When it comes to wearables, the tech world is trying to find its way. That’s not just manufacturers either; it’s us, the people who buy them. We’re not quite sure what to wear, or even if we want to wear a piece of tech at all, so companies are making a variety of different devices to help tempt us. Rather than looking for a niche to fill, Huawei has made its own niche, filled it with the TalkBand B2, and gone looking for people to buy it.
The Bluetooth earpiece is one of the earliest examples of mobile-related wearable tech, and Huawei has taken one of these classic — and let’s face it, rather unattractive — gadgets and fitted it to a wristband. At its most basic, the TalkBand B2 is Bluetooth earpiece transportation device that saves the embarrassment of always having one shoved in your ear.
However, this does a disservice to the TalkBand B2, because there’s more to it than just that. First, there’s the design, which like the rest of it, is both surprisingly good, and frustratingly flawed. The subtle gold finish is matched to either a brown stitched leather strap, or a cream plastic one. It’s your choice, because both are in the box — a nice touch. The fitting is different on each, with the plastic adopting a fitness band-style popper, and the leather a classier metal clasp.
The body is made of metal but is very light, and the curved base fits on the wrist comfortably. However, the whole thing is way too tall. It’s 22mm, which is twice that of the average smartphone today, and the size it means it gets caught on everything. It knocked it on things, find it uncomfortable to wear under anything with a tight cuff, and impossible to wear when sleeping. Yes, sleeping, because the TalkBand B2 is also a fitness tracker.
Suitable for both Android and iOS phones
The B2 connects to your phone using a dedicated Huawei Wear app, and interestingly it’s a cross-platform app, so it’s also available for iOS. Through the app you can set a daily step goal, add movement reminders, and measure sleep patterns — if you can bear wearing it. It’s a shame, because the B2 also has a smart alarm to wake you up in a light sleep phase, which worked well. There’s nothing flashy about the app, and that’s a good thing. It works well, never crashed on me, and provides clear information on your daily achievements.
Returning to the hardware, there are two small buttons either side, which when pressed pop the middle section out, setting the Bluetooth earpiece free. The earpiece is about the size of a small USB thumb drive, but a little heavier because it’s made from metal. The rubber part that is supposed to hold it in your ear is very floppy, but once it’s stuffed in, it’s reasonably secure.
When you’re done with phone duties, instead of walking around with it in your ear, it gets clipped back on the wristband ready for use again later. However, because that would be fairly pointless on its own, the TalkBand B2 also has a few other functions. While it may not look it, the top has a tiny digital touch display inside, which shows the time and date, plus fitness data.
TalkBand B2 saves you the embarrassment of always having a Bluetooth headset shoved in your ear.
The resolution is rather feeble, just 128 x 88 pixels, but it looks great hidden underneath the mirror finish body. Swiping the screen scrolls between the main screen and individual ones for activity, including a run timer activated by holding down on the display. It’s all very smooth, looks cool, and includes pretty much all the information you need from a fitness tracker.
It’s supposed to deliver notifications, at least for incoming messages, but I couldn’t make the feature work. However, it does display caller ID when the phone rings, and the vibrate alert is strong enough not to be missed. Finally, I also liked the cool animation when you reach your daily goal. It reminded me of the Nike FuelBand and its achievement alert — which actually made me feel happy when it came through.
It’s quirky and fun, but who is it for?
The TalkBand B2 is an enigma. The Bluetooth earpiece is arguably an outdated piece of tech, but it makes more sense to use than shouting at your wrist like the Apple Watch or Android Wear forces you to do.
What’s more, the earpiece has good audio quality for both parties. On the calls I received, the fact that I was using an earpiece was always a surprise to the caller, and I never got complaints about wind noise or low volume. The hands-free aspect is good, although I couldn’t bring myself to use the earpiece in public — I have a reputation to think of. But in the garden and while driving, it was great.
The fitness tracking seems to be accurate, or at least it closely matched what my Jawbone UP24 said, and the screen looks cool when it’s on. The battery lasted for five days at a time, it recharges using a normal Micro USB chord, and the app works on both Android and iOS.
All this is very positive, but because it doesn’t deal with notifications like a full smartwatch, I found it lacking. Most of my interaction with other people occurs through messages, to which I wasn’t alerted to by the TalkBand B2.
The TalkBand B2 isn’t a smartwatch, because it doesn’t do notifications, and it’s too massive to be worn 24 hours a day as a lifestyle tracker. It also forces the unpleasant return of the Bluetooth earpiece into our lives. So what is it, and who will want one? I’m not really sure, and I don’t think Huawei knows either. There are sure to be people out there to whom the TalkBand B2 appeals, and they will be very happy with this unusual device.
I ended up liking the TalkBand B2’s quirky nature and oddball looks. It certainly got some attention, and the party trick of popping out the earpiece is a bizarrely entertaining crowd-pleaser. It just didn’t fit in very well with my phone use, which is a shame. However, if you’re a frequent phone user who wants an out of the ordinary accessory with a fitness twist, we’d say the TalkBand B2 is worth your time. Just don’t expect it to be more than that.
- Excellent build quality
- Calls sound great
- Android and iOS compatibility
- It’s different enough to be cool
- Who wears a Bluetooth earpiece anymore?
- No notifications
- Too large to wear all the time