Reviewing a smartwatch produced by Huawei in 2021 is not an easy task: to tell about the new Watch 3 con Huawei Harmony OS 2.0 First of all, we need to distinguish between hardware and software, because the former maintains those excellent standards that the Chinese giant has accustomed us to for some time, while the latter is a new and constantly evolving world, characterized by lights and shadows.
Let’s start with the hardware: assembled with masterful care, the smartwatch is characterized by a elegant curved glass placed to cover the display and, on the right side, by a rotating crown to scroll the contents or consult the app grid, flanked by a programmable key. Well hidden, there are speakers and microphone (usable for phone calls), which however do not prevent the watch from being waterproof up to 5 atmospheres, for diving up to 50 meters deep.
The display, a 1.43-inch AMOLED and 466 × 466 pixels of resolution, it is really very nice: the right size is large, clearly legible in any situation also thanks to the brightness of 1000 nits, it is perhaps the main reason why the 54 grams of weight are forgiven the Watch 3. At the heart of the device beats a HiSilicon Hi6262 chip with 2 Gb of Ram, more than enough to run Harmony OS smoothly and without uncertainty, together with 16 GB of internal memory to save music and apps. The connectivity, very complete, is guaranteed by Bluetooth 5.2, Wi-Fi, GPS and NFC (which is used for contactless payments, but which for now has no active services to be exploited in Italy) and, if the operator supports this technology , even from an eSIM for voice and data connectivity via 4G LTE, which can make the watch totally independent from the smartphone.
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The (many) software problems
Then there are the sensors: considered as a whole gyroscope, accelerometer, altimeter and compass, together with heart rate monitor, skin temperature thermometer and SpO2 blood oxygenation detector, they seem to shout out loud that the Watch 3 is practically an elegant smartband underneath. steroids (also for the price of 329 euros, which become 449 for the Pro Classic version). An advantage that, however, also hides a weakness, given that the Huawei smartwatch is a candidate to be very useful in measuring up to 100 preset sports activities thanks to dedicated and proprietary applications, but still supports a small number of apps produced by third parties that it does not include, for example, the popular Strava or Runkeeper. Nor are Telegram, Messenger and WhatsApp.
The reason is known: for years Huawei has suffered from consequences of the ban with which the administration of the then President Trump included it in the Entity List, or the black list of companies with which American companies can only deal with if authorized directly by the federal government. Confirmed by President Biden, this provision effectively prevents the Chinese giant (among other things) from using the versions of Android that Google constantly updates and develops for partners, as well as fundamental Google Mobile Services such as the Play Store, the inexhaustible source of apps that millions of people around the world tap into.
Given this context, the smartwatch subject of this test represents in many ways a watershed for Huawei: after a period of uncertainty, now the company is aiming decisively to affirm the Harmony OS operating system with the dedicated store called App Gallery, and the Watch 3 was the first device to cross Chinese borders with this software (obviously in a simplified version suitable for wearables). Almost a test on the general public, to test their interest and curiosity as well as to start spreading the new ecosystem, to which it was then quickly added the MatePad 11 tablet series, but still no phone.
The tip of the iceberg of a colossal operation that, returning to Watch 3, for now gets a bittersweet result: the watch is beautiful, solid and elegant to wear. In operation, it has a real autonomy of about two and a half days and, when required, correctly measures the many vital parameters it is able to detect, but the youth problems of Harmony OS and an ecosystem to be built emerge from the very beginning. moment when you connect the smartwatch to the phone. We tested it both with an Android smartphone (an Oppo Find X2 Pro) and with an iPhone 11 Pro Max, and in both cases we had to go through a somewhat more cumbersome process than we are used to, which however is promptly guided through the dedicated Huawei Health app.
The tested model, received on debut, required a few updates before running smoothly, which required us to starting from scratch in the evaluation more than once, but which confirms that the software base of the new Huawei ecosystem is constantly and rapidly evolving. At the moment, all the features and the same connection between smartwatch and phone completely depend on Huawei Health, which allows you to download and install new Watch Faces among those available, and which insists on the sporting vocation of the Watch 3 right from the name. with iPhone, the app occasionally asked us to reconnect manually (i.e. by clicking on Connect) smartphone and smartwatch, and that in a couple of cases it was also necessary to restart the Watch 3.
The proof of the facts, the notifications almost arrive simultaneously on phone and watch and are very well readable, even if it is not possible to interact or respond directly from the smartwatch. Perhaps the vibrations associated with notifications are a little too discreet, which instead would require more decision to be clearly grasped, especially while running or cycling. Speakers and microphone work well and allow you to communicate effectively even on the street despite the ambient background noise. it is also possible interact with Celia, the digital assistant developed by Huawei, which, however, currently recognizes a small number of commands in Italian. Finally, it is better to pay attention when you put the smartwatch in charge on the magnetic base: the process causes the device to heat up significantly, therefore it is better to avoid performing updates when the Watch 3 is charging.
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What we liked
The quality constructive and the design are the strong point of an elegant smartwatch capable of monitoring a large number of biological parameters and sports activities. Special mention for the excellent display, but also for the fluidity and elegance of the Harmony OS 2.0 interface, which seems to promise very well.
What we didn’t like
As elegant and fluid as it is, Harmony OS 2.0 has yet to mature a lot, just as the number of apps available on the App Gallery must grow and expand significantly to make Watch 3 truly attractive, especially at a cost that is not exactly within reach of all budgets. Autonomy can also be improved.