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Wearable Tech

Huawei Watch GT ditches Wear OS for longer battery life

Two weeks on a charge

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The Huawei Watch GT goes for battery over Wear OS.

Josh Miller/CNET

There's an ongoing problem with wrist-worn gadget things: it's battery life. Most high-powered smartwatches last just a day or two, maybe three, on a charge. The Huawei Watch GT, announced alongside its new Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro phones, lasts up to two weeks on a charge... but it casts aside Google Wear OS in the process.

The Huawei Watch GT looks similar to the company's last Android Wear smartwatch, the Huawei Watch 2. In other words, it looks like a regular round analog watch. A stainless steel case, two side buttons and interchangeable standard watch straps give it that "smartwatch that aims to look like a normal large watch" that's been the case for years now.

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Josh Miller/CNET

The difference here is that the Watch GT runs Huawei's own software platform, called Light OS. That and a dual-core processor let the watch run at a different low-power level for longer, up to two weeks in connected mode or 30 days with the watch's heart rate and GPS turned off.

The Watch GT's design has a look similar to the Samsung Galaxy Watch -- which also isn't Wear OS --except that the Watch GT's bezel doesn't turn. Instead, touchscreen swiping and side button-pressing make the watch work.

Wearing the Watch GT on my wrist and playing with it briefly, it seems like the OS is far clunkier and limited than Google's Wear OS, but it's also clearly aimed at being more of a dedicated fitness watch than a "true" smartwatch. Functions seem pared down to exercise modes, fitness, messaging and watch face selection.

The Watch GT's features all sound like they cover the bases: swim-ready water resistance plus swim tracking that can recognize stroke types, GPS (across GPS standard, Russia's Glonass, the EU's Galileo and China's Beidou), altimeter, a three-ring fitness goal system, and an onboard sleep tracking system, TruSleep, developed along with Harvard Medical School. The heart rate monitor aims to be more accurate than previous Huawei watches, too.

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Josh Miller/CNET

The biggest appeal would be for runners using GPS, since the Huawei Watch GT should last 22 hours with GPS and heart rate on. That runs laps around the Apple Watch on GPS -- about 6 hours, based on our recent testing -- but dedicated fitness watches from the likes of Polar and Garmin achieve numbers in that range (or more). Also, Google's next-gen Wear OS watches with Qualcomm's new chips inside promise 15 hours in dedicated GPS sport modes next year.

Huawei is still making other fitness trackers, including a thin Huawei Band 3 Pro with a color touchscreen, GPS, swim water resistance, heart rate and 20 days of battery life. Its features sound pretty similar to what the larger Watch GT offers. And Huawei may eventually make more Google Wear OS watches, too. Who knows? For now, I'd skip the Watch GT in favor of either Garmin or Fitbit options, which already do similar things with more familiar software. But keep your eye on Huawei in the wearables space: As with phones, the company is playing for keeps.

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