When Huawei revealed its flagship smartwatch and called it the Ultimate, I was impressed by its specs and beautiful design. Here’s what I learned about the Huawei Watch Ultimate after a few weeks of testing. And, overall, there were innovations from the metal finish to the health tracking that other smartwatches can’t beat, not even the Apple Watch Ultra.
Ultimate is not on sale in the US, although it may appear on Amazon in due course. It costs $869 (£699) for the black version, $993 (£799) for the blue. By comparison, the Apple Watch Ultra costs $799.
Huawei Watch Ultimate: Design
The appearance of the watch really attracts you. It comes in two versions, Expedition Black and Voyage Blue. Both look great, but the blue version I tested is simply gorgeous.
Where its closest obvious rival, the Apple Watch Ultra, has an already classy titanium case, the Huawei models use a zirconia-based liquid metal case, which is particularly luxurious – something Apple hasn’t done yet. Huawei says it’s the hardest light alloy available.
It looks great and is stronger than stainless steel, for example, and can handle high temperatures. The blue version looks especially lively, elegantly made like a high-end traditional watch.
The 1.5-inch round display is protected by a sapphire crystal lens. While 1.5 inches may not sound big, it really is, the largest round screen on a smartwatch.
That means the watch is big, but that screen is very enticing, so much so that you might forget to notice how heavy the watch itself is. It’s also detailed and bright, which adds to its success.
While it’s true that the Apple Watch’s rectangular screen is better for putting the maximum amount of text on the screen at once, there’s something very pleasing about the traditional circular design.
Huawei Watch Ultimate: Health Features
Huawei has routinely included advanced health and fitness features in its wearables, often outperforming rivals. There’s the Huawei Watch D, which measures your blood pressure using an inflatable band like a stand-alone pressure cuff, for example.
This watch doesn’t have that, but it builds on previous Huawei wearables, including sleep tracking, stress tracking, EKG, blood oxygen tracking, and more. Of course, there is heart rate monitoring and it measures your heart rate throughout the day.
If you’re using a running watch, you’ll be glad the Ultimate has dual-band GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) compatibility, which makes for greater accuracy and faster signal acquisition. So there’s no waiting for the GPS to turn on. This fast signal acquisition is something the Apple Watch has done for some time, although only the Ultra has dual-frequency support, but rivals have often struggled.
You can also use the Huawei Watch Ultimate to measure the condition of your arteries, with the detection of arterial stiffness. Some weighing scales have this metric—Withings calls it Pulse Wave Rate and puts this measurement in its high-end scales—but it’s not found on many smartwatches. Huawei introduced it to its devices last year on the GT 3 Pro. It’s not a metric measured on any Apple device.
Huawei Watch Ultimate: expedition and diving modes
I’m not going to lie to you, I’m not a diver. So I haven’t tested Diva mode on this watch. But it is the first smartwatch that is certified for 100 meters depth. The three buttons on the watch come into play – the nature of capacitive screens is that they don’t work underwater. By comparison, the Apple Watch Ultra manages 40 meters. It offers data on depth, ascent, decompression, oxygen pressure and more.
Then there’s expedition mode, which tracks hiking details and lets you create waypoints and track back to your starting point. Huawei has had advanced outdoor capabilities for a while now, and this new watch takes things a little further. It shows a lot of data and the waypoint function is useful.
Huawei Watch Ultimate: battery life
This is extraordinary. Huawei’s promise of 14-day use is probably true, but I like the always-on display, which that statistic doesn’t include. However, it has been running for almost a week with the screen on and decent usage. Standby is outstanding: I was away for a week and came back to find the watch still had 60% battery.
That’s more than many rivals and much more than the Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch Ultra.
Huawei Watch Ultimate: Software
Huawei doesn’t have access to Google Mobile Services, as you know, and the consequence of the smartwatch is that Harmony OS, while perfectly serviceable, doesn’t have the breadth of banking support found in Google Pay or Apple Pay. Note, not everyone uses this. The interface is efficient and easy to use, and there are many applications available.
Huawei Watch Ultimate: Verdict
If you have an iPhone, you’ll probably want to stick with the Apple Watch Ultra anyway. But this is a watch that has more advanced features than most and looks sensational to buy. The build quality is impeccable, and the large, bright screen is amazing. Battery life is tremendous. Some aspects aren’t as advanced as they could be, and the lack of LTE at this price point is a shame. But overall, this is a beautiful and efficient smartwatch.
Forbes – Innovation