Part fitness band, part Bluetooth headset; the Huawei TalkBand B1 is a strange little device that was first unveiled at MWC back in February. Described as the 'world's first hybrid smartband', the TalkBand B1 isn't officially on sale in the UK, although you can pick it up for around £99 from a number of reputable online retailers.
Wareable managed to get its hands on one though, to put it through its paces for our comprehensive review. Read on to find out whether this wearable jack-of-all-trades is worth paying attention to.
Huawei TalkBand B1: Hybrid beginnings
Let's clear one thing up before we get started – yes, Bluetooth headsets are wearable tech and yes, they've been around for ages and so people do have grounds to claim the wearable tech boom isn't a new thing. But that still doesn't mean we'll be covering them in any great depth here on Wareable. We're much to cool for that.
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Unless, of course, we are duped into covering them by a clever manufacturer who merges that particular dreary genre with one that we are a lot more excited about. And that's exactly what Huawei has done with the TalkBand B1.
For not only is the Chinese company's “first wearable device" a fitness tracker – a category we are extremely interested in here at Wareable – it's also a regular Bluetooth headset.
Huawei TalkBand B1: Design and build
The first thing you'll notice is that it's a bit of a bulky beast. Compared to the likes of a Fitbit Flex, it's enormous. It's not heavy enough at 26.2g to weigh your arm down, but when you consider the Flex is almost half this weight at just 14g, you get an idea of the sort of bulk we're dealing with.
There are two parts to the Huawei TalkBand B1: the strap, which contains the module dock, and the headset itself.
The strap is made of a thermoplastic vulcanised silicone and is coated with an anti-allergy treatment. It's actually pretty comfortable, with a silk-like finish, and the clasp is much easier to attach than the Fitbit Flex's. If anything the clasp is a little too loose; more than once we woke up to find the B1 under our pillow and not on our wrist tracking sleep as it was supposed to be doing.
On the strap you'll find two buttons; the first of which acts like a standard power / menu key and the second pops the headset part out. It's a smooth movement to take the module out and it's easy enough to clip it back in, and there's a satisfying vibrate once its properly connected.
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The headset part is essentially a standard Bluetooth in-ear one, albeit with an OLED display on the front. Weighing under 10g, it's not too bulky and we didn't feel any discomfort (apart from psychological) when using it for calls.
It's got a dual-mic and call quality was pretty good but if you think we're going into the details of the Bluetooth calling aspects of the B1 in any more depth than that then you obviously haven't quite got the gist of what Wareable is all about yet.
Huawei TalkBand B1: Display
One hilarious claim from Huawei about its debut wearable is that it contains a 0.3mm thin flexible OLED display that weighs less than 1g. And while that may very well be true, the fact is it's attached to the front of the 14.6mm thick headset module making the boasts of a 'second skin' seem somewhat ridiculous.
The 1.4-inch non-touch display in question is of the monochrome variety, there are no Samsung Gear Fit-style colours on display here and its functionality is basic at best.
The homescreen shows, from left to right, whether or not you're connected to your phone via Bluetooth, the time and the amount of battery power you have left.
Your other display options (scrolled through by pressing the menu button) are your step counter, your calories burned and your sleep time. We'll come back to these in more detail in a bit.
We test out a lot of wearable tech at Wareable, obviously, and we've never seen scuffs and scratches on a device quite like we did after a few days regular use of the TalkBand B1. Whatever material Huawei used for the display module, it obviously isn't strong enough.
Huawei TalkBand B1: Fitness features
Taking those displays one at a time and the steps counter is represented by a little stick man walking towards a flag with your count in the middle; calories burned is indicated by the use of a flame and sleep stats are highlighted by the moon and the stars. It's hardly ground-breaking graphics, we have to say.
The data your TalkBand B1 records is synced with a companion smartphone app, which is actually really nicely laid out, with some great options of switching between day, week and month views.
It's just a shame the data isn't accurate. Or close to being accurate. On three days we wore both the TalkBand B1 and our trusted Fitbit Flex to count steps and we found the B1 only recorded around 60% of the steps that the Flex did, while worn on the same wrist. Not ideal if you're setting yourself goals.
Talking of goals and you can set calorie counting and step goals using the app, and you can also set alerts for when you have periods of inactivity. For this feature, the little stickman appears, doing star jumps to remind you to get moving. It's like Tamagotchi, but keeping yourself alive.
The final aspect of the TalkBand B1 is sleep tracking. Again, compared to the likes of a Fitbit Flex or a Jawbone UP24, the Chinese contender was way off. It even thought we'd walked a couple of hundred steps one night; although we have no conclusive proof that didn't happen, we suppose.
Huawei TalkBand B1: Connectivity
Pairing your Huawei TalkBand B1 to your smartphone (iOS or Android) is an extremely easy affair with the app making everything nice and clear for even the most technophobic person. It uses Bluetooth 4.1 and we found that data syncing was incredibly quick and it hardly ever lost its connection.
There's also NFC on board for quick pairing. As the B1 is also a Bluetooth headset you'll get incoming call alerts (although we found it displayed numbers even when we had stored names for contacts) and you can, of course, choose to answer a call using the B1 by popping it out of the wristband and sticking it in your ear. At no point is this awkward and neither does it make you feel silly in public, we promise.
The TalkBand B1 is IP57 certified meaning it can withstand 1m of water for 30 minutes, meaning you should be able to wear it in the bath without any danger of breaking it.
Huawei TalkBand B1: Battery life
We've done a lot of B1 bashing in this review, we're aware of that. But one aspect you won't find us knocking is the battery life which, from a two-hour quick charge, is pretty impressive.
You'll get 6 days of what Huawei is calling 'regular' usage, 14 days of standby or, if you're that way inclined, 6 hours of talk time. We've had ours live and kicking for over a week now with what we'd call normal use and it's still got a bit of juice in the tank.
Charging is also a cinch as, like the Nike FuelBand, there's a USB connector built right into the strap. So it does beat the likes of Jawbone and Fitbit here as there's no need to carry round an extra charging accessory.
- Dual functionality on offer
- Battery life is great
- Built in USB charger
- Nice app and easy pairing
- Dual functionality doesn’t really work
- Bulky design
- Fitness aspects inaccurate
- Strap comes open too often