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Huawei makes its smartwatch debut in NZ with the Watch GT

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Huawei’s Watch GT ticks the design, fitness and battery-life boxes, but lacks bells and whistles.

Beyond the now ubiquitous Fitbit, there’s a host of fitness trackers hitting the market offering exercise and health-monitoring features with a more watch-like design.

The latest is Huawei’s Watch GT ($349), which debuted in March alongside the Chinese company’s P30 Pro ($1499), a smartphone that has won rave reviews for its ability to take stunning photos in almost any conditions.

Fitbit continues to dominate fitness tracking, with its stripped-down watches such as the Ionic and Versa. They are lightweight with good battery life and tight integration between the watch and the Fitbit app, which is the best around at encouraging goal setting and linking with other Fitbit users to shame you into doing more exercise.

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Garmin and Fossil have taken a different path, appealing to fitness fanatics with dedicated exercise-tracking features in a more rugged, waterproof design and typically with larger watch faces to fit in all that crucial tracking data coming from the watch’s sensors.

The Watch GT falls into that latter smartwatch category, with a crisp, full-colour 3.5cm display and classic watch face and dual-crown design. Exercise tracking is the centrepiece, complete with a crown you can tap to select your workout type – from indoor running to open-water swimming. There’s even a triathlon mode that will track running, cycling and swimming as well as the transitions between them.

The idea is that the smartwatch’s sensors know exactly what type of exercise to track, giving you more-accurate results that are fed back to the Huawei Health app on your iOS or Android smartphone when you sync it with the watch after your workout.

There are a host of sensors to facilitate that – a heart-rate monitor on the back, an ambient light sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer and barometer. The GPS even connects to three different satellite-positioning systems, giving you precise tracking of distances covered.

Huawei’s Watch GT.

What you get as a result is reliable data on your exercise, accompanied by the usual goal setting and exercise reminders common to most fitness trackers. The Huawei Health app does a good job of correlating the information, though it is a little clinical compared with Fitbit and without the slick design of the Apple Health app.

Sleep tracking is a strong point of the Watch GT. It will give you the usual breakdown of sleep patterns as well as monitoring your breathing, which is a useful way of identifying when you are really tired or if you are a snorer or have sleep apnoea. I have apparently been getting too little deep sleep, with the app suggesting I increase my vitamin B intake.

The GT’s crowning feature is its long battery life, lasting about two weeks between charges. That will allow all-day wear with the heart-rate and sleep functions activated, 90 minutes of exercise a week and message notifications. That’s impressive given that the Apple Watch’s battery life allows only 18 hours of use, and if you recharge it at night, you miss out on its sleep-tracking functions. Use it purely as a watch and the GT will give you closer to 30 days of use between charges.

But the Watch GT is very much a sports watch. Its LiteOS operating system does a good job of running the exercise and health-tracking functions, but beyond sending you message alerts and weather updates, it is fairly dumb.

It has no compatibility with third-party apps, which are widely available for the Apple Watch. Samsung’s Galaxy Watch Active, for the same price as the Watch GT, offers third-party apps and music streaming. The compensation for those compromises is the long-lasting battery, but that will be too much of a sacrifice for some.

Still, with its quality design, great exercise-monitoring features and battery capacity, Huawei makes its smartwatch debut in New Zealand with a credible rival to the similarly priced Galaxy Watch Active and Garmin Vivomove HR.

Click here for our smartwatch buyer’s guide

This article was first published in the May 11, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.