Bigger isn’t always better

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Above: Huawei’s Watch device works with standard size watch bands and comes in a women’s edition dubbed the Watch Jewel. Photo courtesy Huawei.

 BitDepth#1043 for March 31, 2016

Over the past month, I’ve been dipping into and out of the experience of using Huawei’s Watch and Mate 8 smartphone.

The two naturally gravitate together, I think, as a matched pair of outsized technology that’s going to be terribly attractive for some users and leave others quite cold.

I find myself in the middle of both camps.

The Mate 8, save for a few shortfalls, qualifies as my ideal smartphone.

The Samsung Note 5 has always felt like a phone that’s “just a little bit bigger,” than its stablemate, the S7, but the Mate 8 goes risky to offer a phone that really feels like a jump from the standard dimensions of a large smartphone.

By comparison, the Note 5 has a screen that’s 5.7 inches diagonally (6.03 x 3.00 x 0.30 in), compared to the Mate 8’s six (6.19 x 3.17 x 0.31 in).

As with most codified phone dimensions, those numbers don’t quite explain the difference in heft and viewability that holding the devices brings home very quickly.

The screens aren’t directly comparable.

The Mate 8 offers a relatively low pixel density of 368 (1080 x 1920) pixels while the Note 5 delivers 518 (1440 x 2560).

Huawei’s Mate 8 pushes what’s possible in a six-inch phone to its limits. Photo courtesy Huawei.
Huawei’s Mate 8 pushes what’s possible in a six-inch phone to its limits. Photo courtesy Huawei.

For some users, that’s a critical difference. If you need to watch a lot of movies and television on a really long flight, I can attest that the larger overall dimensions of the Mate 8 are a significant win.

For some the Mate 8 going to be too much phone for everyday use. I’m a larger person and it’s a really good fit for me.

To be honest, if Huawei boosted the size of the P9 Plus to match the Mate 8 and got serious about using the lightfield technology they’ve introduced with the P9 devices, perhaps packing in four lenses instead of two, they would be onto something really interesting.

The Mate 8 supports a MicroSD card of up to 128GB and is available from DigicelTT on a postpaid plan for TT$3699.00.

Huawei’s rather directly named Watch device is a somewhat more specific bit of wearable technology.

Modeled after the hefty metal wristwatches generally associated with real men who wear cufflinks and the like, the Huawei Watch is an imposing slab of metal and glass (there’s a version for women with a floriated crown).

The Watch runs Android OS, and is supported by standard Android Wear software, which offers a large pool of supporting apps and…watchfaces.

Let’s pause here for a moment.

On a smartwatch, a watchface is a picture and does more than simply present standard clockface information. It can also act as an interface into the capabilities of the device.

Beyond that, there are a lot of them, in every possible style and permutation. Once you’ve connected the Watch to the Android Wear software on a smartphone, all of this software becomes available for transfer.

Some are phone apps with a watch component, some are dedicated apps and some are skins that change the face of the device,

To be honest, of all the things I’ve done with Huawei’s Watch while testing it, nothing quite compares to the instant gratification of touching a watchface icon on the phone installer and seeing it instantly appear on the Watch.

The utility of the Huawei Watch is based on that straightforward connectivity.

Data on the phone appears on the watch in real time across the Bluetooth connection that links them.

Huawei has made a wearable device that mimics the look of a classic man’s watch in style and heft, but it all feels like a bit of overkill for a digital device that’s meant to put data on your wrist.

Overall, it feels like a miscalculation.

For users who are comfortable wearing 55 grams worth of watch, this is an upgrade in utility, offering both standard time and date information along with controllers for a range of digitally enabled devices and software links to phone resident software which gathers information like e-mail, SMS messages and appointment notifications.

If you aren’t used to wearing a watch, it’s a huge new addition to your ensemble that doesn’t do very much that’s new on its own.

Most phones can do basic fitness tracking on their own and I’m still waiting to see a smartwatch do the one thing I actually need, lap tracking in a pool.

The upcoming Pebble 2, paired with third party software, looks promising on that front.

The Huawei Watch highlights just how personal the choice is when it comes to wearable technology. It’s a valid contender in the smartwatch sweepstakes and even if it isn’t to my own taste, there are some who will find its shiny chunkiness to be exactly what they are looking for.