It’s funny how things go around. First people wore wristwatches. Then watches became unfashionable as users whipped out their phones to check the time. Now, watches are back, but they’re nothing like your faithful Timex – instead, telling time is almost incidental. They count your steps, monitor your workouts, count your heartbeats, and tell you which way is north. And they’re expensive and sometimes proprietary; even an older Series 3 Apple Watch will set you back at least $300, and the new Series 5 is over $500, plus the cost of the iPhone you need to talk to it.

The Huawei Watch GT, on the other hand, happily talks to Apple or Android and is available at The Source for an SRP of $259.99 (on sale on the website for $199.99 until January 5). Not cheap, but compared to other similar devices it’s a respectable price, and it has some special features that will make you smile.

The watch is substantial – it has a 46 mm ceramic bezel holding a 1.39 inch AMOLED touchscreen – but even with my skinny wrists I found it quite comfortable to wear; it tips the scales at a mere 46 g (plus strap). It’s sturdy, too – even after months of wear, neither case nor screen displays a single scratch.

And with its generous 454 x 454 screen, it’s really easy to read, although as with any such device, bright sunlight can make seeing the screen a challenge. Don’t worry about getting it wet; it’s 5 ATM/50 m water-resistant.

A nice collection of sensors drives the functionality. You get:

  • Accelerometer
  • Gyroscope
  • Magnetometer
  • Optical heart rate sensor
  • Ambient light sensor
  • Barometer

There’s also a GPS. Connectivity is via Bluetooth 4.2.

Workouts include Outdoor run (with a set of preprogrammed running courses designed for various results such as fat burning), Indoor Run, Outdoor Walk, Climb, Trail Run, Outdoor Cycle, Indoor Cycle, Pool Swim, Open Water Swim, Triathlon, and Other. Pant, pant. I’m tired just thinking about all that exercise. 

The device will also function as a stopwatch or timer and offers multiple alarm settings. Oh, yes – there’s a flashlight and a Find My Phone function.

The sleep tracking function, Huawei TruSleep 2.0, according to product description, was developed in collaboration with Harvard Medical School’s CDB Center, and identifies and corrects the 6 most common sleep-related issues, giving you more than 200 potential solutions and suggestions for better sleep. You even get a graph showing the time spent in each sleep phase (deep, light, REM, and awake).

TruSeen 3.0 heartrate monitoring technology uses a self-learning algorithm to increase accuracy.

No matter what exercise you’re doing (or not), you get an indication of how many calories you’ve burned (usually depressingly few).

On the phone side, the Huawei Health app is the key. Available in the Play Store or the Apple App Store, it displays all of your exercise results, your stress level, sleep, heart rate, and even weight (assuming you have an appropriate device connected – it supports multiple connections). You pair the Watch GT to enable continuous heartrate monitoring, activate TruSleep, to define which apps can send notifications to the watch (email, social, weather – pretty much anything on the phone), and to update its firmware. You can also sync with MyFitnessPal or Google Fit.

Also – and this is a major nuisance to frequent travelers – the watch only receives its time and date settings from the phone. I like to set my watch to destination time when the plane door closes, but my phone gets its time and date from the cellular network. That means that the watch won’t automatically change until the phone it’s paired with sees the destination network. Come on, Huawei, it shouldn’t be that difficult a software update to allow users to change the time zone on the watch, eliminating that problem.

Since the watch has a touchscreen, it’s easy to dismiss unwanted phone calls with a simple tap or to scroll through notifications. However, you can’t respond to messages on the watch.

I promised you a smile, and it’s in battery life. Most smartwatches need charging every few days. The Huawei Watch GT lasts for weeks, unless you keep the GPS and real-time heart rate reporting on full-time. My biggest problem is remembering where I left the charger, a magnetic disk with USB connector since I need it so seldom – roughly every two weeks or more.

Huawei did omit a few things in its efforts to hit a more modest price point with good battery life. The Watch GT runs a proprietary operating system, and what you see is what you get as far as apps are concerned. There’s no music player, and it’s difficult to add more watch faces (it comes with fifteen to choose from). Huawei adds more bits and pieces with each software update, so this may change.

You can get different watch straps; my unit came with a dark green rubberized strap, which is actually fine (I’ve been beating it up since March, and it still looks new), but multiple other colours are available, plus leather.

Canada is benefiting from Huawei’s delay in releasing the Watch GT here (it came out late last year elsewhere). While the rest of the world suffered from any glitches, we get a mature product with killer battery life to enjoy.

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