracking. The Apple Watch offers a ring-style system with goals for standing, exercise and general calorie goals, along with a dedicated exercise tracking app and heart rate tracking. The Exercise app offers a number of specific exercises to track, from running to rowing, along with the ability to track a general workout. It takes this information and syncs it with the Health app on the connected iPhone, which provides a holistic view of your health by combining data from several sources.

The Huawei Watch 2 offers something slightly more in-depth. The Watch 2 features real-time heart rate zone monitoring, allowing you to easily keep an eye on your heart rate during your workout. It features multi-stage workouts - from fat burn to cardio and more – along with the ability for users to create their own apps via the Huawei Wear app.

It’ll coach you during your exercise with feedback on distance, heart rate, speed, goal progression and more, then provide an in-depth post-workout breakdown. The summary will provide breakdowns for the various parts of your workout, along with stats on how you performed (comparable to older workouts to track progression) and even advice on how long you should wait before exercising again.

What about battery life? Apple claims the Watch Series 2 can provide a single day of use before it needs charging with its 273mAh battery, although we’ve managed to stretch that to two days when not using it often (but never when using it to track exercise). It features a Power Reserve mode that’ll boost that up to 72 hours, but provides nothing more than the time.

Huawei claims that the 420mAh Watch 2 battery can last two days on average, or three if you opt for the non-4G variant, or 11 hours of constant use (with all sensors on). Like the Apple Watch, the Huawei Watch 2 also offers a watch-only mode, although it lasts much longer at around 25 days, and it’ll charge from flat to full in an hour. Impressive stuff.

Huawei Watch 2 vs Apple Watch 2 comparison review: Software

The Huawei Watch 2 benefits from a number of new features thanks to Android Wear 2.0, the latest version of Google’s Android Wear software. It’s due to the updated software that Huawei can offer such advanced standalone support, and is arguably where it gains its edge over the Apple Watch 2. It’s also compatible with iOS and Android, although iOS support is rather basic. It offers Google Assistant integration that Google announced back in 2016, and is a direct rival to Apple’s personal assistant, Siri. To find out more about what Android Wear 2.0 offers, take a look at our explainer: Android Wear 2.0 release date and features

The Apple Watch Series 2 features Apple’s own watchOS 3. Some argue that due to Apple designing both the hardware and the software of its products that it creates a synergy between the two that can’t be offered by Android powered rivals that all share the same software. Apple’s Digital Crown integration is a great example of this, and while we agree with this in part, Android Wear 2.0 is a huge step forward for Android rivals.

watchOS 3 offers standalone support for third-party apps on the Watch, although not those that require an internet connection to function. Like with the Huawei Watch 2, the Apple Watch Series 2 offers access to a range of third-party apps, as well as the ability to create and send texts, and make/receive phone calls. The UI is a little complex to begin with, but once you’ve spent some time getting used to it, it’s a great way to use technology on a small screen. To find out more about what watchOS 3 offers, take a look at our sister site Macworld UK’s explainer: What’s new in watchOS 3

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OUR VERDICT

Apple’s Apple Watch Series 2 is a huge improvement from the first-generation Apple Watch, but we’re not sure it’s enough to compete with the 4G-enabled Huawei Watch 2. Featuring more impressive fitness tracking, standalone support and Android Wear 2.0, Huawei’s second-generation smartwatch is one to watch in 2017. However, in terms of design, Apple’s Watch Series 2 is the winner with a more attractive look, a more intuitive way to interact with it via the Digital Crown and a large range of interchangeable straps. It’s a tough choice, but we’ll withhold our final judgement until we’ve spent a little more time with the Huawei Watch 2.