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Gadget of the Week

Gadget of the Week: Time to watch Huawei’s GT 4

As Google pulls the plug on Fitbit distribution in South Africa, ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK finds a powerful replacement.

What is it?

It’s not an exaggeration to say Fitbit changed my life. It was the wearable fitness device that, a decade ago, began guiding me on a wonderful journey to fitness. In more recent years, it helped me identify shortcomings in sleep patterns – and even partly address some of them.

But lately, it seemed something was missing. While it kept adding remarkable new functions and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, these seemed wither too specialised or too broad to be useful as daily tools. Its sleep profiles turned out to be a blunt instrument.

As a result, in recent weeks I began trying alternatives. And then, in a remarkable coincidence, this country received bad news about its fitness future that could not have been better times for me. Last week, Google announced that it would no longer distribute Fitbit in South Africa.

Google has always regarded this market as insignificant in its global roll-out strategy for consumer technology, despite t being a lucrative advertising market for its search products. The fact that it was selling Fitbit devices here was an accident: as I’ve written before, it acquired the brand after local distributors and public relations companies – and savvy consumers – had turned it into the local market leader.

We should have guessed, then, that Fitbit would not survive in this market. It is also likely that its market share was crashing in the face of the onslaught of smartwatches from Samsung, Huawei and Apple. I’ve been trying out the first two of these three for some time, and finally settled on the Huawei Watch GT 4 as my main Fitbit replacement.

My Fitbit did not die the day Google made its announcement – it will still be supported for years to come. But, again coincidentally, its strap broke the very next day. Guess what replacement part I will not be looking for on Google search?

You also don’t have to guess why I won’t be conducting that search.

The Huawei Watch GT 4, in its 46mm variation (there is also a 41mm version), is a premium smartwatch with a sleek design, despite a sturdy exterior. It has so many advanced features, it is a constant surprise. It is probably hype to call it “a smartwatch that can do it all”, but its not far off.

It has amazing battery life, with up to 14 days on a single charge. That’s three times longer than my Fitbit Sense, for a device that has far more tech built in.

It offers a sharp and bright touch-screen AMOLED display that is clear in all lighting conditions, almost unlimited alternative watch faces, and a rotating crown for easy navigation.

It’s on-board tech includes two newcomers: PPG Arrhythmia Analysis and Sleep Breathing Awareness, which goes beyond what came standard on the Fitbit, despite its leading-edge sleep analysis. It offers a full gamut of the usual health and fitness metrics, including heart rate, blood oxygen levels, sleep, stress levels, and workouts. However, it brings them together in a different way. Its TruSeen 5.5+ health indicator monitoring technology incorporates a multi-channel signal enhancement algorithm, using AI, to give users a claimed 30% more accurate reading of their heart health.

TruSleep  3.0 gives users a comprehensive understanding of their sleep cycles and assists them in adjusting their sleep habits. Sleep Breathing Awareness scans for breathing irregularities during sleep, giving additional insight to respiratory health during sleep.

I can’t say I’m a fan of an upgraded feature called Activity Rings, which gives a quick view of calories burnt, exercise duration, and activity while standing. However, these are more confusing than enlightening about one’s daily activity, and I do prefer the Fitbit approach to customising such measures. The medals on offer are silly as a reward.

That’s a rare irritation, though. One other is that many of the available watch faces prioritise an Altitude measure. That’s something I’ve never wanted, and can’t imagine ever wanting during activity. I’m not a mountain-climber, and the people who fly the planes I board always insist on sharing that kind of data anyway.

On the plus – or even more plus – side, the Watch supports over 100 Sports modes, including trendy new pastimes like Padel and esports. Well, they do get the blood racing!

What does it cost?

R6,999 from the Huawei Store (

Why does it matter?

With Fitbit being withdrawn from the market, we need a choice of as many viable alternatives as we can get.

What are the biggest negatives?

  • Confusing Activity summary screen.
  • Unnecessary Altitude measure that sometimes takes priority.
  • A rewards/badge/medal system that feels very 2010ish.
  • No 3rd party app support.

What are the biggest positives?

  • Superb battery life of up to two weeks.
  • Supports Huawei, Android and iOS devices.
  • Massive range of activity supported.
  • Wide range of health and fitness tracking features.
  • Stores music offline and and plays back directly from the watch.
  • Receives calls and notifications on the watch.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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