Huawei has introduced the successor to its TalkBand B1 activity tracker come Bluetooth earpiece at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, after announcing it would be turning its focus to wearables for this year's show.
The TalkBand B2 offers many of the same features as the TalkBand B1, including the ability to detach the main part of the device and pop it into your ear for making and receiving calls, but in terms of design, the new model is born from an entirely different realm.
We got our hands on it in the run up to MWC to see what new features have been introduced and whether the new look is enough to make the TalkBand B2 stand out from the competition.
Huawei has moved away from the cheap, plastic and chunky design of the TalkBank B1 and introduced a premium, brushed aluminium metal finish for the TalkBand B2, resulting in a lovely looking device.
The TalkBand B2 is made up of two parts - the main removable element that makes up the activity tracker and the Bluetooth earpiece, and the strap with the cradle the main element slots into.
The activity tracker and Bluetooth earpiece is a slightly curved, all-metal rectanglar device with rounded ends that measures roughly 15mm wide, 10mm thick and 40mm long. It's similar in size to the Withings Pulse activity tracker to give you some indication of how small it is.
On the right hand side is a small button that powers up the display, but rather than push it continuously to get to the next function like you do on the Withings Pulse, the TalkBand B2 has a 0.73-inch PMOLED touch display with a HD resolution that you swipe to pull up the next screen, such as calories burned or steps walked.
The touch display was very responsive from what we found during our time with it and it looks good too. It's subtle in its brightness, which helps it blend into its metal surround and when the display is off, the TalkBand B2 could be mistaken for a decorative accessory rather than an activity tracker. Bluetooth earpiece certainly doesn't spring to mind on first glance.
On the rear of this part of the TalkBand B2 is where it sets itself apart from others in its field and where its USP comes into play. Above the slightly raised section that features a convenient Micro-USB charging port, is a clear rubber earbud with a speaker beneath. We didn't get a chance to see how easily or comfortable it was in the ear, nor how good the sound was, but we will test this in our full review.
To slot the main part of the TalkBand B2 into the cradle, you have to slide the earpiece end in first and then the bottom down. It clicks in place to let you know it's secure and the curved cradle blends seamlessly with the strap. Getting it back out is easy too, requiring just a simultaneous push of the two circular and discreet buttons that sit on the metal part of the strap itself. Huawei seems to have really considered the design of the TalkBand B2, which is a lot more than can be said for the first attempt and the thought has paid off.
Whether or not the Bluetooth earpiece feature is a pointless one or not is still up for discussion, but Huawei should at least be commended for coming up with a different take on the standard activity tracker and in the case of the TalkBand B2, making it better than the original.
There are three colour options available comprising black, silver and gold, with the black featuring a rubber, patterned strap and the silver and gold options opting for leather straps like the Withings Activité, although not quite as luxurious. We didn't see the silver but the gold is a lovely light rose gold shade that compliments the tan strap well and even the black looks good despite us being unsure of the rubber and brushed metal combo at first. The colours are certainly preferable and more premium looking to the TalkBand B1 options.
The strap fastening is dependant on the type of strap, with the leather version featuring a similar clasp to the one found on the Sony SmartWatch 3, and the rubber option using a two-pin system like many activity trackers, but adding an extra loop for security. It was comfortable to wear and although we preferred the leather finish to the rubber, both looked good and were easy enough to adjust in terms of size and fit.
The TalkBand B2 is IP57 dust and water resistant like the TalkBand B1, which means it can be immersed in 1-metre of water for up to 30 minutes. It's worth noting that the leather strap is only IP55 rated however, so there will be no taking the posher version in the bath.
The TalkBand B2 does everything the TalkBand B1 does but it adds automatic activity recognition to its attributes. The time, date and day are the first to appear on the display, along with a battery indicator, but swiping up and down will give you access to the number of steps you have walked, the amount of calories you've burned, a sleep tracking function and a stop watch feature.
We didn't get a chance to test the various features in action but Huawei says it will recognise running, walking, cycling and sleeping, which is pretty standard for most activity trackers out there. The duration of light and deep sleep are among its features, like Withings delivers, but the TalkBand B2 also provides users with tips on how to improve their sleep patterns. Each screen is animated, such as walking footprints, a flickering flame and a snoring moon, which is a nice touch as it isn't something the TalkBand B2's competitors do.
Of course, with it being a Bluetooth headset too, you'll also be able to accept incoming calls from your smartphone. Sony's SmartBand Talk has a similar feature to this but it requires you to talk to your wrist so the TalkBand B2 is a little more socially acceptable with its earpiece offering. It also has a dual-microphone, noise reduction technology and smart detection so it understands when the earpiece is in the wristband and when it isn't, pushing calls or music to either your smartphone or the earpiece accordingly.
Where Sony would come out on top however, is the ability to call out to a couple of your favourite contacts from the device itself, which isn't something the TalkBand B2 can't manage yet but we'd like to see.
The TalkBand B2 features a six-axis sensor including a gyrometer and an accelerometer. It has the same 90mAh battery capacity as the original TalkBand B1, which the company claims will provide five days of regular use, seven hours of talk time or 12 days of standby time.
Battery life is something many activity trackers struggle with but five days isn't too bad if the TalkBand B2 actually manages this, plus charging seems to be pretty straightforward thanks to the Micro-USB port we mentioned earlier.
NFC is on board too so pairing should be pretty simple and the TalkBand B2 is compatible with iOS and Android devices, which is good as some of its competitors such as the Withings Activité and the Sony SmartBand Talk are software specific.
The TalkBand B2 connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth 4.1 and there is an accompanying app which displays all your activity tracking data, along with your sleep information. We didn't get a chance to see the app in action during our time with it however, so we will have to wait till our full review to see how it compares to the likes of the Fitbit and Withings platforms and the extent of data it pulls in.
The TalkBand B2 is a gigantic step up from the TalkBand B1, so much so that it's almost baffling why Huawei even associated the new device with the original.
The idea is an interesting one. It will be a winner for some, while others will think it is utterly pointless but the fact that the Bluetooth earpiece is hidden and therefore can be embraced or ignored as desired is a plus.
In terms of design, the TalkBand B2 is a great looking device and one that oozes premium appeal, which surprised us when we first got our hands on it. The gentle curve looks lovely and the brushed metal finish makes for a welcomed change from the standard rubber bands many activity trackers adopt.
As we didn't get a chance to test how well the TalkBand B2 works, we can't pass judgement on it just yet but it is certainly pleasing to see another wearable appear on the scene that considers the fact that it has to be worn and not just track our movements or deliver our smartphone notifications. A promising step forward would be the best way to describe the TalkBand B2 so bring on more Huawei wearables if this device is leading the way.