At first sight the Huawei Watch GT 3 is a fitness-oriented alternative to an Apple or Samsung smartwatch.
It looks great, performs well and has exceptional battery life. There’s a long list of health tracking tools that monitor everything from heart rate to blood oxygen level. There is software to monitor performance in 100 sports.
At NZ$400 it is roughly half the price of an Apple or Samsung smartwatch.
Yet before we think about any of that, we need to get one big thing out of the way. The Watch GT 3 runs on Huawei’s Harmony OS.
That can make it a difficult choice for people who might otherwise like its feature list.
Like rival phones, you can make calls from your wrist while on the move. There is no eSim in the watch, which means pairing with a phone is essential.
People rarely use a smartwatch in isolation from a phone. It makes sense to pair a watch with a compatible phone, that way there are no compromises, no niggly workarounds to contend with.
If you own an iPhone, the best smartwatch to buy is an Apple Watch. If you use an Android phone it would be hard to walk past a Samsung Galaxy Watch.
The Huawei Watch GT 3 has similar compatibility when paired with a Huawei phone running the Harmony OS.
And that’s a problem. It means you are locked into a phone operating system that is barely used in western nations like New Zealand.
Harmony OS is Huawei’s alternative to Android. Huawei has used it since the US government banned American companies from selling technology to Huawei.
Before the ban Huawei was one of the world’s top phone brands. Since then the company has struggled to sell phones in countries like New Zealand. That’s because few people choose to buy anything other than an Android or iOS phone.
Harmony OS resembles Android, but it isn’t Android. You can’t do everything you might expect to do on an Android. Among other things, it doesn’t support contactless payments. And there are fewer third party phone apps.
Getting the best from a Huawei Watch GT 3
You’d have to be keen to swap out your existing Android or Apple phone for a Huawei in order to get the best from a Watch GT 3. Few people reading this review will make that choice.
Huawei points out there are compatible Watch GT 3 health apps for both Android and iOS.
This is an option. You have to download the Android app through Huawei’s own app gallery. While that’s not hard and it is not a deal breaker, it is a minor example of the niggly workarounds mentioned earlier.
I tested the watch with an iPhone 13. Everything works, but the integration is nothing like on a par with the integration between an iPhone and an Apple Watch.
What about the Watch?
All this is a pity because the Watch GT 3 itself is impressive. It delivers many more features than rival watches costing more.
It looks attractive with a bright Amoled display. There are two sizes. The 46mm version looks large even on someone with a huge wrist. Despite its size, it is light at around 43g. It has a bigger screen which has obvious benefits.
The review model is the smaller 42mm version. It more closely resembles a normal watch. At 35g it is one of the lightest smartwatches I’ve seen.
Both watches come packed with a magnetic wireless charger.
Huawei says you can get seven days from the smaller watch and up to 14 from the larger one. I haven’t needed to recharge the review watch in over a week, so the claims stand up.
Huawei Watch GT 3 verdict
The Huawei Watch GT 3 is a huge step up from the GT 2. If all other things were equal it would be a serious contender to be the smartwatch for everyone outside Apple’s camp. That’s not likely to be the case unless you are comfortable with Huawei’s Harmony OS.