Huawei TalkBand B2 partners with Jawbone Up to track fitness and double as a Bluetooth earbud (hands-on)
Huawei hasn't been a recognizable name when it comes to fitness bands. Jawbone is. So, in a pretty smart move, they joined up. The TalkBand B2, a fitness band with its own detachable Bluetooth earbud, is also the first dedicated fitness tracker to sync directly with the Jawbone Up app. And it's the type of gadget that shows that synergy across wearable tech will keep happening, rapidly.
The $179 TalkBand B2, available today, is an update to the TalkBand B1: a tracking band that transformed into a Bluetooth earpiece. It was a neat idea, although it didn't really do enough to impress in our review. Part of the problem was that you had to sync with Huawei's own fitness app, instead of picking a service that was...well, better.
The TalkBand B2 has a bunch of new design changes, including a fancy-looking gold version. The screen is touch-enabled, and tracks steps and sleep. But it's the Jawbone Up syncing that makes the TalkBand B2 much more appealing than its predecessor. It works with either an iPhone or Android phone, and syncs your steps and sleep data into the Up app just like any regular Jawbone Up band.
You can't track heart rate, though. And, at this moment, the B2 won't vibrate to receive silent alarms or activity notifications. Those buzzes are a great part of the Jawbone Up bands. Instead, you get a screen to show steps and activity data: something Jawbone Up bands lack.
Huawei will make more wearables, and Jawbone is increasingly open about getting its fitness app working with more watches, trackers and phones. This is a sign of where things need to go for fitness devices from now on.
The biggest change the B2 has seen is in the design. While the previous model was a fairly uninspiring black unit trapped in a blue rubber wristband, the B2 has a little more flair in its leather-and-gold design. However, the unit arriving to the US that we received was a far more basic black unit with rubberized strap. The detachable earpiece/display and its clip underneath are both metal. It's slightly wider than the older B1, but it's not too big as to feel cumbersome on your wrist.
Two little buttons on the side of the band makes the unit pop out of the strap. Suddenly, it's a Bluetooth earpiece, along with a rubber-covered earbud underneath.
You can use the TalkBand B2 to make calls, and then pop it back in your wristband when done. Whether or not you choose to wipe down your earbud in-between is a personal decision (the answer is yes, you should).
The TalkBand B2 comes in black, white and the gold-tone-and-leather design you see here. That leather model's bound to cost more than the $179 "starting" price of the B2, but Huawei hasn't revealed how much.
The TalkBand B2 is a basic all-day activity tracker. A six-axis accelerometer and gyroscope allow the band to automatically determine whether you're running, walking or even sleeping, without having to set the activity yourself in the app. The display shows step count, calorie burn, sleep time, and a watch display, plus an exercise timer.
What it doesn't have is built-in GPS tracking, or heart rate tracking.
Jawbone's latest Up app, which includes improved Smart Coaching, is ready to directly sync with the TalkBand B2. It treats it just like any other Jawbone Up band. Jawbone's software has been in the Pebble and Android Wear smartwatches, but the B2 is the first activity band with Up compatibility baked in. It's a big step up from Huawei's own fitness app.
The B2 uses an OLED dot-matrix display, which glows when you press the side button. It could get annoying to keep pressing the side button to track progress, but it's a lot better than the screen-free Jawbone Up bands.
At $179, however, this isn't really a Jawbone Up band replacement. The latest Up bands are $100 and $180: the $100 Jawbone Up2 offers the same fitness tracking as this TalkBand, but also vibrates. The $180 Jawbone Up3 also tracks resting heart rate (but not all that usefully, yet). With the TalkBand B2, you're paying up for the extra Bluetooth earpiece functions.
The TalkBand B2 is available via GetHuawei.com, Amazon and Fry's Electronics, and will be "coming soon" to Best Buy. In a crowded fitness tracker world that's being pressed further by smartwatches, the premium price and weird function set of the TalkBand B2 might end up being a turn-off. But its Jawbone Up fitness syncing gives it a bit of a branding advantage over some of the more generic competition.