Huawei’s smartwatches have been a favourite here at Expert Reviews for a while, but the spat with Google has meant it hasn’t updated its flagship Huawei Watch model for a while. This year, however – courtesy of the firm’s own HarmonyOS – the Huawei Watch 3 and Watch 3 Pro have arrived, and they have plenty going for them.
Solid battery life, smooth performance, sumptuous design and decent fitness tracking capabilities mean they’re a strong alternative for Android users looking for an alternative to Wear OS watches. They even work reasonably well with the iPhone, although it’s only the longer battery life that might tempt iPhone owners away from a new Apple Watch, since Apple’s wearable is far more capable across the board.
I was sent the premium Huawei Watch 3 Pro for this review and it’s a handsome thing, with a brushed gunmetal titanium casing, a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal glass lens and a brown leather strap. There’s also a more expensive model that comes with a steel-link wristband but, for my money, the Classic model makes for a more refined look.
The price is quite high at £500 – and considerably more expensive than the £350 non-Pro Huawei Watch 3 – but this gets you a larger, classier-looking wearable with longer battery life and a few additional features, including mobile connectivity via eSIM support. Take note, though, if phone-free connectivity is what you want this watch for, you’ll have to switch to Vodafone, as that’s the only supported network in the UK at the time of writing.
Users of other networks can still make and receive calls on the watch via Bluetooth, but you’ll need to have your phone in the vicinity to do so.
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The Huawei Watch 3 Pro only comes in one size, and at 48mm it can look a little cumbersome on the small wristed. Despite the small size, though, I found it comfortable to wear on my bony wrists. You may want to swap out the leather strap for something stretchier for workouts, however, so as to keep the fit nice and snug. That’s easy enough to do thanks to the watch’s quick release spring pins, which are the standard width of 22mm.
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A couple of physical controls can be found on the watch’s right-hand edge, consisting of a rotating, clickable crown and an elongated button sitting just below it. The bright and vibrant 1.43in AMOLED display, with a resolution of 466 x 466 pixels, is nice and sharp and it has automatic brightness as well – although there’s no always-on display option like on the Apple Watch. It’s also 5ATM waterproof, so you can wear it out in the rain or while swimming without having to worry.
There are plenty of things to like about the Huawei Watch 3 Pro, but right at the top of the list is its responsiveness and ease of use.
Most navigation is done via the touchscreen, which you swipe left, right, up and down to get to the main parts of the OS. A click of the crown launches a view of all the apps installed on the watch, while rotating it zooms in and out or scrolls up and down, depending on the mode you’re in, and every action you take is accompanied by snappy, smooth animations.
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Pressing the button below the crown launches you into the watch’s workout mode, which is my other favourite part of the Huawei Watch 3 Pro. While this can’t match what you get with a dedicated fitness wearable such as the Coros Pace 2 or Garmin Forerunner 245, there’s plenty to get your teeth into.See related Best smartwatch 2022: The best wearables for iPhone and AndroidBest treadmill 2022: Improve your cardio fitness with help from JTX, JLL and more
For starters, the watch is up to date with all the sensors you’d expect of a high-end smart wearable these days. Along with GPS and all-day heart-rate monitoring via Huawei’s TruSeen 4.5+ sensor array, there’s all-day blood oxygen (SpO2), skin temperature and stress monitoring, a barometric pressure sensor, gyroscope, accelerometer and digital compass as well.
Naturally, the watch uses these to track all the core metrics, such as sleep, step and calories, but Huawei has also done a very good job with the workout-focused features, cramming in over 100 different tracking modes, including some basic Couch-to-5K-style training plans. I like the way all the stats are presented in the Huawei Health app: there’s plenty of detail and it’s all laid out cleanly and clearly.
As this is a smartwatch, you can also install apps on the watch via the Huawei App Gallery. The choice is fairly limited at the current time, certainly compared with the Google and Apple stores (although the number is steadily increasing), but this matters less with a smartwatch than it does with a phone, especially when the built-in fitness tools are so good to begin with.
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There’s a decent selection of watch faces to choose from, with hundreds of paid-for choices available to supplement the preinstalled ones. Most of these are reasonably priced at 99p or less, and it’s even possible to try the watch faces out before you commit to buy, which is a nice touch.
There’s also third-party fitness platform sync support, although that’s currently limited to Adidas’ Runtastic app, and only seems to carry across GPS data (distance, duration, pace and map), not heart-rate data.
Battery life is excellent, at least by Apple Watch and Wear OS standards. I found the Watch 3 Pro would generally last between four and five days with around three to four hours of GPS workouts per charge in full smartwatch mode. There’s also a battery-saving mode that’s quoted at an impressive 21 days.
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GPS accuracy, whether distance or pace, is superb, thanks in the main to its dual-band GPS radio. I found the watch tended to take a bit longer than other wearables I’ve tested to grab a signal, but once locked in, it matched my Stryd footpod remarkably closely, falling short on average by a mere 1.2% over the course of seven training runs. That’s a stupendously good result.
Alas, I was less impressed with the heart-rate monitor accuracy and rarely found it matched up with the ECG chest belt I was wearing as a control. Over the course of the same seven runs, I found it returned average heart-rate readouts that were consistently around 10% above what they should have been.
That’s not great, but it’s worth noting that other reviewers have found it performs better, so your mileage may vary. It’s also much more accurate when reading your heart rate while you’re sitting down, so it’s clearly doing something right.
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That’s my biggest beef with the Huawei Watch 3 Pro, but there are some other smaller niggles. The first concerns notifications, which come through on the screen and are nice and readable on the bright display, but can’t be responded to as with the Apple Watch or a Wear OS wearable such as Mobvoi’s TicWatch series.
It’s also disappointing that eSIM connectivity is only supported via Vodafone in the UK and that the Wallet feature doesn’t currently support bank cards in the UK. What’s more, music playback is limited to either Huawei Music or MP3 files that you download to the watch.
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Also worth bearing in mind is that there are some features that won’t work if you pair the watch with an iPhone, among which are paid-for watch faces, SMS text replies and Huawei Music. Battery life is also not as good when paired with an iPhone, with the stated battery life halving from five days to two-and-a-half days in “typical scenarios”. You can view a full list of compatibility issues on Huawei’s website.
Finally, on the fitness front, although you can set time, distance and calorie goals or even a “Smart Companion” to help you keep up the pace in a race, there doesn’t appear to be any way of using the app to create custom structured workouts.
In some ways, these failings mean the Huawei Watch 3 Pro is difficult to recommend. It’s expensive, heart-rate monitoring accuracy isn’t the greatest, and eSIM connectivity is limited to one UK mobile network.
But there are plenty of things the Huawei Watch 3 Pro gets right. It’s built with premium materials, looks great, is comfortable to wear and has the sort of battery life Apple Watch owners would kill for. Moreover, its GPS performance is among the best I’ve come across on any wearable, and the fitness features are impressive considering it isn’t a dedicated sports watch.
At a lower price I might have been tempted to give it a recommendation but, as it stands, it’s a bit too expensive and it has a few too many shortcomings.