- Solid battery life
- Well priced
- Competent Bluetooth headset
- Awkward charging mechanism
- Rudimentary fitness tracking
- Bulky design
Huawei doesn’t always follow trends and whilst it’s certainly jumped on the wearable bandwagon, it’s done so in a rather unorthodox way with its new TalkBand B1.
Similarly to Sony’s SmartBand Talk, part of Huawei’s offering is designed to let you take calls without having to reach for your smartphone directly, but the solution it offers is decidedly different, although not immediately apparent.
Design: Comfy to wear, awkward to charge
Whilst it’s less of an issue when actually being worn, to look at the main body of the B1 appears to be surprisingly bulky. The rubberised wrist strap continues into a tall grey section of casing that tapers asymmetrically along the top. Side on, you can only see a single button, flip to the top however and to the side of the shiny, black plastic display protruding from the casing is a larger button, set against a lightly textured surface.
The strap (there’s a large and small version in the box) uses a conventional two-pin design with a Huawei-branded metal clasp to keep it secured on your wrist, but at the other end of the strap is where you’ll find a flap, under which lie the contacts of a USB connector. It has to be said that despite the elegance of an integrated USB over cumbersome charging cradles like those of Samsung’s and LG’s wearables, the curve and flex of the strap can cause it to separate when trying to make a proper connection with a charging port. It’s a great design in theory, but less effective in practice.
Aside from that, the killer feature makes itself known when you press the larger button on top of the B1. Thanks to some nifty internal design, the display pops up, coming away from its wearable nest and pulls completely out, featuring an integrated microphone and earpiece as it transforms into a Bluetooth headset.
The rubberised earpiece is comfortable enough for your typical phone call and thanks to its lightweight and black plastic bodywork it’s an unobtrusive, functional offering. If you’re looking for a headset with more panache, try Jawbone’s latest Era.
Screen: Easy to use, easy to see
As we’ve seen from other screened wearables like Acer’s Liquid Leap, the 1.4-inch curved OLED display actually fits the bill very well. It’s not the brightest around, but the high contrast nature of the white on black OLED tech ensures that you should be able to wake it up and glance at it in most conditions.
User experience: Sort of a simpleton
The double life of the TalkBand as a fitness tracker and a communications device means that it does both to a competent level, but doesn’t really excel at either. The one-button design (if you exclude the headset’s physical eject button) means that the responsibility for the fitness-tracking element falls more heavily on the companion app.
Thankfully Huawei didn’t tie down the B1 too much as it isn’t limited to their Ascend smartphones or Android devices in general, in fact we tested it out with an iPhone 6 running iOS 8. The company cites compatibility for Android 4.0 and up alongside iOS 5.0 and up.
As the display of the TalkBand relays on simple information such as steps, calories burnt and hours slept (as well as the time), the TalkBand app is where the more detailed telemetry lies, with additional data on distance travelled during exercise, progress towards fitness goals and more. There are also options for activity reminders to ensure you get of your arse once in a while and a smart alarm system, designed to wake you up if it thinks you’re falling asleep.
As there’s no integrated heart rate monitor on the back of the TalkBand there’s no way to read the user’s heart rate or better tie its data into Google Fit or Apple Health. Overall, whilst it gives you tools for basic fitness tracking, there are other devices that take this stuff more seriously.
Battery and comfort: Not too intrusive
Huawei quotes six days of real-world usage although we’d more tentatively state five, using its fitness and sleep tracking chops alongside taking phone call or two each day. Forgo the sleep tracking and it’ll last notably longer.
When worn on the wrist the bulk we mentioned earlier is less of an issue, it does still protrude quite far, so you need to make sure that you don’t catch it on your surroundings, but to wear, even for extended periods wasn’t at all problematic and light enough that we didn’t really notice it.
Popping the headset out to take a call is certainly convenient, but as there’s no ear loop, like those found on other Bluetooth headsets we can’t recommend the TalkBand headset for longer calls.
Verdict: Two sides to the story
Bearing in mind the Huawei TalkBand B1 retails for a snip under £100 there’s a couple of ways you could look at this. As a fitness tracker, although it features a nice app and cross-platform support, there’s not a whole lot of depth on offer here, nor is there much you can do with the data.
The convenience of the Bluetooth headset is unquestionable and for a few select people, being able to pop one off your wrist will be a welcome tech addition to your lifestyle.
As we already touched, the double life the TalkBand B1 leads means it’s good at both things but falls short of the mark in either direction. Huawei’s been bold in releasing a convergence device like this, we’re just not sure if people will feel the same when they see it on store shelves.
|Type||Fitness tracker/Bluetooth headset|
|OS||Works with Android and iOS|
|Bonus features||IP57 water/dust-proofing, sleep tracking|