Firmwares galore

Then the app declared that the firmware on the Huawei Watch GT needed to be updated. That turned out to be a 4.88MB download, bringing the watch’s firmware up to version 1.0.3.88. It downloaded quickly to my phone, but the transfer to the watch took somewhere between twenty minutes and half an hour. Bluetooth isn’t the fastest for transferring large amounts of data. Still, it went smoothly if slowly.

Huawei Watch GT
Huawei Health app: settings for watch (left); a walk around the touristy bits of Canberra (right)

When that was done, the app reported that … another firmware update was required. That one was 8.04MB and was version 1.0.5.22. Another fast download to the phone and another slow transfer to the watch. As with the previous upgrade, the installation itself, after the transfer, took five or more minutes.

Then I had other stuff to do for a while, away from phone and watch. When I came back an hour later, I donned the watch and went to check the time. But the watch showed the download screen instead. That is, the watch was being loaded with yet another firmware from the phone. That must have been an automatic upgrade since I hadn’t asked for it. When that was finished and installed, the firmware was now 1.0.5.36.

That was more than 48 hours ago, so I can confidently say the firmware isn’t upgraded every five minutes.

Functions

Here’s what you can do with the watch:

  • Tell the time – there are 14 different watch faces available, some digital, some analogue. Most also show some exercise stats. All are in the watch as part of the OS, ready to be selected. You don’t download them from the app.
  • Track a dozen different types of exercise, including walking, swimming (pool or open water), running (indoors or outdoors) and so on.
  • Find your phone – use this function to make your phone ring in a horribly irritating way, even if it’s in silent mode, so that you can find it. Of course, you need to be close enough for a Bluetooth connection.
  • Receive notifications – you can select which app notifications will show. Text ones, such as from WhatsApp and your SMS app can be read on the watch. You can swipe up on the screen at any time to see them.
  • See your workout records – that is, you can see them on the watch itself without going to the app. The only thing not shown on the watch is the GPS-generated map of your route.
  • Check your sleep records.
  • Check barometric pressure (including a graph showing the pressure over the course of the current day).
  • Check your elevation (that is, height above sea level).
  • Display the compass.
  • See the weather for the current day.
  • Time things with the stopwatch.
  • Set one of eight pre-set timers, or your own custom timer.
  • Set several alarms.
  • Invoke “flashlight” mode – that just makes a bright white screen, which can be a useful light in some circumstances.

Going for a walk

I used the Huawei Watch GT to track several walks, leaving my phone behind. That’s the advantage of having GPS built in.

To do this you press the 4pm button, scroll down and choose “Outdoor Walk”. The watch then starts looking for GPS satellites. In my case, it typically took ten seconds to find enough of them, whereupon I could press the “go” button and start my walk. The watch displayed time, distance and steps, pace, moment by moment heartrate and calories used.

When I finished, I pressed the 2pm button and then I could hit the stop indicator on the screen. And that was it.

The watch uploaded the data to Huawei Health app. That included a very good, and quite accurate map of my travels, along with plenty of detailed information – and graphs – showing my heartrate, elevation, calorie consumption and so on. I could zoom these graphs for more detail. It seems that the Huawei people are detail people, so they hold nothing back.

Huawei Watch GT
Huawei Health app: sleep reporting (left); heart rate during exercise (right)

The heart rate monitor seemed to work rather more reliably than most. The watch was comfortable in the night when I was sleeping, and the sleep tracking was detailed as well. That breaks things up onto deep sleep, light sleep, REM sleep and awake, and gives you an overall score based on Harvard sleep studies.

However, when out walking at night, and when moving around in bed, the green light used by the heart monitor did seem to glow rather brightly, attracting attention.

The watch also generates periodic reminders to do a little exercise if you are sitting around for too long. You can switch that off.

Whoops

At one point I accidentally touched the “Lock” icon on the quick access page. It’s easy enough to do, because it’s right in the middle. It flashed up a line of instruction on how to unlock the screen. It was there for a second or two, which is about how long it took me to realise what I’d done. Then it disappeared. I’d half noticed something about holding something, but it was too late. In the end I had to reboot the watch (hold down the top button for some seconds) to restore it to normal functionality.

I checked after that. You hold down the 4pm button for several seconds to unlock the watch.

Battery

I rushed through this review a little because you’ve only got a few weeks to get ahold of the Huawei Watch GT with your purchase of a Huawei Mate 20 Pro. So I did not run down the battery to see how long it actually lasted.