Review: Huawei GT 3 and GT Runner watches offer great style, tremendous battery life

The Huawei Watch GT 3.
Could these latest devices get me to finally ditch my Garmin? Photo credit: Newshub

I've used plenty of different Huawei gadgets over the years, but never one of its wearables.

However, the specifications of the Huawei Watch GT 3 and GT Runner were intriguing, particularly the screen quality and long battery life.

As someone who is incredibly particular about his smartwatches and their exercise tracking ability, could Huawei persuade me to ditch my long-standing favourites?

I've been using the GT 3 and GT Runner for a couple of weeks now and here are my thoughts.

The good

Wow, what a screen!

The AMOLED display of the new Huawei watches is one of the best I've ever seen on a smartwatch. Not only is it sharp and bright, the colours are fantastic.

It really is a treat to use, with a contrast and performance that means you can read it easily wherever you happen to be, even in some direct Aotearoa sunlight.

There are three different options to ensure the range fits as many people as possible. There's a compact 42mm size watch which is too small for me, so I didn't bother with that and moved straight to the two 46mm options for both the GT 3 and GT Runner.

If you have smaller wrists or perfect eyesight, the 42mm might suit better and you might appreciate its slightly rounder style, but I need the bigger screen.

The Huawei Watch GT 3
The Huawei Watch GT 3 42mm version. Photo credit: Newshub

Not only can I read the time without glasses - something that's become increasingly relevant to my life - it also makes it easy to glance at while running and make any necessary adjustments.

There's also a fair selection of different watch faces to suit your style, from the classic with hands and a second ticker to modern multi-coloured options with moon phases and your heartbeat.

I wished some were more configurable so I could get the specific readings I wanted on the front screen, but it didn't take long for me to find one that was able to give me almost everything I use regularly.

And the battery life is nothing short of sensational. If you're someone who's used to charging their watch every night, then Huawei has an absolute treat for you with this range.

The company claims a seven day battery life for the 42mm watch and 14 days for the larger options with typical use, albeit with a caveat that the GT Runner will last around eight days of heavy usage.

The latter is more along the lines of what I found. With three hour plus walks being recorded and constant fidgeting and looking at the face, I needed more regular juicing.

But still, that battery performance shouldn't be minimised. There are no other wearables out there with the screen and tracking abilities of the GT series that get anywhere close that I can think of.

The Huawei Watch GT 3
The Huawei Watch GT 3 46mm on its charging cable. Photo credit: Newshub

That alone makes these a serious option for anyone who wants a smartwatch but doesn't want to take it off every night.

I was also delighted by the tracking performance, particularly heart rate and GPS. Too often I've found the alternatives to be vastly different to the accurate readings I receive on my Garmin.

Both the GT 3 and GT Runner were nearly identical in distance measured and very close in heart rate, two of the most important aspects of any training plan. It was a genuine and very welcome surprise.

The watches are easy to use, too. The turning crown on the top right of the screen offers tactile feedback when scrolling through menus and the touch screen is as easy to use.

The button on the lower right is substantial and far enough away from the crown that you can access it easily and with great accuracy.

By default, apps are laid out in a bubble-style, much like the Apple WatchOS - although I'd suggest some of the icons are a little more obscure. Perhaps that's due to familiarity but I still had fun trying to guess what was going to pop up when I pressed one of the less-obvious apps.

Other things of note include water resistance up to five atmospheres, which should be around 50m deep. So not only will this track your walking, running and gym-based activities, you can use it in the swimming pool or even for a triathlon if that's your bag.

The Huawei Watch GT 3 42mm version.
The Huawei Watch GT 3 42mm version. Photo credit: Newshub

They're also affordable, with the 42mm GT 3 starting at NZ$399, the 46mm at NZ$449 and the GT Runner costing NZ$579.00.

Other straps are available at additional costs, but if you're into exercise and sweating, I wouldn't recommend changing from the standard.

The differences

There aren't too many differences between the two 46mm watches, hence both being covered by the majority of this review.

As the name implies, however, the GT Runner is aimed at serious athletes who want access to the data a standard wearable might not offer.

This includes a professional training system that Athletics New Zealand is going to be trialling with a selection of Kiwi runners.

According to the company the watch evaluates a user's running performance based on historical data, heart race, pace, distance and more to give an overall Running Ability Index (RAI) score.

The Huawei Watch GT Runner
The Huawei Watch GT Runner, 46mm size. Photo credit: Newshub

Training plans are then adjusted automatically to take into account training load and performance to hopefully avoid injuries.

Unfortunately, and somewhat ironically, I'm still recovering from a long-standing running injury so  haven't been able to test out the accuracy of these aspects yet; but if those functions are as good as the other data it records, then it could well be a game-changer.

The bad

To the bad aspects, or what more accurately could be called the 'not-quite-so-good' aspects.

Unlike, say, the Apple Watch or Samsung's Galaxy Watch4, you're seriously limited to what extra apps you might install on the relatively small 4GB of memory.

Those apps are installable through the Huawei Health app on Android and not at all on iOS (according to my tests), which is unfortunate - but then when you see the apps on offer it really doesn't matter that much.

Thankfully the most important apps (health, sleep tracking, alarms, fitness tracking, heart rate, stopwatch etc) are all pre-installed on the watch.

The Huawei Watch GT 3
The Huawei Watch GT 3 46mm, with the app selection screen. Photo credit: Newshub

If you're a fan of Nestia, Love Test, or WordPuz (the names of three apps chosen at random) then good news, you can get them on your watch. Otherwise it's unlikely you'll have heard of any of the additional apps on offer and you probably will never bother installing any of them.

That means there are a couple of big misses for Kiwi consumers, however. There's no option to control your Spotify, Apple Music or Tidal streaming services directly on the watch. If you're hoping to use it when you pop into the supermarket to pay for your shopping via contactless options, then you'll also be disappointed.

Given I carry so many different devices with me, even when I'm running, it's not a big concern for me, but I can see why it might be for some.

Screenshots from the Android and iOS apps
The Android app (left) and iOS app (right) shows there are differences depending which platform you are on. Photo credit: Newshub

Finally, I found the firmware updates to be clunky.

It's good that Huawei can roll out updates and so can add functionality and apps to the watch in the future - however one firmware update took hours to complete and needed me to restart the process around 25 times.

Finally a reboot of both the watch and my phone seemed to make a difference, but it was frustrating.

The verdict

While there appears to be a few downsides to both the Huawei Watch GT and the Huawei Watch Runner, none of them bother me too much.

That's largely because these devices do what are the most important things for me very well - perhaps even better than the market leading smartwatches out there.

The gorgeous screen is not only easy to read with fading eyesight, its responsive and there's enough configuration options for you to switch between classy dress watch and sports monitor in just a few seconds.

The Huawei Watch GT 3
The Huawei Watch GT 3 42mm version. Photo credit: Newshub

In addition, the brightness and clarity make it simple to read at any time of the day or night. Throw in that huge battery life and it's quite a package.

I've also tried many different fitness options over the last year and the accuracy of the GPS and heart measurements are as good as anything else I've used.

If the watch could get access to contactless payment options and a wider app experience then I would have zero hesitation in recommending this to everyone.

If those things matter to you, then you might want to evaluate all other wearables out there.

As things stand, however, the 46mm Watch GT3 and Watch Runner look and feel great on my wrist and I would happily wear either as my primary everyday wearable over my Apple Watch, Garmin, Fitbit and other alternatives.

One final thing - unless you're really into running, skip the Watch Runner and head straight for the Watch GT3. Not only is it cheaper, it feels more substantial and I preferred its watch band for comfort.

Whichever one you buy, however, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Newshub was supplied with a 42mm and 46mm Huawei Watch GT3 and a 46mm Huawei Watch Runner for this review.