Review of Huawei Talkband B2
The Talkband B2 is Huawei’s second attempt at fusing together a fitness tracker, watch and Bluetooth headset. The feature set of the tracker has had a mild update but the biggest difference is the B2 has ditched the IP57 rating of the B1 for a ‘premium design’ and a price which reflects this.
Given this is a premium product lets take a moment to discuss the looks of the Talkband B2. There are three colours to choose from, Black, Silver and Gold – the latter of which comes with a leather strap, while the black and silver have to do with a cheaper rubber strap.
I have been testing the black version and there is no getting around it, this is not a pretty device. Garmin’s Vivofit, any Jawbone and even some older Pebble watches are sleeker, and I found it difficult to fit the Talkband under a shirt sleeve.
However, more positively, I have found the watch very comfortable to wear to the point that have regularly forgotten that I was wearing it!
What is tracked
The Huawei is a pretty basic activity tracker, tracking your steps and automatically recognising other activities such as cycling. What brings the Talkband a step above other generic devices is its rather competent sleep tracker. The watch automatically recognises when you fall asleep and tracks both light and deep sleep cycles
The watch also features a smart alarm which wakes you up up to half an hour before your chosen time depending on where you are in your sleep cycle.
I flew to Spain during my test of the watch and I gave it a rigorous by going out the night before flying at 11:00am. Sure enough it tracked the 3 hours of sleep I managed and also tracked my nap in the hotel later in the day. However I slept on the flight as well but because I didn’t have Bluetooth connected that nap wasn’t recorded.
The sleep tracker seems to be decently accurate and the pedometer works as well. I did have a bit of trouble with the watch not recognising when I was cycling, which threw my daily targets off.
The Talkband manual encourages you to download the Huawei Wear app, which is what I decided to use for my review, however the Talkband also syncs with Jawbone’s fitness app.
Huawei Wear is an attractive piece of software. I found that I discovered a lot just by tapping and swiping around a bit, however if you are a bit less technically inclined the app could do with better sign posting.
Fitness and sleep both have a round dial which show your daily targets/amount of sleep and clicking on that gives you a breakdown of your activity over the day and then over the month. the app is attractive with a bright colour palette and a generally modern flat design language through out, more iOS 8 than Marshmallow as buttons are often just clickable text.
So now we can talk about the Talkband’s stand out feature, the Bluetooth headset. The wow factor of this wearable is far greater than that of any Pebble or Android Wear device I have tried out so far! I am a known techie and so have been asked a few times about the Talkband. I would go through the fitness tracking element of the device, pause and then go for the big reveal, showing that it is a headset and it even some of my more jaded friends couldn’t help but crack a smile or let out an unguarded “Wow!”
As a headset itself it is a bit heavier than other earpieces I have used, however for the number of lengthy phone calls I made with it and it was comfortable enough. I have particularly small ears of a difficult shape so basically no earphones fit well and the headset was no exception, especially on a bike. However once I got it seated properly then it would stay in place securely enough. Call quality is good I never had a complaint that someone couldn’t hear me and it out performed the in-line mic on my Sony in-ear headphones.
If you are reading this review, you are either totally sold on the idea or you are interested but are not convinced that it is actually useful in your day to day life. In my time with the watch it has become second nature to feel the watch vibrate, see who is calling and answer the call by using the earpiece. It is quick, picking up happens automatically once you undock the earpiece and you feel like you like in the future every time. I was sceptical before but I found it extremely useful and since I had to return it to Huawei I do find myself fantasising about trading in my Pebble for one.
I have found the Talkband more comfortable to wear than my Pebble Steel and while I am not used to sleeping with something on my wrist I found the B2 unobtrusive. the only issue I had was the first night I had it on the screen would light up every time I moved so I switched off ‘shake to wake’ manually. The second night I then set up the ‘do not disturb’ option which switches off the screen over night and that has improved my life drastically.
I found that the B2 would not consistently sync automatically and I would go into the app and have to pull down to refresh for it to update. This was generally quick and didn’t hamper my use of the app, and I guess helps save battery life so I was neither impressed or disappointed.
The battery life will get you through 3 days and 2 nights quite easily. It lasts long enough that you don’t constantly worry about it, and while it is a way off from the Pebbles, it is still better than pretty much any other ‘smartwatch’. It also charges through a regular micro-use cable which is just the best thing in my book.
It has a couple of other ‘smart’ features which include a phone finder, which does work but is limited by the Bluetooth radius, and on Huawei phones it has a camera button, which on my Motorola fires up a Google Now voice search.
The B2 costs about £100 on Amazon at the moment, maybe you can find it for about £90. Is this too much? Probably. The app is nice, the sleep tracker is accurate and fully featured and the activity tracking is lightweight but competent. I really think that Huawei is onto something by smushing a Bluetooth headset into a watch.
However, its biggest problem is the Talkband B1. This is reported to have up to 6 days battery life, has sleep tracking but no smart alarm and costs about £45 quid online. The B2 is less waterproof and so for someone who engages in ‘extreme’ sports the B1 is a no brainer, offering the bits I love about the B2 in a more rugged skin for some £45 quid less.
I am much sadder to give the B2 back than I was the Tag Heuer Connect I reviewed a little while back. I havn’t used something which felt so much like living in the future since I first held a 1st generation iPod Nano in my hands and thought “there is no way something this thin can actually be doing this”.
I would guess this is the ideal fitness tracker for business people – sleep tracking is important for those who work late and party hard, keeping track of your general activity is good and having a Bluetooth headset on standby (and crucially not having to have it your ear all day and look like a berk) is genuinely handy. Who wants to hold their phone to their ear anyway? That is so 2005.
The flaw is the price, which is steep and considering Huawei sells a more rugged version for a lot less money, my advice would be to grab a Talkband B1 unless you really need a gold activity tracker.
in conclusion, I am seriously considering buying a Talkband B1 … that is how convinced I am after living with the B2.