Smartwatches are still a fairly new genre of device, which is why people expect more and more features from each generation of watch. They have to tell the time, work alongside your smartphone and any other devices you might have, provide insight into your health — and all while drawing power efficiently from a small battery.
The MagicWatch 2, the latest smartwatch from Honor, manages to perform all of these roles well, while fitting them into an attractive shell. As impressive as the new watch is, though, it lacks the most advanced features found on rival smartwatches, and it may not be coming to the US.
The MagicWatch 2 comes in two flavors — a smaller 42mm face model and a larger 46mm model. Those are the same sizes as the Huawei Watch GT 2, the basis for this Honor wearable. Both versions of the MagicWatch feature a 3D glass screen, and whichever model you opt for, you’ll be getting a small but potent display. The bright AMOLED screen (1.39-inches on the 46mm, 1.2-inches on the 42mm) shows the time, your workout plan or whatever else you want to see clearly, although it is a bit of a smudge magnet.
The specific model I got to spend some time with was a 46mm edition of the MagicWatch 2 with a black fluoroelastomer (plastic) strap. While the 46mm face is a little too large for my liking, its fake tachymeter bezel looks the part as a sports-tracking watch, and it’s very comfortable to wear. It’s not light, but it's not heavy enough to be an irritation; even while wearing the watch overnight to track your sleep, the plastic strap is super soft.
Under the surface, Huawei’s Kirin A1 chip, specifically designed for wearables, acts as the brains that allow the MagicWatch 2 to handle Bluetooth, GPS tracking, audio (the watch contains a small speaker) and various built-in apps. Plus, the chip acts as a power moderator to make sure you’re getting the most out of the MagicWatch's battery.
The MagicWatch 2 focuses heavily on sports and exercise tracking. The watch contains 15 different exercises, including new additions like rowing machine, elliptical and free training indoors, and open water swimming, hiking and triathlon outdoors.
All the collected exercise data feeds into the free-to-download Huawei Health app, where you can to track your progress over time and set some more advanced options up, such as the TruSleep 3.0 sleep tracking function. I didn’t have the chance to try these out, but the promise of highly accurate and comprehensive workout data for a variety of activities such as these sounds like a good deal.
If you’re not concerned with using your watch as a sports tracker, Honor’s added some less exhausting features to the MagicWatch 2. This includes Bluetooth calls, notifications, and sleep and stress tracking, which is accompanied by built-in breathing exercises should you need a moment of mindfulness. There’s also a music player that can store up to 500 songs in its reserved 2GB of internal memory (of 4GB total on the watch). This isn’t a stunning addition in and of itself, but the fact that Honor’s designed the player screen to look like a vinyl record on the watch’s circular screen is immensely pleasing bit of design work.
Hopefully these are enough features to satisfy you, as the MagicWatch 2 continues the Huawei/Honor trend of not supporting third-party apps. Between this and the reliance on the Huawei Health app, you are very much stuck in the manufacturer's ecosystem if you buy this Honor watch, even more so than the notoriously closed-off Apple and its latest smartwatch, the Apple Watch 5. With WearOS you have an app store to add additional functionality to your watch, whereas the only extras you'll be adding to the MagicWatch 2 are new watch faces.
If you’re concerned about having a watch that’s both smart and stylish, Honor is catering to you with its strap and color options. Each watch has two straps — black plastic or brown leather on the 46mm, and black plastic or golden milanese metal on the 42mm. You can easily swap out straps if you fancy having multiple straps for different occasions.
The 46mm MagicWatch 2 lists a pretty substantial battery life of 14 days, at least according to Honor’s tests, while the 42mm version gets to a less impressive seven days. Having worn my 46mm review unit for five days with "smart" continual heartrate monitoring (the watch checks less regularly if it detects you’re just sitting still) and automatic stress testing enabled, the battery has gone from full to 60%, which would indicate a full charge will last about 12.5 days. That's less than the heavily advertised 14-day figure, but I would say is a worthwhile sacrifice for the extra tracking information these monitors provide.
One of the ways the MagicWatch 2 seems to manage to conserve its power is by being stingy with the time the display is on for. The watch’s screen will blank out very quickly, meaning you have to keep dropping and raising your wrist or pressing the buttons to wake it again, which is a little annoying. However, there is an always-on mode you can enable, which gives the watch an analogue or digital watch face until you press the top button to get back to the normal screens. I didn't test this thoroughly to gauge the impact on battery life, but needless to say this will drain your battery faster than having the standard 'raise to wake' mode enabled.
The price of the Honor MagicWatch 2 has been revealed as €189 (£162/$208 converted) for the 46mm version. and €179 (£153/$197 converted) for the 42mm version. The original Watch Magic costs £179 ($232 converted) and the Huawei Watch GT 2 costs £199.99 ($258 converted), so expect the MagicWatch 2's eventual retail price to be closer to these than the euro price conversions. We have also been told that the MagicWatch 2 will launch around the world, including the UK, on Dec. 12.
That means no US availability, which could never really be certain while Honor’s parent company Huawei is on a US government blacklist. But that does not detract from the fact that the MagicWatch 2 is a well priced but premium-feeling smartwatch that I am looking forward to spending more time using.