Already a major player in mobile networking technology and the consumer mobile phone business, Huawei has been making more moves into more consumer tech areas over the last couple of years. Huawei launched their first combination fitness band/bluetooth headset, the Talkband B1 last year with the Ascend Mate 7. This year, the Talkband B2 was launched with the Talkband N1, a fitness headset, at Mobile World Congress.
Huawei launched the Talkband B2 in Australia earlier this month, with a fitness session hosted by a couple of players from the Canberra Raiders, who took pleasure in putting the local tech journo’s and the Talkband B2 through their respective paces.
The Talkband B2 features a number of improvements over the original, featuring new hardware updates, as well as functionality updates, and a new design with sports and ‘dress’ versions.
We’re pretty big suckers for fitness bands here around the Ausdroid offices, and Scott quite liked the original, so we were quite excited to look at the sequel. I’ve been using the Talkband B2 for a few months now, and it’s time to really let you know what I think.
There’s two versions of the Talkband B2, but the only difference between the two is the colour options, as well as the bands they attach to. The ‘sports’ versions are available in Black and White, and come with a rubber, sporty band which is closed with a single press stud style clasp. The ‘Dress’ version comes in a gold colour, with a brown leather band that has a more stylish and secure doubled-over, watch band style clasp.
The actual clasps were majorly different between the two, with the sports version becoming a little less secure as time wore on, though the band never actually came off, it did start to feel loose. The clasp on the dress version was immensely better, feeling secure at all times. There’s not huge differences here, and when working out and sweating, the rubberised sport version was a little better suited, but they both worked well.
The Talkband electronics are housed in the Bluetooth headset, which slips comfortably into your ear, and then clips into the watchband when not in use. Call quality on the Bluetooth headset was pretty good. I found that with a beard the headset felt a little loose and kept playing with it, but once I trusted it was secured, it worked really well and callers said there was a pretty good clarity to the call, although there was a couple of times I apparently just dropped out.
The Talkband has a 0.73″ PMOLED touchscreen on the front which responds even when you’re sweating through a workout and a single button on the side used to activate the screen. On the screen you can swipe through data recorded like steps taken, sleep, calories burned and of course your home screen has the time and date.
The screen is easy to see inside, but outside it’s a little dim and seems to be a little ‘cloudy’ but overall, it’s a decent, if not outstanding screen.
The Talkband B2 has a 95mAh battery, which Huawei says will give you up to 6 days of battery life. In practice, you get pretty close to the 6 days, with the bonus that it can charge to 100% in around an hour and a half. It’s a Bluetooth 3.0 device, which could drain the battery a little quicker than if it were using BT4.0 LE, but that could be for the B3 next year.
With a 6-axis sensor, the Talkband B2 is able to track and sense different exercises you’re doing. It worked quite well in a cross training workout of weights and cardio at the gym. I’ve been a bit let down by the step tracking on Android Wear for a while, with the watches some times not recognising even an extended cardio workout, but the Talkband B2 was excellent with step tracking.
There’s a very interesting workout mode you can initiate on the Talkband B2, at the beginning of your work out you can initiate a timer, which will count your steps, calories burned and give you an overall time when you hit end. It’s an interesting way to see how intense your workout is.
The band is IP57 rated, which mean I wouldn’t actually take it swimming, but for your average shower it seems alright. I did find that I preferred to take the leather band off for a shower, but the rubber band version felt a lot better. They both felt similar when building up a sweat doing some exercise, but the rubber also felt better, while the leather feels like it’s better suited for ‘formal’ wear.
Notifications and Controls
I had the B2 paired with the Hauwei P8, with the latest EMUI OS installed and was unfortunately not able to get two of the advertised functions: remote shutter or the smartphone pager working. I was able to use the Talkband B2 as a Smart unlock device, but that’s mainly due to the Android 5.0 smart lock feature.
The Talkband B2 will notify you of information on-screen when a call comes in, giving you the caller ID as well as the number, but there’s very little else the band does with regards to notifications. It’s a slightly disappointing aspect of the Talkband B2, given its more premium price.
The Talkband B2 connects to your phone through the Huawei Wear app, it’s a pretty straightforward process to pair and get your band recording your steps, sleep and the rest of your fitness information.
As above, the fitness tracking is great, and the Huawei app displays your daily fitness stats in an easy to read graph. Sleep tracking is also really good, logging deep and light sleep in a similarly easy to read graph. You can get easy access to historical data, with a month view of Sleep and Fitness and you can share that data if you want for a bit of gloating about that great workout you just got.
The Huawei Wear app has an option to initiate smart alarms, which gently starts the band vibrating at what they determine is a light sleep time to wake you up easily. It’s a good way to wake, but it’s a pretty standard setup for fitness bands these days. You can also have activity alarms to remind you to get up and walk about at regular intervals or set Event Alarms to set up to five custom alarms to go off throughout the day.
Huawei has also introduced connectivity with the Jawbone Up app, something I first used when reviewing the Jawbone Up24. The Jawbone app is much better than the Huawei Wear app, but the problem is that sync was fairly unreliable. It would be great if it worked better but it’s just not there yet.
I’ve been wearing the Talkband B2 for three months, during which time I briefly stopped and I missed it an awful lot. The problem is that there is a lot missing from the Talkband B2 when compared to other options on the market such as notifications and apps, as well as GPS tracking, heart-rate monitor and colour screen.
The Talkband B2 in the Gold/Brown Leather combination looks absolutely fantastic to me and I love wearing it, but I would like to see more functionality included in it. Huawei improved the Talkband from the B1 to the B2, so hopefully the B3 when it arrives will be even better.
At $249 for the Leather band version and $229 for the sporty version, it’s a pretty expensive option, but if you can get it on-sale it’s a decent fitness tracker, but it’s still quite above the rest when it comes to price.
You can check out the Talkband B2 at Officeworks and JB Hifi as well and Telstra will be stocking the Talband B2 from the 5th of August. Go check it out in-store and see what you think.