Honor Watch Magic review: a fitness band aspiring to be a smartwatch

Honestly, if you saw me in real life you’d know that fitness and Ershad are like chalk and cheese. It is only recently that I started taking my health seriously. For the past month or so, I’ve been doing a 45-minute walk+sprint every day in an effort to look like John Abraham. Lol, just kidding. If I can look like Boman Irani, that’d be a big achievement.

Now, apart from investing in a pair of good running shoes from Decathlon, I used the Honor Watch Magic to track my exercise sessions — for the very first time in my life. Obviously, I also wanted to also check how the Watch Magic functions as a smartwatch in general. Can Honor Watch me do some Magic to my body? Okay, please excuse the bad pun. Let’s just move on. 

Honor Watch Magic design: quite the looker, I must say

The Honor Watch Magic has a circular dial and I love circular dials. And, the best part is that there is no display cutout at the bottom like the Moto 360 Gen 2 or the newer AmazeFit Stratos. You get a 42mm dial, which is about the right size for most men but could be small for women with thin wrists. I am a big guy and prefer big watches too, and therefore the Huawei Watch GT — which has an approximately 46mm dial — would suit me better. But, that’s just me. As I said, I am a hulking behemoth. 

By the way, you get the Watch Magic in two different colour variants. There is the Lava Black variant with a sporty Black silicon rubber strap and the other is the Moonlight Silver variant with an Italian cowhide Brown leather strap. Don’t worry, the leather strap has the same silicon rubber on the underside to ensure that you don’t sweat. It is no surprise then that the Silver variant costs Rs 1,000 more. 

Also read: Stuffcool Monty review: best bluetooth earphones under Rs. 2000?

While we got the Black one for review, the Silver one looks extremely classy. Furthermore, it is not only good looking but also lightweight and slim (according to smartwatch standards) at 9.8mm.

The body of the watch has a Stainless Steel Tachymeter and the lower part of the shell, that sits on your wrist, is made of biodegradable nylon plastic. The whole construction feels a whole lot more premium than its asking price. Moreover, it feels solidly built as well and should be able to take a few tumbles. Most importantly though, the Watch Magic is also suited for swimming. And therefore it has been certified 5ATM, which means you can take the Watch down 50metres in depth for 10 minutes. 

Honor Watch Magic display and controls: crisp and visible outdoors

As for the display, you get a 1.2-inch 390 x 390 pixels AMOLED touch display. It is crisp and bright. I had no problem viewing it under bright sunlight. The viewing angle is also excellent with no visible colour shift or blacking out happening at any angle. The touch response is great too but the interface is pretty laggy (more about this later). You can choose to keep the display Always-On, which is limited to 5 minutes. I didn’t care much for the always-on setting and was satisfied with turning my wrist towards my face every time I wanted to check the watch-face. 

Talking about watch-faces, I have a problem with the fact that there are too few on offer. My unit, after the updates, had around 13 watch-faces and you cannot add more either. Fortunately, the watch-faces look good and you shouldn’t have a problem finding one that you like. You get two physical controls on the right side of the shell. The top button invokes all the apps that are available in the Watch Magic and the bottom one opens the Workout app with the different workout tracking options. It is pretty simplistic in that sense and I kinda like this no-frills approach. 

Also read: Shanling M0 review: an iPod nano for Gen Z audiophiles but is the Cayin N3 better?

Honor Watch Magic smartwatch features: not much to talk about

As much as I like the no-frills approach of the physical controls, there is no denying that as a smartwatch there is not a whole lot that the Honor Watch Magic can do. Firstly, there is no internal storage for you to store songs or connect your Bluetooth headphones. Why does this matter? Because you cannot use the Watch Magic to listen to songs when you use it without tethering to your phone. Which, by the way, you can do to track workouts. 

Secondly, there is no App ecosystem to speak of. All you get are the in-built apps on the Watch. And, most of it is fitness-related. The non-fitness apps include a Weather app, a Stopwatch, a Timer, an alarm, and for some odd reason a Flashlight. In fact, these apps are also bare basic. 

Now, the reason for such a simplified experience is that Huawei wants to ensure that you get all your fitness features and the best battery life from a smartwatch. A claim I have tested and will get to in the battery section of the review. As for the interface itself, it is extremely sluggish. The Watch Magic actually runs on Huawei’s proprietary LiteOS that, as I said, is heavy on the fitness features more than anything else. 

Oh before I forget, when someone calls you, you can only see the number and reject the call. Furthermore, the notifications that you pull from the phone are not actionable either. And, the text actually breaks awkwardly mid-line. Essentially, you get only half-baked smartwatch features on the Watch Magic. 

Honor Watch Magic fitness features: a lot to talk about

While the smartwatch experience is threadbare, Honor has packed the Watch Magic with a smattering of fitness-related features. You can track workouts directly from the watch. Working tracking includes: runs, walks, climbs, cycling, swimming (open water and in a pool), and even a Triathlon. In fact, if you are doing any other sort of workout, you can use the heart rate monitor to track the calories burnt. 

By the way, the heart rate monitor works real time and keeps updating on your watch face. I have no way to check the accuracy of this monitor but in comparison to a Fitbit Inspire HR, I have been using alongside, the heart rate reading was almost on par on both the devices. Need to buy a chest strap monitor soon to double check the findings. 

Talking about the heart rate, I absolutely love the number of details the Huawei Health app can pull in from a single walk. For an amateur like me, apart from the calorie count, it is super exciting to look at data like the average speed, elevation gain, and Heart rate levels. It was particularly useful to see that in a 43 min walk+sprint, 34 minutes was fat burn. It is that sort of granular information that is missing from Fitbit’s native app. Obviously, you have third-party apps like Strava that can do a whole lot more. For example, you can set a default pace for you to run at and get prompted to keep up with the pace accordingly. This is useful for athletes, not beginners. But don’t forget that Strava is has a monthly subscription fee after the free first month. 

Having said that, I really wish that Huawei added some sort of gamification feature. The Samsung Health app and Fitbit app constantly make you feel like you should keep working out. In its current state, it feels like a basic app that only wants to show you information and not prod you on to do more. Also, you cannot track your food intake and there is no social aspect to the app to speak of. It is a dump of data that will excite nerds like me but a little simplification of that data would’ve been nice. 

Moving on, you can also track your sleep but you need to wear your watch. This sleep tracking is so intense. Again you get a massive log of information such as Deep Sleep, Light Sleep, REM Sleep, and breathing quality. It is all very detailed and useful for folks who like to track this type of stuff. For further validation, this properiatary TruSleep tech is certified by Harvard Medical School. 

The Honor Watch Magic also includes a GPS that supports three satellite position systems which include: GPS, GLONASS, and GALILEO. When you track workouts, it includes real-time tracking of your location and it shows pretty accurate information too. 

Unfortunately, I couldn’t track the other workouts but I am guessing my experience should give you a fair idea of how things work on the Watch Magic. Also, I’d have ideally liked it if there was automatic tracking that is available on Fitbit devices. But that may be asking for too much. My other concern with the Watch Magic is that you can only link your info to MyFitnessPal and Google Fit for now. A few more third-party integrations would’ve been nice. And most importantly, none of the information is stored on the cloud and therefore it is not available on multiple devices, which is a pity. 

Honor Watch Magic battery life: unbelievably good

The Watch Magic has stellar battery life. Honor promises around 7 days of battery life and you can easily eke out 6 days worth of battery if you don’t pull in notifications. If you do pull in notifications, the Watch Magic can last you 4 days for sure. I constantly got 4 days of battery life from the Watch Magic in my testing. I was receiving notifications from 9 apps in total: Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, Twitter, WhatsApp, Linkedin, Outlook, Telegram, and Microsoft’s excellent SMS Organiser app. 

Should you buy the Honor Watch Magic?

If you are looking to pick up a smartwatch, that works properly like a smartwatch, then the Honor Watch Magic is definitely not for you. Having said that, Honor makes no such tall claims either. It is solely focussed on appealing to the fitness enthusiasts out there. And these fitness enthusiasts won’t care much for actionable notifications I am sure. 

From accurately tracking the heart rate to providing a detailed breakout of your workout sessions, the Honor Watch Magic could easily be an alternative to something like a Fitbit. Although, the Fitbit will definitely be more accurate while tracking important data for sure. And, something like the Fitbit Versa Lite – which is around the same price as the Watch Magic – works with far more third-party applications as well. And, the third-party hardware ecosystem is also more mature.

Additionally, the Huawei Watch GT is obviously a great alternative too if you want a bigger-sized smartwatch. Moreover, Huawei promises 2-week battery life. I definitely want to test out that claim for sure!

All said and done, I think the Honor Watch Magic can find its own audience easily. I liked using it during my review period and I must give Honor credit for making me want to workout every day. Only if it pushed me even harder…

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Ershad Kaleebullah
ershad.kaleebullah@u2opiamobile.com

When Ershad isn't writing, he spends time killing virtual zombies on his PS4. Having worked with a slew of renowned publications like PCWorld, Channelworld, CIO, NDTV Gadgets (now Gadgets360), MySmartPrice, The Inquistr, and 91Mobiles, Ershad brings a whole world of experience to Mr. Phone. He is trying hard to convert all the team members into Apple fans but is facing a lot of resistance. Is anyone willing to help?