Huawei is still clinging to life despite constant trade war bombardment from the US government, and its latest project suggests that maybe all the stress is starting to get to the company. Huawei’s newest product, the Huawei “Watch Buds,” is now getting an international release. Like it says on the tin, this is a smartwatch that is also… earbuds? Imagine sticking a smartwatch display onto the lid of a wireless earbuds case and then strapping that whole contraption to your wrist. The smartwatch display sits on a hinge that lifts up, revealing two big chasms inside the watch body that hold and charge your earbuds. Your earbuds are always at the ready, I guess.
How many ways is this a bad idea? Smartwatches are primarily limited by their size, so anything that makes a smartwatch bigger is probably not a great design choice. Having a smartwatch open up to be a container for something else, like a 1990s wrist fanny pack, is certainly an interesting way to spend your limited space budget. You generally want your space-limited smartwatch to contain 100 percent smartwatch parts, but this one is about 50 percent smartwatch parts and 50 percent earbuds parts. The watch body is officially “47 mm×47.5 mm×14.99 mm”—a massive size that’s more volume than even an Apple Watch Ultra (49 mm×44 mm×14.4 mm), which is already too big for some people.
Generally, the space-limited size of smartwatches means battery capacity is pretty tough to come by. Huawei is giving you a 410 mAh battery to both run the watch and charge the earbuds while they’re in your earbuds/smartwatch case. The Apple Watch Ultra, which, again, has a smaller body, has a 542 mAh battery, and that’s just for smartwatch duties. This device also has GPS, a 24/7 heart rate monitor, and sleep tracking. The one saving grace for the battery life is that it doesn’t run Android—instead it uses Huawei’s “Harmony OS.” The name “Harmony OS” means almost nothing in terms of a software stock. On phones, “Harmony OS” means it’s an Android fork, but on watches, “Harmony OS” is a completely different OS based on Huawei’s LiteOS. Huawei claims you’ll get three days of battery life for “the entire device,” while a more normal LiteOS watch from the company gets a claimed “14 days” of “typical usage.”
Naturally, water resistance goes out the window when the entire watch body opens up. You won’t find any IP rating for the watch body (the earbuds are IP54), and Huawei’s fine print clearly states: “Avoid bringing the device into contact with water.” That’s a tough ask if you ever, you know, need to wash your hands. Huawei doesn’t say much about any other specs, listing only a 1.43-inch, 466×466 OLED panel and nothing about the SoC, RAM, or other components.
The earbuds, with their 30 mAh batteries, are good for four hours of playback or three hours with the optional noise canceling enabled. Both measurements are taken at 50 percent volume, so the real-life runtime is probably less than that. The one neat feature of the tiny buds is “auricle touch controls,” which means you can do the usual tap commands directly on your ears instead of having to touch some small button or touchpad on the earbuds themselves. To charge the earbuds, they magnetically attach to the inside lid of the watch. Closing the watch will push the earbuds into the big cutouts in the watch’s body, where charging clips will contact the silver rings around the earbuds. Huawei notes the charging clips “may slightly scratch the earbuds when the earbuds are taken out and put back. This is a normal occurrence.”
It’s just not clear who a product like this is for. If you’re really into wearing wireless headphones so often that you want easy access to them via a wrist case, you probably won’t be happy with the three-to-four-hour runtime of the earbuds. If you’re not into wearing headphones all the time, you probably won’t want to carry them on your wrist all day. If you’re somehow into the idea of a non-water resistant watch, the Watch Buds are up for preorder in Europe now for 449.99 pounds, or about $542. They ship on March 1.