The Huawei Band 2 and Band 2 Pro continue a rather confusing naming tradition from the Chinese company, which is launching wearables under both its own and its sub-brand Honor's names. Confusing because, technically, there was never a Huawei Band 1, unless we're counting the Huawei Honor Band Zero. All that aside, the Band 2 has caught our attention with some decent features packed into a svelte package.
The Band 2 Pro was actually announced for the Chinese market a couple of months ago alongside the less feature-packed Band 2. The Band 2 Pro is now heading to North America, and we got hands-on with the device at Huawei's Summer Showcase event in San Francisco.
Essential reading: A guide to understanding VO2 Max
While we didn't get an in-depth play with a lot of the fitness features, we can provide a few first impressions.
Back to basics
The Band 2 Pro is going for a more traditional fitness tracker look than the Band Zero or Huawei Fit, with something that looks not a world apart from the Fitbit Alta HR. That's probably for the best if you like to wear a smartwatch and a fitness tracker at the same time.
While the Band 2 Pro feels incredibly light – enough to throw you off a little when you pick it up – it doesn't feel like it's made out of rubber bands. You've got a vertical display with a small capacitive button below it, which is for navigating around the interface. Tap it to change options, hold it to select. When you're in an activity, like running, hold it again to end and go back to the main menu.
It was all zippy enough, though hitting that capacitive button felt a bit iffy. It's not so much a sensitivity issue, more one of precision. You tend to naturally want to hit the space right below the display, which looks like a button, but that's just a gap that doesn't do anything.
The screen is an OLED display, which is nice and bright most of the time, but looked a little washed out when we held it under sunlight. That could prove a little troublesome during daytime runs.
The tracker is attached to your wrist via a clasp-like design. A two-notched head strap loops through the other to give it a bit of extra grasp, but it's not got a buckle like the Alta HR. It feels sturdy enough, but the true test will be in the full review.
Packed to the gills
It's in the features that the Huawei Band 2 Pro laps much of its current competition. Firstly, there's a heart rate sensor for continuously monitoring and displaying your heart rate, and this is used to determine your VO2 Max – another feature Huawei is now adding to the mix (although we did see it in the Huawei Watch 2). Training Effect, a stat for gauging how each exercise session impacted your fitness level and how much recovery time you need, is also on board.
Both the new trackers are waterproof to 5 ATM, and thus there's a dedicated swimming mode. It's one of two main activity modes that the Band 2 Pro touts, with the other one being running. Standalone GPS is another new feature, so you'll be able to take this out without your smartphone, although this is only available in the Pro model. Not many fitness trackers pack that in, so the Band 2 Pro is definitely putting some of the rivals to shame, and is shaping up to be Huawei's attack on the Fitbit Charge 2.
The Band 2 Pro also comes with a special motion analysis algorithm called FirstBeat, used by Garmin, Suunto and others. This should provide more insightful feedback on your exercises and provide tailored running workouts based on your running style to improve your stamina. If you're working towards a marathon it can help you get there too, though again, this is only available in the Pro tracker.
That all sounds well and good, if it works. We weren't able to test out any of the fitness modes in our short play, but rest assured we'll be putting it through its paces. We were able to compare the heart rate sensor to our Apple Watch, and they were at least in line when walking around. Whether the Band 2 Pro's accuracy keeps up at higher intensities is a different story, as it often is with wearables. The Band 2 Pro also comes with a guided breathing app for some of that mindfulness action, along with an app focused on sleep hygiene.
Huawei Band 2 Pro: Initial verdict
Huawei has a good, feature-rich fitness tracker on its hands here. It feels good, it looks good and it has some genuinely interesting and useful features. The big question, however, is whether it'll all work as intended.
There are also other, smaller questions, like how much it'll cost and when it will be available, which Huawei is yet to reveal. Huawei told us it'll be priced affordably, which is a big deal if so, and could give rivals like Fitbit something to really worry about. What we do know is that both trackers are headed to North America and will come in two colours – peachy pink and black.