Huawei Watch GT Runner review - Smartwatch for sports fans
With the Huawei Watch GT Runner, we have the sportiest model from Huawei's smartwatch universe as a test sample. This watch does not come in different case sizes, but only in two colors. Our review sample is black, or there is a gray model with yellow accents. True to the sporty orientation, the strap is always made of rubber; there is no LTE variant.
Case and features - Huawei's light mix
The Huawei Watch GT Runner convinces with a high-quality casing. The majority of the watch body is made of "polymer fiber", i.e. plastic. However, ceramic is used on the top and bottom, and the crown is made of titanium. The strap is made of rubber and has many holes in close spacing, so you can find a suitable width. The strap complies with the 22-millimeter standard, so there are countless interchangeable straps to choose from on the market. A change is possible without tools thanks to a small lever on the spring bar. A speaker and microphone are also built in. Thus, phone calls are possible via the watch - as long as it is connected to a smartphone, because the watch does not accept a Sim card. The casing does not need charging contacts because the watch is charged contactlessly via the Qi standard.
Huawei specifies a weight of 38.5 grams (1.358 oz) without the band, which is 39 grams (~1.376 oz) on our scales. The watch weighs 55 grams (~1.94 oz) with the band and thus does not bother the wrist at all. There were neither scratches nor other signs of wear in the two-week test. The charging cable is included with the smartwatch, as is a replacement wristband, but a power adapter is missing.
The watch also features NFC. The item Wallet appears in the Health app. However, clicking on it results in the message "Request failed" - but this process is supposed to be possible with a Huawei smartphone. The money transfer works on the smartphone with the Stocard from the App Gallery, but it is still not possible to pay with the watch. The existing interface at least allows integrating a payment function in the future.
Setup and Operation - Only with the Huawei App Gallery
The Huawei Health app is required for the setup. The watch cannot be set up or used without the app connection. Huawei offers the corresponding app in the Apple App Store for devices with iOS 9 or later.
Users of a Android device have to take the detour via the Huawei App Gallery; the app cannot be found in Google's Playstore due to the US sanctions policy. A QR code on the packaging of the watch leads to the installation page. However, you have to agree to an installation from unknown sources, which might scare off some cautious users. Once the App Gallery is installed, installing and updating Health is no longer a problem. However, rights still have to be assigned manually in the Android menu so that the watch can access data and various apps can send notifications.
Many settings can be made on the watch itself, such as starting workouts, setting the alarm or playing music. However, larger tasks like creating training plans or adjusting daily goals require the use of the app. Music can also be moved to the watch's internal memory via it. Music playback is then possible without a paired smartphone. In the test, the pairing with Samsung Galaxy Buds Live directly via the watch worked without problems.
Watch faces can be changed directly on the watch and content can be customized. If you do not like the preloaded watch faces, there are more to choose from in the app, but some of them have to be paid for. In addition, further applications can be installed on the watch via the Health app or the App Gallery stored there. However, the selection is very limited; well-known providers are not included. We miss Strava or Komoot from the sports sector, for example. A calendar for daily tasks is completely missing. Thus, the app selection is far from the possibilities of the WearOS universe.
The watch has two function keys. The upper button is designed as a crown, and you can scroll through the menus by turning it. One press leads from the home screen to the app overview. A press always leads back to the home screen from an open application. The function of the second function key can be changed. By default, one press starts a sports session.
The key drop is sufficient and the pressure point is clear. If desired, the watch provides feedback via the vibration motor when the crown is turned. There were no accidental operating errors during the test period. The 1.43-inch AMOLED display can be operated smoothly. Inputs are possible even with appropriate gloves or in the rain.
Telephony and notifications - Few response options
The Watch GT Runner offers both a speaker and a microphone and thus enables telephony - as long as a smartphone is paired. However, there is no sim card shaft or eSim. The voice quality is surprisingly good for both callers. Calls can be accepted directly on the watch. Calls can also be started via the watch, but only via the call list or favorites stored in the app. However, it is not possible to access all contacts on the phone.
Notifications arrive reliably on the watch once the Health app has been given the corresponding permissions. Text messages of the common messengers are displayed sensibly, and you can scroll through the history. However, the GT Runner refuses anything beyond text. Neither emojis nor pictures are displayed, and the watch unfortunately does not play voice messages either. The reply options are also severely limited, as only preconfigured quick replies are possible. The order of the responses can be set in the app, where new quick responses can also be stored. However, an individual answer is not possible. Surprisingly, even if received emojis are not displayed, the watch allows them as replies. Reading messages on the watch does not affect the status of the message on the smartphone. It is not marked as read as a result.
Even more obvious than in the messages are the restrictions when displaying emails. The display only shows the sender and the subject line, but the content of the mail cannot be displayed. App notifications are transmitted, but without specifying which app it is; that has to be inferred from the context or the content.
Voice assistant - Very limited
With a microphone and speaker, the GT Runner offers the most important prerequisites for voice assistant operation. Swiping to the left from the home screen lights up the icon of Huawei's own voice assistant, Celia. However, the watch requires a connection to a Huawei phone with EMUI 10.1 or higher when you click on it. This feature is not available with other smartphones. Other voice assistants like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant cannot be installed on the watch.
Health and fitness - Great cinema at the GT Runner
The Huawei watch is primarily aimed at athletes and - as its name suggests - especially at runners. It calculates an individual training status, the Running Ability Index. The Health app also uses this to calculate possible times for runs of five, ten, 20, or 42 kilometers. The smartwatch also displays the training load of the past week, a training index, the recovery status and VO2Max. In addition, the watch measures the lactate threshold and is even said to be capable of running analysis, which is supposed to improve the running style. It also displays the distance to a virtual runner who is running at the calculated average pace. In addition, suitable training plans can be created with the app, and the smartwatch also takes care of sufficient rest breaks. It is a pity that the workouts in the training plan are only automatically stored on the preselected day. A workout on Thursday instead of Wednesday, for example, is not automatically stored and cannot be manually added to the training plan. In addition to the individual planning, the watch already contains training plans in different difficulty levels and with different goals, be it fat burning, tempo runs or long distances.
However, these plans - as well as the "trainer feedback" after each week - are currently only available in English. This also applies to the announcements during the run. After each completed kilometer, the watch makes an announcement about the total time, the time for the last kilometer and the current heart rate via the speaker or the paired headphones. The watch also provides regular information on whether the current running session is more for recovery, maintaining the current fitness level or an increase. In addition, the smartwatch provides assessments of the current stress level. The GT Runner calculates a Running Ability Index from the collected values. This value is intended to provide an indication of the runner's potential and fitness. Potential times for different distances are also determined from this. Thus, one can be told how long one would need for a marathon without ever running one.
However, all these values and calculations can only be obtained when you go jogging with the fitness companion. This specific information is missing for other sports. If the smart companion detects that you are no longer moving, even though the workout is still running, it will ask you after a few minutes whether you want to end the workout. A synchronization with Google Fit is not possible. Although the Health app appears as a possible source in Google Fit, a connection cannot be established. On iOS, it is possible to synchronize the data between Apple Health and Huawei Health. The app also offers an export of GPX and TCX data.
Personal activity goals can be set in the app. Huawei summarizes some basic parameters under Healthy Living. The times of getting up and going to bed, breathing exercises, activity minutes, and steps are displayed. The Health app clearly shows the steps taken, distances covered, and calories burned. and displays them for a day, a week, a month, or even a year. In addition, it sends the user a report on all activities at the end of the month.
Heart rate, heart rhythm and blood oxygen saturation
The Huawei smartwatch competes with the Polar H10 chest strap to determine the heart rate accuracy. The watch convinces with very similar readings; the deviation is only 1.59 percent.
Sleep tracking - Reliable and clear
The GT Runner has integrated sleep tracking, no additional apps are needed. Waking phases are reliably detected. In addition, the watch displays different sleep phases, such as deep sleep, light sleep and REM sleep. The sleep phases are displayed graphically. In addition, various parameters are classified and evaluated in a point system. However, this detailed evaluation is only provided in the app on the smartphone. The watch, on the other hand, only provides information about how long the user slept.
With recourse to the sleep data, the watch offers an intelligent alarm clock. In addition to the wake-up time, the user can specify how much leeway the watch has to avoid waking up in a deep sleep phase, if possible. There are time periods of five to 30 minutes to choose from.
GPS and Navigation - The GT Runner Finds Its Way Back
Thanks to dual-band GNSS, the Huawei Watch very quickly finds a GPS connection when a workout is started. Besides GPS, the watch also supports Beidou, GLONASS, Galileo, and QZSS. The accuracy of the measurement is convincing: The deviation from the Garmin Venu 2 reference device is only 18 meters (~59 feet) on a five-kilometer (~3.1 miles) bike lap. In addition, the GT Runner can also indicate altitude meters covered via its barometer.
Petal Maps is installed as a navigation solution. However, this only allows navigation to be started on the smartphone. The navigation instructions are displayed on the watch. The watch only offers navigation without a smartphone connection in the form of a return path navigation. If you have started a training program, the software can help you find your way back by displaying the direction and course of the route. However, this method does not help you find the starting point for a circuit if you do not want to run the circuit back again.
Display - the Huawei smartwatch's main discipline
The GT Runner's display is a lot of fun and hardly leaves room for criticism. It gets very bright and is very legible even in full sunshine. The measured brightness was up to 338 cd/m2 without automatic adjustment, and up to 564 cd/m2 with the sensor enabled. The colors are vivid, the black levels perfect as typical for OLEDs, and the viewing angles excellent. The ambient light sensor works quickly and ensures adequate brightness. The lift detection also works quickly and reliably, so you can directly read the desired information when you lift and turn the arm. The detection works so well that the always-on display option was hardly used in the test. You can suppress messages via the "do not disturb mode" and prevent the display from lighting up due to movement - that is very practical, especially at night.
Performance and runtime - The GT Runner is an endurance runner
Huawei is silent about the SoC. However, the watch runs extremely smoothly in all tested situations. Although the main memory is only 32 MB, there are no jerks when opening or closing apps, and the transitions between individual pages are smooth. Thus, the proprietary operating system proves to be extremely frugal.
Just under four gigabytes are available as mass storage, for example for music, which can then be played independently of the smartphone.
Battery life - carefree through the week
We did not reach the promised 14-day runtime in the test. However, the watch still had a battery level of 34% after one week of use, including setup, exploring all menus and three short sports sessions. The watch was worn 24 hours a day, including sleep tracking. Continuous measurement of pulse, oxygen saturation and stress was also enabled, but the always-on display was not used. Even with longer workouts, a runtime of one week should not be a problem. Charging from 15 to 100 percent was completed in one hour and 15 minutes and it became lukewarm in the process. Reverse wireless charging with a suitable smartphone is also possible. However, the charging stopped several times on a Pixel 5.
Conclusion - long runner with a great display
The Huawei Watch GT Runner is a smartwatch for athletes. It convinces with many sensors, is pleasantly light, and offers a long battery life. The Health app is a bit bumpy during setup, but then provides good and clear analyses.
However, when it comes to everyday use, the GT Runner suffers. Notifications and responses only work rudimentarily. There is currently no payment function despite the built-in NFC. The app selection in the App Gallery is very clear - and that at a price of 300 Euros (~$331) at the time of the test.
The watch impresses with a great display in everyday use. If you are looking for a wearable primarily for sports and want long battery runtimes, you should take a closer look at the GT Runner.
Sports fans and app lovers should rather look at other smartwatches like the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, which has to be plugged in much more often. If you want a Huawei smartwatch that looks less like a sports device, the Huawei Watch GT 3 is an alternative.
Price and availability
The RRP is 299 Euros (~$329) and is quite stable. In the Huawei Store there is currently a gift to choose from when ordering - for example, the Huawei Scale 3 body fat scale - and discounted combination offers. On Amazon the Runner GT is still priced at 299 Euros, but the Freebuds 4i is currently available as a free bonus.