Saturday, July 24, 2021
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Huawei Watch 3 Pro with HarmonyOS reviewed: More misses than hits


I love smartwatches, and I have even amassed a collection of smartwatch reviews here with the inaugural review kicking off in 2013. In the past years, wearable devices have improved dramatically. With the Huawei Watch 3 Pro, the Chinese manufacturer wants to take smartwatches a step further – with the new HarmonyOS. But is it really a step in the right direction? Continue reading this review to find out.

Good

  • Great build quality
  • AMOLED screen brightness up to 1,000 nits
  • Long battery life
  • Wireless charging
  • Diverse set of features
  • Built-in GPS

Bad

  • Chassis is too thick
  • Erratic monitoring of vital signs
  • Challenging to set up the watch
  • Very limited app ecosystem
  • Requires access to (almost) all your data

Huawei Watch 3 Pro: Straight to the point

To put it bluntly, “having just about everything” is not equal to a complete experience. The Huawei Watch 3 Pro brings together premium build quality and a wide slew of features, including software that allows you to download and use third-party apps, compatibility with Android and iOS, and the ability to monitor all kinds of vital signs, from body temperature to the amount of oxygen in your blood. In other words, smartwatch fans should be satisfied, right?

The logical conclusion would be a resounding “Yes”, but there’s no point in having everything and then not knowing how to implement it correctly. And that’s the exact problem with the Watch 3 Pro: you try too hard to be a jack of all trades, that you are a master of none, negatively impacting the overall experience with this device.

NextPit Huawei Watch 3 Pro camila test
The Watch 3 Pro is a smartwatch with all the potential in the world, but it simply doesn’t deliver / © NextPit

This Huawei smartwatch’s price doesn’t help its case, either. I reviewed the Watch 3 Pro in Germany, where you can pick it up at the suggested price of €499. If you invest this amount of money in a gadget, surely you’ll want to be able to maximize the use of all its features, right?

Unfortunately, features such as eSIM support, i.e. as a standalone, is only possible with selected operators at the moment. Also, the app ecosystem developed for HarmonyOS is still very limited.

Screen design and quality

The Huawei Watch 3 Pro is a premium smartwatch, make no mistake about that. The materials used in its construction are of high quality (what’s questionable in 2021 is the use of genuine leather for its straps). The watch case is made of titanium and the back relies on ceramic. In addition, we have a rotating crown that follows in the footsteps of the Apple Watch, alongside a button that, by default, functions as a shortcut to your workouts.

NextPit Huawei Watch 3 Pro sensor
The back is made of ceramic and reserves that space for the smartwatch’s sensors / © NextPit

However, the dimensions of this device can be rather intimidating. It’s 14 mm thick on the 48 mm model. This means you’ll be walking around with an additional 63 grams wrapped around your wrist every day. In comparison, my Apple Watch Series 4 (40 mm model) is just 10.7 mm thick and tips the scales at 39.8 grams

NextPit Huawei Watch 3 Pro Side3
The Huawei Watch 3 Pro is a thick watch with a rotating crown and a built-in speaker. / © NextPit

Because of this really big case, the AMOLED screen follows the same pattern.
We have a 1.43-inch display, with a resolution of 466 x 466 pixels and an approximate pixel density of 326 ppi. The screen carries vibrant colors and delivers pure blacks. During the day, I had no problems viewing the screen in all of its vivid colors, and the size of the display also helped greatly.

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NextPit Huawei Watch 3 Pro 1
The AMOLED screen has vibrant colors. / © NextPit

HarmonyOS has a good number of watch faces to choose from, offering both free and paid options which are available in the store. Personally, I really liked the Glowing face (the one which is shown in the image above) because the shortcuts on the screen were really practical while displaying all relevant information at a glance. Huawei has certainly got this part down well with a wide range of options. 

Overall, the design of the Huawei Watch 3 Pro does not please me, but since visual design is something subjective, those who like big watches will have a good option here due to the great build quality. The AMOLED screen may be a problem when using the device under direct sunlight. However, this was not a problem for me, as the 1,000 nits brightness at maximum and vivid colors of the display worked well in my favor.

HarmonyOS: Far from refined

Although I’ve used smartwatches from different manufacturers before this one, this is the first time I’ve reviewed a Huawei wearable.
This means comparing HarmonyOS to the previous software used by the manufacturer, such as LiteOS, for example, is a tricky affair. However, according to my colleague Edwin K., who reviewed the Huawei GT 2 Pro and is currently putting the Huawei Watch 3 through its paces, LiteOS seems to work way better with Android right from the get-go.

Incidentally, for a premium watch that retails for 500 bucks, the initial setup experience was a real pain. Huawei needs to fix this as soon as possible because first impressions count. It took me a long time to connect it to my mobile device, be it on an Android smartphone or an iPhone. This is certainly related to the integration of different ecosystems: namely HarmonyOS, Android and iOS.

Huawei Watch 3 Pro health app 2
Through the Health app, you can access the watch from your smartphone and download new watch faces and view other services / © NextPit

In addition, the permissions system is very cumbersome. Configuring the “Music” service on the Huawei Watch 3 Pro alone took me 15 screens (on the watch) worth of permissions and terms of use of the service to go through. And that was just to be able to enable this option. Configuring a device should not take this long. And that’s the impression I got with HarmonyOS, you will need to spend a lot of time to set up what ought to be intuitive in the first place.

NextPit Huawei Watch 3 Pro HarmonyOS
HarmonyOS still needs much work. / © NextPit

The watch will need the Huawei Health app in order to maximize its features, which means this is the first thing you must download before connecting your smartphone to you new smartwatch. Navigation on the watch operating system is achieved via the rotating crown, which itself is pretty handy – and of course via screen taps on the touchscreen.

I must stress once again, the controls are not intuitive, so much that it was only after three days of using the watch that I finally managed to find the music controls, and this happened by accident. I use YouTube Music Premium (some say I also bought WinRar), which meant I listen to music on my smartphone via streaming. All of my music files are stored on my computer, hence I did not use the HarmonyOS Music service.

The only music control options available on the watch were volume, back and next. This proved to be rather limited, where I had no access to any playlist or album.

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Another problem I noticed is that the system took days for my contacts to show up in the Watch 3 Pro after giving access permission. Using the watch for voice calls (via the SIM card from the smartphone), I can say that this is not very practical at all since you need to keep your wrist near your mouth in order to maintain a minimum audio quality for the call, and the experience is even worse when you’re on the street. It is far more practical to use a headset. Also, making a call on your smartphone requires less hassle.

Notifications are also very inconsistent, which I received at times and sometimes missed out on them. Moreover, I couldn’t read the content of my emails or even reply, even though the hardware is more than capable of recording one’s voice. Voice commands are also limited on the Huawei Watch 3 Pro’s HarmonyOS.

The Huawei Watch 3 Pro is Huawei’s first device released with HarmonyOS – and it shows. As it works with Android and iOS devices, the operating system still doesn’t feel well integrated. In addition to this, we are restricted by a very limited ecosystem of services. So, what would have been a great feature: the ability to download third-party apps from Huawei’s store, ended up as frustration. HarmonyOS still needs much more refinement!

Before publishing this review, I did a round up of reviews across the specialist sites that have reviewed the watch to make sure I didn’t receive a problematic review unit, which has happened to me in the past. However, the experiences I found about the Watch 3 Pro elsewhere were consistent with mine, allowing me to rule out that possibility.

Consistent performance, but inaccurate sensors

The Huawei Watch 3 Pro is powered by a HiSilicon Hi6262 processor which supports 4G networks. The SoC is mated to 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of internal storage.
Among the sensors are an accelerometer, a heart rate monitor, gyroscope, barometer, thermometer, and a SpO2 sensor. We also have dual GPS built into the device for more accurate tracking while exercising outdoors. Activities like running should be offering a more accurate distance reading and route mapping.

As mentioned above, there is eSIM support, but we were unable to test this feature since it is available with only selected carriers according to Huawei. In addition, we have Bluetooth 5.2 and NFC connectivity, but the use of the latter feature was not available for mobile payments in the review unit.

NextPit Huawei Watch 3 Pro app
The rotating crown helps in the navigation of the Huawei Watch 3 Pro operating system / © NextPit

Unreliable sensors spoil the experience

One of the first things that caught my eye on the Huawei Watch 3 Pro was, without a doubt, the number of sensors and options when it comes to monitoring vital signs. I have asthma and have always wanted the ability to measure my blood oxygen saturation at certain times. However, the only certainty I had when it comes to obtaining an accurate reading is to actually use a dedicated device and not a smartwatch.

The SpO2 readings worried me more instead of helping me build a health record. In one measurement I was at 94%, 100% in the next, and soon after, it was 99%. The time difference for one and the other was less than two minutes apart. If the temperature sensor was correct, I would be in a constant state of hypothermia, for my average skin temperature was 33 degrees. Using a digital thermometer, my average temperature reading was 35.6.

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NextPit Huawei Watch 3 Pro strap
You can use the Huawei Watch 3 Pro in the water, but you will have to change the strap. / © NextPit

Heart rate monitoring sometimes showed inconsistent results compared to the measurements picked up by my Apple Watch and my Mi Band 4 (those two showed heart rates that were quite similar to each other).

Regarding the use of the Huawei Watch 3 Pro for sleep monitoring, I have no data to rely on, because I do not use smartwatches while I sleep. Also, I could not use the watch for swimming, because the leather strap is not ideal for this type of activity.

When using the GPS, it proved to be a winner as it was able to accurately track the path during my outdoor physical activities. Charging right out of the starting blocks, the Huawei Watch 3 Pro offers more than 100 workout modes to choose from, including 19 professional modes and 85 custom modes. There are also 13 virtual running courses available.

In addition, the smartwatch offers a “digital coach” that issues motivational voice commands when you indulge in an activity such as outdoor cycling. It does feel really awkward at times though!

Huawei Watch 3 Pro data
The Watch 3 Pro’s dual GPS is pretty accurate / © NextPit

On paper, the Huawei Watch 3 Pro is robust. In real life though, some of the hardware features are inconsistent, particularly the sensors when it comes to monitoring vital signs. Yes, Huawei emphasizes that this smartwatch should not be used as a medical device. However, it should offer results that are at the very least close to actual readings, otherwise they should not even be listed as features in the specifications sheet.

(If there is a software update to calibrate these sensors, I am more than happy to update this review).

Battery life is impressive

Battery life is a highlight here, especially when compared to the experience that I have with my Apple Watch, which I have to charge every night.
With the Huawei Watch 3 Pro, I was able to use the device for almost three days straight without having to charge it. Again: This is really impressive! Depending on how you use the device when you enable the Power Saving options, you can even achieve up to 5 days of use on a single charge.

Huawei also offers an option that allows you to limit the use of smartwatch functions and thus help it last for about two weeks in use. However, I confess I haven’t had time to check out the Ultra-Long Battery Life mode.

NextPit Huawei Watch 3 Pro charger
Wireless charging technology also takes advantage of reverse-charging smartphones / © NextPit

One thing that I need to mention, though, is that whenever I removed the Watch 3 Pro off the charger, the smartwatch was really hot – something that doesn’t happen with my Apple Watch. A full charge, from 0 to 100% takes around 2 hours and 10 minutes.

In short, if you were to ask me what I admired most about the Huawei Watch 3 Pro, my answer would certainly be the battery life. Spending three days with a wearable that powerful seemed impossible until a few weeks ago for me. Huawei has made that a reality. However, it must be said that the Huawei GT 2 Pro already offered this option since last year.

Final verdict: Having it all is not enough!

The Huawei Watch 3 Pro has great qualities: premium material, great build quality, diverse features for monitoring vital signs, and the possibility to use third-party apps via Huawei’s AppGallery. Looks very promising, right? However, my experience with the device was not good.

The initial setup of the device on both Android and iOS smartphones proved to be time-consuming, with a huge number of permissions to wade through and terms of use for the service, while the monitoring of vital signs is unreliable. By default, the device uses a “voice assistant” that highlights the obvious, trying to double up as an encouraging coach when you’re indulging in physical workouts. 

In short, for a smartwatch to be good, it just needs to do the basics very well. And this is where this feature-packed device falls short. In this review, my goal was to show the relevant features of the Huawei Watch 3 Pro and how my experience with the device was. What I considered were two distinct points. On the one hand, the Watch 3 Pro is an almost complete smartwatch, while on the other hand, the numerous functions ended up hurting the overall experience by not delivering the basics well.

The materials used were of extremely good quality, but the features simply failed to please. While there is feature for almost everything, they failed to deliver in terms of accuracy. The idea here is to have a single device that does everything, but the overall experience proved to be rather limited. In my most honest opinion, Huawei has failed with the Huawei Watch 3 Pro, because it’s not time to replace our smartphones with a single gadget just yet, especially when using this device ends up as a frustrating experience.

In short, while wearing the Huawei Watch 3 Pro, I really missed my Apple Watch Series 4. And that’s the cold, hard truth.


To learn more about how we review devices at NextPit and what each score means, click here.



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