Monday, September 7, 2015

Huawei TalkBand B2 review

Ok, so I've bought a new gadget. It was long overdue because I, being a MediaPad X1 user, sometimes feel uncomfortable pulling that monster of a phone just to check the time on answer a call. Of course, Bluetooth headsets are cheap and abundant but I don't really like the idea of keeping one in my ear all the time. And having it not in the ear usually makes it pretty much unusable. Various wearable gdgets that can show time and some notifications aren't new either, and there are a lot of cheap options, but, again, there are even cheaper watches and I don't care much about fitness tracking (I don't mind it though) and notifications (reading long texts is seldom convenient on a small screen anyway). So when I heard about the new TalkBand that combines watch and wireless headset I was all interested, read reviews, became even more interested, and waited a few weeks only because of the price and availability.

The price, for most people around the world it might seem a little expensive provided it's not loaded with extra features but, thanks to the continuing currency collapse and discounts in my favorite local electronics retail chain, I had to pay less than $100 in cash. Well, not counting the store credit I used, the actual discounted price was more like $130 but it's still $10 cheaper than on aliexpress (or $50 cheaper than on amazon), much faster, and with full warranty and everything. Anyway, in comparison with some cheap but good fitness tracker (about $20) and good headset (about $10) it's very expensive. But...

The main feature is convenience of on-demand headset (with nice additional features in the same device). When you take it out of the band and put into your ear, sound output in the phone automatically redirects. It also accepts the call if there's a call when you do so. That's the solution if you, for any reason, don't want to wear a headset all the time but still want to use one occasionally. It's sitting in the ear comfortably, pulling it out of the band is easy once you get the technique right (first press the release buttons and only then pull, not simultaneously), sound is good enough, there are extra rubber eartips in different sizes.

But the review wouldn't be complete without writing about other features. There are notifications for calls and missed calls, an all the apps you whitelist (vibration, icon, and a short title for each one, missed calls you can return). Fitness tracking is ok, tracks steps automatically, although needs to be switched manually before it can track running. Sleep patterns tracking I haven't tried yet, will see if it's comfortable enough to sleep in. Camera remote control is working with my X1 (although it tries to start google search app occasionally) but doesn't seem to be working with Galaxy S6 (maybe it will with some non-default camera app, other features work with S6 well, by the way). Device search is working. Automatic phone unlock works on newer Huawei devices, including X1 with the latest Chinese ROM, not sure if I want it though the way it works though. Automatic awakening of the gadget (when you wave your hand) works nice after software updates and there is a do not disturb period so that it doesn't try to blind you at night and wake-up button is convenient enough. That's probably all, — as I said, it doesn't have too much extra features. Maybe third-party apps allow for more, don't know for sure.

Any accessories (like new wristbands, more rubber eartips, anything) seem hard to come by at least yet.

Bottom line is DO buy if you want super-cool on-demand headset and maybe some smart watch/fitness tracker features, DON'T buy if you need advanced fitness tracker, very smart watch packed with features, or wear a headset all the time anyway (or don't use a headset at all). It's super smart as headsets go but definitely isn't the smartest watch around. Worth its price for me.

Update (Jan., 2016): Custom notifications, do not disturb, smart unlock, gestures — those all were introduced/fixed with software updates over time. It sucks that you can't find accessories easily. Like screen protectors, extra eartips, and straps. A standard-sized eartip I had got slightly flattened over last months of continuous usage, maybe because of the heat, and I had the extra ones left in another country. Screen became slightly scratched without a protector (totally my fault, the wall had nothing to do with it). The strap can be replaced with one made for watches, I believe it has a standard size, but I haven't tried that yet, couldn't find anything more comfortable and good-looking although it can occasionally get unclicked in a bad moment.

Update (May, 2016): It works just fine with my new Galaxy S7, no Huawei's extra features but basics (talking/syncing/notifying) are just as fine. Eartips continue to wear down, it probably has nothing to do with weather as I replaced one on returning home and it has yet to warm up out here. Judging by the fact that my wife's one is in much better shape, that none of us talk using them too much, and that she wears hers much less often while I usually sleep in mine to track my sleep, I'd say it most probably flattens from the constant wearing, body heat or something like. I have a few spare ones but they are not likely to last for more than a couple years at this rate.