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The Huawei Watch GT 3 Pro is a nice smartwatch many of us can’t buy

Last year, as Google and Samsung were upending the Android smartwatch space, Huawei also announced it was launching the Huawei Watch 3 on a new proprietary operating system called HarmonyOS 2. It then followed that up with the Huawei Watch GT 3. So it’s not a huge surprise that Huawei is back again with the Huawei Watch GT 3 Pro.

Last year’s Watch 3 was a good attempt and reminded me a lot of Samsung’s Tizen smartwatches. And while I haven’t had the GT 3 Pro for very long, what I’ve seen so far continues that overall vibe. The GT 3 Pro comes in two versions: a titanium model and an all-ceramic model. The former features a 46.6mm case with a 1.4-inch OLED display while the latter is smaller at 42.9mm with a 1.3-inch display. Both also feature sapphire glass, have IP68 water and dust resistance, and are swimproof up to 5ATM (164 feet). Battery life is estimated at up to 14 days for the titanium model and up to 7 days for the ceramic model.

The all-ceramic model is smaller at 43mm.
Image: Huawei

Spec-wise, both watches also sport all the sensors you’d expect to see on a premium smartwatch. That includes an optical heart rate sensor, SpO2 sensors, an accelerometer, and a gyroscope. It also features a barometer, temperature sensor, and magnetometer. As far as new capabilities go, the watches have a new free-dive workout mode and built-in GPS. It also has EKG capability — though only in countries where Huawei’s received the appropriate clearance from regulators.

Huawei is in a weird spot when it comes to its consumer tech. Thanks to an executive order issued by former President Donald Trump in 2019, the company is banned from using US tech in its gadgets. That includes Android and Wear OS — hence, the proprietary OS. So, while I can test out the Watch GT 3 Pro, it’s not a smartwatch that I can actually buy in the US. (You can, however, if you’re living in Europe.)

The titanium model has a nearly 47mm case.
Photo by Victoria Song / The Verge

It’s a shame since Huawei’s been in the wearables space for a long time and made some excellent smartwatches along the way. I’ve been playing around with the titanium version of the GT 3 Pro, and it’s a nice smartwatch. The display is vivid, apps load quickly in HarmonyOS 2, and, while the watch’s aesthetic isn’t my thing, it’ll appeal to folks who like a more masculine, traditional-looking watch. That said, I’d get an alternative strap for working out. Metal link straps don’t handle sweat well and tend to be looser, which isn’t great for heart rate accuracy. Also, the links are a pain to adjust, and it took me an absurdly long time to get the watch down to a size that fit my wrist.

But I can also tell it has some of the same issues as when I tested the Huawei Watch 3. Namely, I can see the bones of a good smartwatch, but, because of where I live, I can’t make use of its best features. For instance, I can’t use the voice assistant. That’s because HarmonyOS 2 doesn’t use Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri. It uses a proprietary assistant called Celia that requires you to have a Huawei phone — which I also can’t buy. Likewise, I’m stuck with proprietary Huawei apps since there’s no real third-party app support, making this more of a fancy-pants fitness tracker than a true smartwatch. It sort of feels like an elevated Fitbit with a much more premium build quality and a snazzier OS to boot. Hell, I imagine if Fitbit did come out with something similar, it’d be popular.

HarmonyOS 2 has a lot of the same pros and cons as Samsung’s Tizen OS.
Photo by Victoria Song / The Verge

However, a lot of this won’t matter once Fossil and other third-party watchmakers get on Google’s Wear OS 3. Like Samsung’s Tizen watches, Huawei’s wearables are locked into its own ecosystem. When Wear OS 3 becomes more widely available, other third-party watchmakers will get access to Google services and popular apps like Spotify. That’ll be great for Android users overall. But Huawei’s watches will still be best for people with Huawei phones.

In a nutshell, Huawei’s watches are stuck in limbo. I could see plenty of people digging the watch’s snappier performance, health tracking, and analog aesthetic — even if the third-party app ecosystem is nonexistent. But, at the same time, none of its watches are so revolutionary that it triggers wearable FOMO. At the end of the day, you’re not missing that much.

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