Huawei has turned its focus away from smartphones and towards the wearable sector for this year's MWC. Three devices have been announced, including an Android Wear smartwatch, a successor to the activity tracker and Bluetooth headset TalkBand B1 and a wireless headset called TalkBand N1.
The TalkBand N1 not only allows you to listen to music but it will also track basic activity and enable you to make and receive calls from your smartphone through Bluetooth. There are a couple of headsets around that are more exciting than your average including models from LG and Jabra, but Huawei's offer brings something a little more in terms of design.
We got our hands on the TalkBand N1 wireless headset during MWC to see what we make of it and whether it's something we can see ourselves training and taking calls with.
Premium, simplistic design
The Huawei TalkBand N1 wireless headset offers a very simple, sleek design. It moves away from the plastic and cheap look the company has previously been associated with and opts for a brushed metal finish that oozes premium appeal, something its closest competitors don't in this area just yet.
A thin black wire loops around the neck with a small rectangular remote attached to it that sits on the right-hand side when the headset is on. The remote's underside is black while the top is finished in one of the three metal colours. Huawei is inscribed on it, representing the only element of branding on the headset and there is a singular button that controls music with a small music symbol next to it just in case you forget what it's for.
Both ends of the wire have the ear pieces, finished in the same colour and aluminium metal material as the remote on the wire, but again, the underside is black with rubber earbuds attached to this part. The metal ear pieces are cylindrical in shape but they both feature a flat, angled surface at the top, which is quite cleverly magnetised. Thanks to the magnets, the two ear pieces snap together around your neck creating a v-shape down the chest when they aren't in your ears, creating a necklace-like accessory.
The three colours available comprise gold, metallic grey and pink and the overall design of the TalkBand N1 is really nice. All three colours look good and as there is very minimal detailing, it means they are discreet to wear but still pleasant when on show. They are also IP54 rated, which should mean they can handle a little sweat.
As we mentioned previously, the TalkBand N1 wireless headset plays music, tracks basic activity and allows you to make and receive phone calls via Bluetooth when connected to an iOS or Android smartphone. Huawei claims it is the first of its kind and we'd probably agree.
There is no heart rate monitoring function on board, which takes the TalkBand N1 down a slightly different route to others on the market like the Jabra and LG options. The addition of activity tracking to a Bluetooth and music-playing headset is useful and one that some will probably love the idea of, while others may not be as convinced. The thing we would question is whether you would want to wear a headset all day, or whether a wrist-worn device is less interfering. That said, if you are interested in fitness and you take calls constantly meaning you would make good use of the Bluetooth function, the TalkBand N1 is probably the perfect combination device.
Huawei told us the TalkBand N1 wouldn't be as advanced as the TalkBand B1 activity tracker and Bluetooth earpiece in that it won't be able to recognise what activity it is you're partaking in but the company said the wireless headset would be able to pick up on basic movement. Step tracking, distance measuring and calorie counting are among its abilities when paired with a smartphone but it doesn't sound like we are quite looking at the Fitbit or Withings equivalent of a wireless headset just yet. It does seem to be a step in the right direction however and it will be interesting to see how accurate the TalkBand N1 is in its position on the body.
There is also a function to let you know the names and phone numbers of incoming calls, meaning you shouldn't ever miss an important call in theory.
We weren't able to test out the activity monitoring or how flawless the Bluetooth calling and its features were during our short amount of time with the headset, but we will do so in our full review. In terms of the music playback, the TalkBand N1 features chamber tuning, a 20KHz-20KHz frequency range and Bluetooth APTX technology on board but again, we will have to wait until we get it in for review to make a judgement.
When it comes to the hardware, the TalkBand N1 comes with a 4GB internal memory which the company claims is big enough to store up to 1000 music files that can be synced via the app, or using the USB.
The battery capacity is 68mAh, which is less than the TalkBand B2 wristband that offers a 90mAh capacity. Huawei claims the wireless headset will give you three days of regular use, five hours of talk time or 12 days of standby time. We didn't get a chance to test these durations but we will make sure we put this device through its paces when we come to reviewing it in full.
The Huawei TalkBand N1 wireless headset is a good looking device that is certainly an indication of the Chinese company taking the wearables market seriously. We liked it and we like what it can do but it would be good to see this device advance for the next generation as the TalkBand B product did.
Adding in heart rate monitoring would be a good step and perhaps even more advanced activity tracking, although we suspect this would then make the currently rather minimal device, larger and more complex, taking away some of its charm.
The TalkBand B2 impressed us more so than the TalkBand N1 has done, but that said, headphones have come along way since only being used to play music and it's good to see companies combining technology like activity tracking and Bluetooth calling together so we can reduce the amount we need to carry. It's clear exciting times lie ahead, we just think there is a little more work to be done before they arrive.