Choosing the right fitness tracker isn’t as easy as it looks. It’s not simply a matter of choosing the best looking or most affordable unit, as it involved some details that many users don’t often care to think about from the offset – features, software, GPS support and the likes. The more features you bolt onto the diminutive device, the more you’re expected to pay as a result. For many, forking out the extra cash for smartwatches aren’t an option either and don’t always deliver on the type of performances you’d expect.
A few weeks ago, Huawei hosted a fitness event for selected media, where they introduced a host of new offerings now officially available in South Africa. As part of the launch, we were taken through a rigorous workout to test the capabilities of the Huawei Band 2 Pro, one of the devices launched on the day. I managed to spend a few additional weeks with the fitness tracker, taking it through a series of tests and fitness activities.
Having previously reviewed the Huawei Band a few years back, the experience of using a Huawei fitness tracker wouldn’t have been strange. That said, a lot has changed in the two years since, not to mention the list of new devices along the way. I would be comparing the Huawei Band 2 Pro against one of the most popular fitness trackers in the business, the Fitbit Alta HR, both which have similar profiles. The results are interesting.
Build and Design
Having designed one of the best-looking smartwatches in the business, Huawei hasn’t attempted to reinvent the design of the Band, opting for a more generic variant you’ll even find on those cheap knock-offs. That said, it is a lot different from the first Band released, which attempted to look more like a traditional watch than a fitness tracker. Compared against the Alta HR, the units are almost identical in terms of their overall look and size. Unlike the Alta HA, however, it doesn’t allow you to clip off the straps on a whim, as they’re screwed into place. You’ll still be able to change the straps if you wish, just not as easily. The strap itself isn’t anything overly complicated, the rubberised band is easy to clip into place once you’ve reached the desired tightness on your wrist.
…it doesn’t allow you to clip off the straps on a whim, as they’re screwed into place…
The sides of the unit are angled outward and have a plastic silver finish to bring a touch of elegance to the fairly simplistic design. During my time with the device, I’ve picked up two scratches, one on either side. They’re not very noticeable, but given that I’ve attempted to avoid bumping into anything that would scratch the surface, I’m a bit perplexed as to what I actually did to scratch it, or if the silver coating is prone to easily pick up a few scratches along the way. Below the silver panels, the underside of the unit has a matte black finish, as it curves around to meet the other end. The underside houses the heart rate sensor, one of the more important features of any fitness tracker. The sensor protrudes a little from the base in order to make easier contact with your wrist without needing to over-tighten the strap.
Although you’re not able to see the two additional sensors, they’re built into the Band 2 Pro. These include the traditional accelerometer, which tracks your steps, as well as an onboard GPS. The latter is quite an impressive inclusion on such a small and affordable device.
…it allows for a water depth of up to 50m…
The Band 2 Pro has a 5 ATM rating, which translates to a level 5 atmospheric pressure support. In the real world, this means that the unit is able to be used in rain, snow, showering, swimming and shallow snorkelling. What’s great about the rating is that it allows for a water depth of up to 50m, which is significantly better than anything else in a similar price range.
Overall, the build of the Band 2 Pro is very solid and robust, although it doesn’t look overly flashy to stand out from the crowd.
Screen and Display
Given the slender build, the screen is fairly small. The unit has a PMOLED panel, Passive-Matrix display. This is commonly used in smaller devices such as fitness trackers and other wearables. This means that the screen has limited resolution, colours and overall brightness. Although the text was quite pixelated, the monochrome display was more than adequate even in sunlight, but perhaps not direct sunlight.
Given the slender build, the screen is fairly small.
The screen also sports a capacitive touch sensor on the bottom end, which is used to scroll between the various screens. The sensor is able to detect two types of touches, the simple click, as well as the long press. It’s a simple system to flick between options, while also being able to start and end activities. The menu transitions are smooth with a few animations presented on each separate screen, which are also smooth. The menus are available in a cycle, so there’s no scrolling backwards if you’ve missed the desired activity. This is a common trait among fitness trackers, which isn’t a huge issue.
There are additional uses for the display as well, which provides notifications for messages and incoming calls. The text is easily readable making it easy to identify callers and the likes.
When the Band 2 Pro first landed in various other regions in June, installation and pairing would be required via the Huawei Wear app. Huawei has since changed this to their updated Health app, which was previously only available on Huawei smartphones. As a result, the software offers a greater user experience and the enabling of features. The Health app has also undergone numerous updates over the same time, which I feel have made the experience all the better.
The app offers a view of your entire workout history, as well as a few summaries along the way. The home tab (which opens upon opening the app) provides a view of your current step count and calories burnt for the day. Below that there’s a record of your last tracked exercise in summary form, which includes (for a run) your distance, speed and time, and a small image of the map for the route you took. Right below the exercise summary is a view of the day’s sleep, current weight and current heart rate. Unfortunately, users aren’t able to change what information they see here, only to reorder the manner in which it appears. What users are able to do, though, is select each of the summaries provided in order to get a better view of each, which can be expanded into days, weeks, months and even years.
The details of each are pretty thorough, which is something I was quite impressed with. For example, for any of your Outdoor run, users have additional details such as the route taken, thanks to the built-in GPS, duration and distance of the run. Breaking this down even further the stats provide you with a view of your speeds per kilometre, charts (for heart rate cadence and pace over this time), and even breaks down the performance of your run versus previous activities. This displays your aerobic effort, VO2Max (oxygen intake during the exercise) as well as the suggested recovery time, which a lot of users may find extremely helpful. Back on the Home tab, below the summary panel is a historical view of your step counter over the past month, which also provides a view as to how many times you’ve reached your step goal and the daily average.
While the software may have started off as one of the Huawei fitness suite’s weaknesses, it has certainly stepped up its game with a series of updates
The second tab from the list at the bottom of the app is the for Exercise. This tab allows users to be able to select the type of workout they wish to select from, which includes running, walking and cycling. These workouts, however, will be tracked via your smartphone and not the fitness tracker, which actually gives you great flexibility as to how you wish to pick up and exercises and not being limited to only using your tracker. There’s an additional option that allows users to select a training programme. Currently, there are only running plans available, which includes 5KM, 10KM, half marathon and marathon training plans. The plans are also fixed in duration, starting from four weeks for the 5KM running plan.
The third tab is simply titled “Me.” Here users can set their daily step goals, edit their user profile with important information such as age, height and the likes. Users can also select other applications they wish to share their data with, which includes UP by Jawbone, Google Fit and MyFitnessPal. The UP app is a useful integration, as it allows users who track their Vitality fitness to integrate with the Discovery app by means of the Jawbone app. Syncing here is done automatically, but for best results, I would all three apps at least once a day to allow for active syncing. Other options on this tab are the Settings and About links. This tab also provides a view of the currently paired device and the battery status. Users can add more than one Huawei device at a time. Where the unit does expand beyond the Huawei ecosystem is allowing users to pair Jabra, Suunto and Polar heart rate monitors for better HR tracking.
The final screen, arguably the most important, is available from the Home tab. On the top right of the screen you’ll notice the Band icon, which when clicked takes you to a separate screen where users can get additional information for each of their exercises, enable additional features such as TruSleep, activity reminders, alarms, continuous heart monitoring (if you don’t need to save on battery power), to name a few. While the features themselves may not be novel, I like the idea that users can toggle whether to enable or disable quite a large selection, which then allows you to extend the battery life of the unit between charges.
While the software may have started off as one of the Huawei fitness suite’s weaknesses, it has certainly stepped up its game with a series of updates, even during the 2 to 3-week review window, which I found very useful. Receiving continuous updates is a good sign that developers aren’t simply happy with the current status quo of the services rendered, but looking for new ways to improve, or simply fix old bugs.
Performance and Battery Life
When comparing the actual step count of the Band 2 Pro against the real world, as well as the Fitbit Charge 2, it had a reasonable level of accuracy. For every 100 steps taken, the unit was within a 5-10 step range, which means it picked up 90-95 steps. This isn’t bad, all things considered. Spread out over 10,000 steps, however, and you’ll be left 500 to 1,000 steps short on a daily basis. I did find, however, that on certain days the unit achieved better results, actually beating the Charge 2 in steps tracked for the day. A lot of this came down to terrain differences such as walking up and down stairs, where the Charge 2 faired quite a lot better.
When it came to picking up runs and exercises, the Band 2 Pro was a lot better and more accurate than tracking your steps throughout the day. It was more accurate for outdoor runs than the Charge 2, especially considering it used a combination of the accelerometer and GPS to make an accurate prediction on the distance covered.
When it came to picking up runs and exercises, the Band 2 Pro was a lot better and more accurate than tracking your steps throughout the day.
In terms of the battery life, the unit varied quite significantly. For the first week, I opted to only use the indoor tracking mode to pick up runs and workouts. Completed 4 workouts in the first week, the battery only reached the 50% mark. Once the unit was fully charged, I opted to select the outdoor tracking feature, which would enable the GPS tracking. Having covered another 4 workouts, which included running and football, the battery reach notification threshold by day 6. Enabling the GPS means that you’re able to continuously track your movements for up to 3 hours and 30 minutes. Using only the accelerometer gave you a battery life of around two weeks, by way of estimation. Huawei has indicated a battery duration of up to three weeks, but this doesn’t cater for any workouts included in the timeframe. Still, these are pretty impressive numbers.
Sleep tracking can be enabled for users that require such information, while also being able to set two different modes for sleep tracking. The first provides basic information such as deep and light sleep, as well as the duration. Enabling the TruSleep mode allows users to track their light, deep and REM sleep patterns, as well as the amount of times the users wakes up during the course of the night, which is normal. Based on these results, the Health app provides additional analysis of your sleep along with making some suggestions as to your sleep routine based on actual scientific data provided by the Centre for Dynamical Biomakers at BIDMC, which has a relation to Harvard Medical School. A very useful feature for anyone who has questions or difficulties with their sleep routine.
While I wasn’t able to test the accuracy of the VO2Max reading, some research has indicated that the results are off by 5-10% on average. This isn’t all that bad considering the price, but if you’re in need of tracking these levels for specific reasons, you may want to look elsewhere. As mentioned previously, users can opt to integrate with other devices that track these results much better. That said, where the unit does have a leg to stand on is the information it provides about your aerobic improvements between runs, as indicated by a charge highlighting the current versus your average results.
The Huawei Band 2 Pro may not be the best-looking or even best-performing unit around, but it has quite a lot of features on offer that is within basic efficiencies to make them useful. Considering that the unit only costs R999 (RRP), it’s quite a steal. Being able to measure your activities, the addition of a heart rate monitor, in-depth sleep analysis, as well as a built-in GPS, you’re getting quite a feature packed unit. For users wishing to still track their Vitality points, the integration to UP by Jawbone is a huge plus. And given that the Huawei list of fitness devices have officially launched in South Africa, it’s only a matter of time before Discovery will be forced to introduce direct integration to sync with the Huawei Health app.
While a few of the interfaces and software features could use a little work to streamline the process, the continued work and regular updates also give users a sense that there are improvements been made fairly often. As the Huawei ecosystem grows, the capabilities will only expand, which makes the Band 2 Pro a fairly good prospect going into 2019.
Huawei Band 2 Pro
The Huawei Band 2 Pro is a steal at R999, offering a range of trackers, sensors and information you won't find in any other device at the same price bracket. It definitely has great value for money.
- Sleek and light
- Great battery life
- Built-in GPS
- Value for money
- Level 5 ATM
- No changeable watch faces
- No onboard storage
- Ease of Learning 0%
- Ease of Use 0%
- Enjoyment 0%
- Design 0%
- Performance 0%
- Value for Money 0%