BARCELONA – There’s an old mantra that if a chair looks and feels sturdy, you’re likely to think it’s worth more than a lighter one. We rely so much on determining quality by holding something in our hands and if it doesn’t feel right, why even bother?
While smartwatches have been the budding belle of the tech world for a good part of a year now, most still fall short when it comes to both fashion and functionality. The majority have mediocre usability with looks more similar to a clunky computer than a classic timepiece. For a smartwatch to really succeed, its needs to remind you why you bought it in the first place, each time you look at it.
When Chinese manufacturer Huawei showed off its new smartwatch this week at Mobile World Congress the audience cooed with excitement. Finally, a device you could accidentally mistake as a traditional watch. The brand itself may not resonate with many non-techy consumers, but what it’s trying to do will.
Mashable got a little hands on time with the much-hyped device and upon first impression, it looked as good as it felt. The device, which runs on Google’s Android software, was even perhaps the first smartwatch we’ve seen that looked sharp on both male and female wrists.
This isn’t a huge surprise considering the stage time Huawei dedicated during the press event to show how it would flatter a woman’s smaller wrist. The AMOLED display is 42 mm in diameter, which, according to the company, is the most compact design that exists. The size makes it a solid fit for both men and women; typically, smartwatches skew more masculine-looking because it’s easier to fit more technology into a larger device.
What I noticed first was the quality of the face casing, which is available in either silver, black and gold). It felt sturdy, almost heavy (but yet not heavy at all) in a way that others like the Moto 360 never provided. Essentially, it felt real. Like jewelry.
The display on a traditional watch is protected with sapphire crystal and this is the first time we’ve seen it come to a smartwatch. Competitors typically use Gorilla Glass, which gives a different look. The face is circular, too. Most watch specialists say consumers are drawn more to the circular look a square or rectangular shape, so this adds to the overall fashionable appeal and classic look of the Huawei Watch.
I was able to touch and try a variety of band options, like a classic leather and a stainless steel option, and all were more stylish and sturdy than other bands I’ve tried on before.
Wearers will also be able to choose from 40 different watch faces, including one that shows moon phases — a nod to some of the most popular luxury watches. The physical home button positioned near the 2:00 mark is a nice touch, too. Plus, it serves a purpose (since you certainly don’t have to wind up the battery); it’s easy to get back to the screens you want by pressing it once.
The overall usability of the Huawei Watch, however, seemed similar to competitors. After all, it uses Google’s Android Wear platform, which has received mixed reviews, and it was running a limited version. When the device officially launches in mid-2015 (likely June, according to the company), we’ll get a better look at how well it’s able to receive text messages, check email, get phone call notifications, play with apps and so on.
There are innate limitations, naturally. You’ll need a smartphone running Android 4.3 devices, which means iOS users are out of luck and consumer adoption will be limited to Android fans, who are already facing an increasingly saturated smartwatch market. Apple’s brand recognition is lightyears ahead of Huawei, especially in the U.S., so the Cupertino, Calif.-based company doesn’t need to worry about the Huawei Watch, especially since it’s using Android Wear software.
The pricing hasn’t been announced for the Huawei Watch, so it is hard to gauge how well it will sell. But at first glance (and touch), Huawei nails the design and it has something really noteworthy happening on the surface that the other tech giants should notice.
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