Wearables are a confounding area of the tech market. Generally, it takes a great deal for a new product to fulfil one promise alone – the functionality of a top fitness tracker, for example – well enough that it out-competes a litany of rivals in the same segment.
Huawei have come to the table, then, not offering to fulfil one promise, but two. Its TalkBand B2, the successor to the much-slated TalkBand B1, functions as both a fitness tracker and a Bluetooth earpiece. While the bar may be set low, expectations are high – the TalkBand B2 costs an expensive $180 USD. At that price, the question stands – is the TalkBand B2 a compelling buy?

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With the B2, Huawei have dramatically redesigned the TalkBand.

Let’s start at the beginning. The TalkBand B1 was an arguably similar – though far less visually pleasing – device that functioned both as a fitness tracker and Bluetooth earpiece. Largely, the B1 recieved mixed to negative reviews; the device was panned for being a jack-of-all-trades, but master of none. Particularly, reviewers found the device inaccurate, ugly, and difficult to use in direct sunlight.
With the B2 – at least externally – Huawei have been taking notes and have dramatically redesigned the TalkBand. The B2 is an austere strip of aluminium that’s cold to the touch, and either comes equipped with a leather or TCP band. A little like something out of Die Another Day, the B2 runs cool to the touch and, generally, you’ve no idea if its on or working unless you activate the side button to find out. Very Bond, then.
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The TalkBand comes with either a TCP (pictured) or leather strap

I was given a white TCP model to use, which at times I felt was too feminine on my wrist for my personal taste. I often found myself pulling the sleeve of my jacket over the unit, as the metal of the centre unit is highly reflective and attracts attention. The device itself, I found, is no more heavy than a traditional analogue watch and is comfortable to wear, save for the TCP strap that occasionally bit into my wrist.
To function as a Bluetooth earpiece, the centre unit pops out with a certain amount of aplomb and makes use of (one of three supplied) plastic covers to fit into the ear. The transparent white of the plastic cover is somewhat garish compared to the sleek metal of the centre piece.
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The transparent white of the plastic cover is somewhat garish compared to the sleek metal of the centre piece.

In use as a fitness tracker, the TalkBand is a mixed bag. Out of the box, the TalkBand supports integration with Jawbone’s UP app. A user of the UP24 myself, this immediately raised an eyebrow. To set the TalkBand B2 up, the Huawei Wear app is a required download, and is the only means through which the TalkBand can be updated and synced (for time and general stats). While Jawbone have undoubtedly built a great connected platform with the UP app – one which I enjoy using personally – intergration into a third party system is, to my mind, an acquiesence by Huawei.
Plainly, the TalkBand’s integration with either platform is sub-par, for varying reasons. While the TalkBand connects fluently with the Huawei Wear app, the Chinese firm have developed a vastly underpowered app that only delivers core information without any ability to connect to the same breadth of services Jawbone offers (beyond MyFitnessPal). Conversely, the connecting to the UP app, while far more easily expandable, is bothersome at best and spotty at worst, with information seldom reaching the service timeously.
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As a fitness tracker, the TalkBand is surprisingly decent fair

As a fitness tracker, the TalkBand is surprisingly decent fair compared to either of the two services it is expected to connect to. Simplicity is a great motivator to strap on a fitness tracker, and this is where the TalkBand shines; quick and easy to digest information is always a button press and a swipe away.
The TalkBand displays a general information screen displaying the battery level and time at first, and after swiping through reveals steps taken, calories burned, hours slept, and an activity tracker for toggling workout monitoring on or off. It’s deliciously simple to use, and the TalkBand’s screen, while difficult to observe in direct sunlight, works a charm. As we discussed on last week’s episode of Bandwidth Blog On Air , I much prefer the ability to read information off a screen than through a cryptic LED indicator, and this is something the TalkBand does well.
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Pressing two side buttons releases the central unit with a large amount of force

Another consistent issue I had with the TalkBand which I mentioned on the show was the process of detaching the central unit from the wrist band. While in practise it is a useful way of configuring the unit to work as a Bluetooth earpiece – and the unit itself always changed its Bluetooth profile accordingly – the physical act of removing the central unit is a worrying one. Pressing two side buttons releases the central unit with a large amount of force – one I found that all-to-often send the TalkBand on a one way trip to the floor. Were I to use this consistently as a daily driver, I’d quickly become worried over loosing the central unit forever due to a rogue button press under my sleeve.
As an earpiece, the TalkBand functions surprisingly well. Call and music quality through the earpiece is impressive, and the ability of the central unit to quickly change Bluetooth profile from functioning as a fitness tracker to an earpiece. The TalkBand was a genuine pleasure to use while driving, and functions unobtrusively. My greatest issue with the device is that the in-ear plastic cover seldom grips comfortably, leaving the TalkBand to go flying if you’re tempted to make an elaborate head gesture such as an enthusiastic yes or no.
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The TalkBand’s display isn’t particularly visible in direct sunlight

Ultimately, the TalkBand achieves its promises with mixed success. As a fitness tracker, it functions amicably despite connection and service issues. As an earpiece, the TalkBand works brilliantly but is let down by an awkward design and a seldom reassuring in-ear grip.
While I’m a lover of gadgetry weird and wacky, the synergy between the two product markets the TalkBand competes in is strained and, frankly, confusing. There are better contenders in each market space which deliver upon one promise well, rather than deliver two with mixed results. Further, the target market for the TalkBand is, I imagine, a slim one – executives with a penchant for a quick afternoon run are well-catered for here, though the rest of us seeking a dedicated fitness tracker or ear-piece would probably be left better off looking elsewhere.
In conclusion, the TalkBand is, despite its issues, a decent device that does offer another function above and beyond what most Bluetooth accessories do in a manner that’s both sexy and stylish. However, marketability is its downfall; those seeking a dedicated Bluetooth fitness tracker or earpiece should continue seeking just that.
Score: 6/10