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Huawei TalkBand B2 review: A 2-in-1 activity tracker that doesn't measure up

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MSRP: $299.99
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The Good The Huawei TalkBand B2 combines a fitness tracker and Bluetooth headset into one device. It's the first non-Jawbone device to offer compatibility with Jawbone's excellent tracking app, and it works with iPhones and Android phones.

The Bad The band is bulky and uncomfortable to wear, and battery life falls short. For the price you would expect added features, such as notifications from a smartphone. The Huawei app is bare-bones, and syncing with the Jawbone app was completely undependable.

The Bottom Line Despite its unique two-in-one design -- it's a fitness tracker and Bluetooth headset -- the Huawei TalkBand B2 ultimately overpromises and underdelivers on both accounts.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

5.9 Overall
  • Design 5
  • Battery 6
  • Performance 4
  • Software 8
  • Features 8

Review Sections

The wearable market is quickly becoming flooded with devices, and every company is trying to make a product that can stand out. Some activity trackers have heart-rate sensors; some offer extralong battery life; others can make mobile payments.

But what if I told you there was a device that both tracked your fitness and let you answer phone calls? Would you believe me?

Meet the Huawei TalkBand B2, a unique device that's part activity tracker and part Bluetooth headset. But that's not even what makes the tracker stand out. The TalkBand B2 is also the first third-party tracker that can sync with Jawbone's powerful Up software, which opens the door to smart coaching features and daily health insights. It's also one of our favorite apps here at CNET.

Despite all these extras, however, the TalkBand has some serious flaws, beginning with the price.

There are two models available for purchase. We reviewed the $180 model with a plastic strap (also available for £180 in the UK), but there's also a premium version in gold with a leather strap that can be had for $200 (£170). This is significantly more than both the Jawbone Up2 , which retails for $100, and the $150 Fitbit Charge HR -- though, to be fair, neither of them can double as a wireless headset.

What is it?

Sarah Tew/CNET

The TalkBand B2 is like so many of the other activity trackers on the market. The wrist-worn device is capable of measuring the steps you take each day, your calories burned and your sleep at night. There's vibration on board that can be used to wake you up in the morning, a favorite feature of mine, or to remind you to get up and move. To time and track individual workouts, there's also a special stopwatch mode.

What helps the band stand out is the detachable Bluetooth headset that can be used to answer phone calls. It's an interesting feature that we'll dive deeper into later. While there's no heart-rate sensor or any sort of notifications from your smartphone (aside from caller ID), there are some other bells and whistles, although most of them felt more gimmicky than practical.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The screen on the TalkBand will turn on when you twist your wrist. This is similar to the gesture used on the Apple Watch, however it's incredibly unreliable on the TalkBand. The screen will sometimes light up when it isn't meant to, and other times it won't light up at all. Alternatively, you can press the single button on the device to wake it up.

The first thing you will see when the device is turned on is a screen with the Bluetooth status, a battery icon, and the time and date. A swipe down reveals the amount of steps you have taken, another swipe shows the calories you've burned from activities, followed by the amount of sleep you achieved last night, and finally, the option to enable the stopwatch.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Holding the side button will reveal a submenu. From here, you can enable Bluetooth pairing mode, activate a "find my phone" feature (as long as you are in range and connected to your smartphone), and an option to remotely control the shutter on your smartphone's camera. But that final feature was a mixed bag: it failed to work on an iPhone, while with an Android device, it will only work if the camera app is already open. Otherwise, the button launches Google search if the camera app isn't open.

The TalkBand also doesn't include GPS, which means all of your activity data is recorded through wrist movements measured by the six-axis accelerometer and gyroscope. This means the tracker isn't ideal for runners or cyclists.

Design

The first thing I noticed after putting the TalkBand on my wrist was just how bulky it was. The strap isn't very comfortable to wear, and it's not as flexible as trackers from Jawbone and Fitbit. I appreciate having a screen to quickly glance at my activity stats, but the display on the TalkBand is nearly impossible to see in while outside in direct sunlight.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Trackers such as the Fitbit Charge and Garmin Vivofit use two pegs that push through holes in the band to keep the tracker on your wrist. Even with these two pegs, many people find that these devices are susceptible to falling off. Huawei decided to go with only one peg for the TalkBand, and I can't tell you how many times it has fallen off my wrist. It's fortunate that I didn't lose the device on the streets of New York City.

On either side of the band sit two small buttons, which when pressed simultaneously will detach the entire tracker from the strap and allow it to function as a wireless Bluetooth headset. The TalkBand comes with three different size ear plugs to ensure the earpiece will fit, but even then, it never really felt secure. The look and feel of the headset is uninspiring, and it's especially bulky compared to the Jawbone Era and Plantronics Voyager Edge .

Sarah Tew/CNET

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