Two weeks with a fitness-focused smartwatch

Executive Traveller gets hands-on with HUAWEI's latest fitness-minded tech.

By David Flynn, December 10 2019
Two weeks with a fitness-focused smartwatch
Executive Traveller x HUAWEI

Call it my new year’s resolution for 2020 that started early. Or maybe it was my 2019 resolution landing rather overdue. Either way, the decision to spend two weeks trialling some high-tech health assistants was made with a very simple intent: to help reshape my routine.

As a journalist who also travels extensively, there’s a lot of sitting – at the desk, in the air, at press events. In some regards this is no different to any other largely sedentary desk job. And I’ll be the first to admit that as a journalist, I suffer from those extra kilos which we in the trade call ‘launch paunch’.

So, can smart, health-minded helpers make a difference? To find out, I armed myself with two of the latest wearable devices from Huawei: the Watch GT 2 and FreeBuds 3 (with a HUAWEI P30 Pro smartphone to pull it all together, but they can be connected to all Android and Apple devices).

Here’s what I found during the fortnight to a fitter me.

This article is produced in partnership with HUAWEI

Make it part of your lifestyle

Health and wellness are more than just a part-time thing. Even more than a full-time thing, if you consider ‘full-time’ to be the 9-5. It’s something you become mindful of during evenings and weekends, and especially when you travel, be that for business or pleasure.

In fact, holidays are the perfect time to embrace the road to a better you. Without the pressures of work, there’s more time to adopt and practice good habits, even if they’re as simple as beginning the day with an early morning walk or a light jog rather than an indulgent sleep-in.

So where does tech come into play?

Donning the HUAWEI Watch GT 2 won’t magically make those kilos drop off – you’ve still got to put in the work – but it’s going to help you set up your new routine and get results faster with its enhanced sport and health management features.

The Watch GT 2 looks like a watch

For a smartwatch, the HUAWEI Watch GT 2 looks more the part of a traditional watch than a piece of gadgetry, with stylish aesthetics to match any style.

There’s a clean round face, a pair of pusher-style buttons at the 2 o’clock and 4 o’clock positions and, on the Sport model I tested, a timing ring around the bezel – all finished off with a suitably sporty-looking black silicone strap. It’s worth noting that there are other material options available for the bands, giving the Watch GT 2 added flexibility.

The HUAWEI Watch GT 2 looks like a traditional watch but with the flexibility of a smartwatch.
The HUAWEI Watch GT 2 looks like a traditional watch but with the flexibility of a smartwatch.

The watch is available in 46mm and 42mm versions. The 46mm variants are crafted with an all-in-one 3D glass surface that offers a wider look and feel, while the 42mm variants suit those looking for a more compact device.

As soon as you raise your wrist, the full AMOLED HD screen springs to life, revealing stunning levels of colour and contrast, cased in a sleek borderless design.

Battery life that lasts for weeks, not days

This made-to-measure design is powered by Huawei’s Kirin A1 chip and shaped around Huawei’s own LiteOS, an aptly-named bespoke operating system that is optimised for a small footprint and long battery life.

The latter is especially important for a ‘lifestyle' watch like this, because you’ll want to be wearing it all the time – including at night, to monitor your sleep. And with up to two-weeks of battery life (46mm version), the Watch GT 2 certainly ticks this off the list.  

The only time I took mine off my wrist was to shower, which is when I dropped it onto the supplied (and very small) USB charging puck for a quick top-up. Across the two weeks, all while fulfilling its manyfold fitness roles, the Watch GT 2 never ran out of battery. Didn’t even come close.

The sleep test

The Watch GT 2 function that I was most curious about was the ability to monitor and analyse sleep.

I am not the world’s best sleeper, and I certainly don’t need a smartwatch to tell me that. But I didn’t realise how broken my sleep patterns were until I saw the nightly breakdown provided by the watch’s TruSleep app, which scientifically tracks and diagnoses six common types of sleep issues and syncs up to your smartphone.

Through tracking and timing the three stages of sleep – deep sleep, light sleep and REM sleep – it scores them against norms and provides you with incredible analysis. The app not only flags problem areas but offers practical advice on how to address them.

The first two images show very different sleep patterns; the TruSleep app also summarises your sleep habits.
The first two images show very different sleep patterns; the TruSleep app also summarises your sleep habits.

It turns out that seeing your sleep charted, broken down and summarised is an incredibly powerful tool to make you appreciate when you’re not getting a good sleep and take steps to change that.

A wrist-based personal trainer

If you’re already into a specific fitness activity, or wanting to start out, the Watch GT 2 comes with workout routines covering 15 sports.

There are a dozen running courses alone, from a walk/run combo (useful for the early stages of a ‘Couch to 5K’-style program) to long-distance endurance, fat-burning and intervals, along with cycling (indoor and outdoor); swimming (pool and open water); popular gym machines such as rowers and elliptical machines, all the way to a triathlon.

Setting up a customised training schedule via the HUAWEI Health app.
Setting up a customised training schedule via the HUAWEI Health app.

You can set specific goals – such as time, distance or calories burned – and interval training prompts so you’ll know when to dial your efforts up to 10 and then throttle back.

Along the way, a ‘smart assistant’ talking through the watch’s speaker or your earphones will take you through a warm-up, monitor your heartrate and relay feedback as you go, providing a truly intelligent workout.  

Heart to heart

One of the advances which takes a smartwatch like the Watch GT 2 into new territory is its ability to support the mind as well as the body. One of the main features within this domain being the integrated heartrate monitor.

The watch’s workout routines let you set or customise your desired target heartrate zone for fat-burning, aerobic and recovery modes, while also alerting you if your heartrate exceeds the desired peak. But then the Huawei Health app adds even more to the mix.

In addition to plotting your walks, runs and cycling (via the Watch GT 2’s inbuilt GPS) and recording stats such as speed, pace, cadence (good for choosing a beats-per-minute playlist to match) and calories burned, the Huawei Health app contains four pre-set running plans for 5km, 10km, a half-marathon and a full marathon.

These even let you set your target – such as the date of that marathon – in order to progressively scale up your training accordingly.

To go even further, TruRelax offers all-day stress monitoring and calming breathing techniques to encourage wellness outside of exercise. 

The Health app keeps an eye on your day-to-day heartrate and stress levels.
The Health app keeps an eye on your day-to-day heartrate and stress levels.

Adding the FreeBuds 3

In daily use, I ran the Watch GT 2 paired to Huawei’s FreeBuds 3 – the world’s first open-fit, active noise cancellation Bluetooth earphones. 

These sleek earbuds nestle in your ear canal and offer surprisingly effective active (not just passive) noise-cancellation: a travel-friendly trait you’d usually associate with more conventional headphones or wired earbuds.

The HUAWEI FreeBuds 3 boast active noise cancellation technology.
The HUAWEI FreeBuds 3 boast active noise cancellation technology.

Going out for a run? Hitting the gym but want to block out the manager's choice of doof-doof music in favour of your preferred workout playlist? 

When paired with the included charging case, FreeBuds 3 offer up to 20 hours music playback time. The rounded case easily fits into pockets and is compatible with wireless and USB-C charging.

The HUAWEI FreeBuds 3 slide into a compact case which doubles as a battery charger.
The HUAWEI FreeBuds 3 slide into a compact case which doubles as a battery charger.

And even more good news: the 46mm Watch GT 2 includes 4GB of local storage where you can load around 1,000 songs via your Android smartphone, pipe them through the FreeBuds 3, fire up the noise-cancellation and enter into your own super-focussed Zen mode.

The HUAWEI Watch GT 2 quite literally puts 1,000 songs at your fingertips.
The HUAWEI Watch GT 2 quite literally puts 1,000 songs at your fingertips.

I’ve long been wary of any jarring physical movements while wearing wireless earbuds: they’re simply too expensive to lose, and too painful to see and hear them swallowed by a treadmill (it’s happened to me, and it hurts).

Yet the FreeBuds 3 remained securely and comfortably in my ear during brisk walks and short bursts of sweaty runs.

Bluetooth calling 

This leads to another unique trait of the HUAWEI Watch GT 2. The larger 46mm supports Bluetooth calling, meaning you can make or receive calls during sports, or when hands are occupied. It contains a tiny speaker and microphone so you can have truly hands-free conversations. Yes, just like Dick Tracy’s famous ‘Two-Way Wrist Radio’.

The HUAWEI Watch GT 2's roles span from being a fitness device to a smartphone companion.
The HUAWEI Watch GT 2's roles span from being a fitness device to a smartphone companion.

A friendly tap on the shoulder

Even when I wasn’t actively using the Watch GT 2, throughout the day it would give me a metaphorical tap on the shoulder when I’d been sitting for too long and it was time to get up and move around.

Again, you shouldn’t need a smartwatch to do this, but it certainly helps. I didn’t have to do anything more than use this break to make some phone calls while I walked around the office, sometimes gently stretching to get the blood flowing.

Likewise, the heartrate monitor keeps constant tabs on your stress levels and, like the sleep monitor, feeds this back to the Huawei Health app so you can see an hour-by-hour, day-by-day stress chart and, if necessary, take action to reduce your stress levels.

One of those actions is thoughtfully baked into the Watch GT 2. It’s a set of breathing exercises between one and three minutes in duration: perfect for a little stress-busting mindfulness anywhere and at any time.

It’s features like this which saw the Watch GT 2 start to really integrate itself into my daily routine and make it better.

The take-away here: it’s not enough to just strap some fitness-minded device to your wrist and think “That’s it, job done.” You need to use the tools it offers and build them into your day. That’s how you begin to develop healthy habits. 

The Huawei Watch GT 2 and FreeBuds 3 are on sale from most major carriers and a number of retailers.

Available in Sport, Classic, Elite and Elegant models, spanning fluoroelastomer plastic, leather and metallic straps, the Huawei Watch GT 2 Series suits any lifestyle with prices ranging from $369 - $499.

The FreeBuds 3 retail at $299 and are available in two colours – Carbon Black and Ceramic White.

This article is produced in partnership with HUAWEI

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

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