Hands-on: Huawei unveils new smartwatch with HarmonyOS and eSIM

The Chinese Huawei reached a not insignificant milestone on Wednesday. With the Watch 3, the company introduced its first device with its own operating system HarmonyOS. A first impression.

Huawei’s smartwatches follow each other at a pretty fast pace, and on the outside the new Watch 3 doesn’t differ that much from its direct predecessor or the GT series. Although there is one clear change, and that is the ‘digital crown’ at the top right. Much more convenient for scrolling through screens and menus than the touchscreen (which is still there, of course), but not particularly original: it was already on the first Apple Watch from 2014, and Huawei also conveniently took the haptic feedback from Apple’s digital crown over (a subtle mechanical vibration while spinning).

Calling without a phone

Under the hood of the Watch 3, quite a few adjustments have been made. For example, the clock has eSIM functionality (see the box below this article), making it possible to make calls or use data while you just leave the smartphone at home. Handy if you go jogging and still want to stream music, or just want to stay accessible. When the Watch 3 appears on the Belgian market on June 18, however, it will not yet be possible to use the eSIM function. Discussions are currently ongoing with the operators about this, ‘and in particular with Telenet’, which for the time being is the only player in Belgium (with One Number) to offer one and the same number for smartphone and smartwatch.

The biggest novelty of the Watch 3, however, is the operating system HarmonyOS 2, which officially saw the light of day on Wednesday (more on that in this article). It already looks very slick on the clock, although Huawei has grid launcher – say the screen with all installed apps – yet again clearly the mustard from Apple.

The Watch 3 is also the first smartwatch from Huawei with an ingrained AppGallery, from which you can download new applications directly from the clock. Because it concerns a new operating system, the choice is not that big yet, but the manufacturer promises to get better soon. For example, an app for music streaming service Deezer is in the works (as an alternative to Huawei Music), Huawei is working on a ‘wrist version’ of its navigation and map app Petal Maps (with data from TomTom, by the way) and there is an original collaboration with Nuki, manufacturer of smart door locks. Those who own such a lock will soon be able to open their front door simply by approaching it with the Watch 3.

Other specifications of the Watch 3 are the round 1.43-inch AMOLED screen of 60Hz and with a resolution of 326 ppi (pixels per inch), seventeen professional workout modes, a (skin) temperature sensor, fall detection with the option to emergency number, and an improved battery: in the regular 4G mode the clock lasts three days on a single charge, in the Ultra-long battery life mode the autonomy can be up to fourteen days.

Price and availability

The Watch 3 will be in stores from June 18 for a target price of 369 euros for the Active edition and 399 euros for the Classic version with leather strap. On June 25, the Watch 3 Pro will also be on the market for 599 euros. The main differences are in the more premium finish (with titanium and sapphire) and the longer battery life: 5 days in 4G mode, and up to 21 days in Ultra-long battery life mode.

There will be a launch offer for all versions where consumers will receive the Huawei FreeBuds 4i earphones plus a free subscription to Huawei Music for six months.

What exactly is an eSIM?

An eSIM or fully embedded SIM is a small chip in the device that works the same as a classic SIM card. However, it takes up less space, allowing manufacturers to use the freed up space in smartphones and other gadgets for other features.

There are also many advantages for the consumer. For example, thanks to an eSIM, users can easily switch between a professional and a private subscription without having to change a card. Frequent travellers, expats and tourists will find it easier to accept a local mobile telecom offer when they stay in another country.

At the moment there are not that many smartphones or other devices on the market that support the eSIM. The best-known exceptions are the iPhone 12 series, iPhone 11 (Pro), iPhone XR and the latest iPhone SE, as well as the Samsung Galaxy S20 and S21 series, the Galaxy Note20 (Ultra), Galaxy Fold and Galaxy A32. At Sony, the Experia 5 II is suitable for eSIM. The best-known compatible smartwatch is the Apple Watch Cellular.

Huawei’s smartwatches follow each other at a pretty high pace, and on the outside, the new Watch 3 doesn’t differ that much from its direct predecessor or the GT series. Although there is one clear change, and that is the ‘digital crown’ at the top right. Much more convenient for scrolling through screens and menus than the touchscreen (which is still there, of course), but not particularly original: it was already on the first Apple Watch from 2014, and Huawei also conveniently took the haptic feedback from Apple’s digital crown over (a subtle mechanical vibration while turning). Under the hood of the Watch 3, quite a few adjustments have been made. For example, the clock has eSIM functionality (see the box below this article), making it possible to make calls or use data while you just leave the smartphone at home. Handy if you go jogging and still want to stream music, or just want to stay accessible. When the Watch 3 appears on the Belgian market on June 18, however, it will not yet be possible to use the eSIM function. Discussions are currently underway with the operators about this, ‘and in particular with Telenet’, which for the time being is the only player in Belgium (with One Number) to offer one and the same number for smartphone and smartwatch. operating system HarmonyOS 2, which officially saw the light of day on Wednesday (more on that in this article). It looks very slick on the clock, although Huawei has clearly obtained the mustard from Apple for the grid launcher – say the screen with all installed apps. The Watch 3 is also the first smartwatch from Huawei with an ingrained AppGallery, from which you can download new applications – directly from the clock. Because it concerns a new operating system, the choice is not that big yet, but the manufacturer promises to get better soon. For example, an app for music streaming service Deezer is in the works (as an alternative to Huawei Music), Huawei is working on a ‘wrist version’ of its navigation and map app Petal Maps (with data from TomTom, by the way) and there is an original collaboration with Nuki, manufacturer of smart door locks. Those who own such a lock will soon be able to open their front door simply by approaching it with the Watch 3.Other specifications of the Watch 3 are the round 1.43-inch AMOLED display at 60Hz and with a resolution of 326 ppi (pixels per inch), seventeen professional workout modes, a (skin) temperature sensor, fall detection with the option to call an emergency number, and an improved battery: in the regular 4G mode, the clock lasts three days on a single charge, in the Ultra -long battery life mode, the autonomy can be up to fourteen days. The Watch 3 will be in stores from June 18 for a target price of 369 euros for the Active edition and 399 euros for the Classic version with leather strap. On June 25, the Watch 3 Pro will also be on the market for 599 euros. The main differences are in the more premium finish (with titanium and sapphire) and the longer battery life: 5 days in 4G mode, and up to 21 days in Ultra-long battery life mode. receive the Huawei FreeBuds 4i earphones plus a free subscription to Huawei Music for six months.

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Hands-on: Huawei unveils new smartwatch with HarmonyOS and eSIM