MWC 2015: Can Huawei’s TalkBand B2 make the Bluetooth earpiece cool?

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If Chinese hardware manufacturer Huawei is right, the Bluetooth earpieces that have largely disappeared from the sides of consumers’ faces will be back soon. Not content to release merely an updated version of its existing fitness tracking band, Huawei has made its new TalkBand B2 a two-in-one fitness band and Bluetooth earpiece.

The new device was unveiled alongside Huawei’s first foray into the smartwatch market, the Huawei Watch, and a pair of fitness-orientated in-ear headphones, the TalkBand N1.

Huawei-TalkBand-B2-screenTwo buttons at the base of the TalkBand B2 wristband release the unit that houses the display and reveals a rubber earbud on the rear of it. Huawei says the device can automatically recognise when is been removed from the band and route calls or other audio to it accordingly.

The TalkBand B2’s fitness tracking capabilities cover all of the basic metrics we’ve come to expect. It’s able to count steps, calculate approximate distance covered, detect changes in altitude and estimate calories burnt. The device also tracks the wearer’s sleep and Huawei says it can tell the difference between walking and running.

An accompanying app is available for Android and iOS devices, a sensible move considering the device is billed first and foremost as a fitness tracker rather than a smartwatch. Support for a wider range of platforms increases the number of potential buyers. One wonders how many potential smartwatch owners have been hamstrung by manufacturers of Android handsets reliance on Android Wear in their smartwatch offerings?

There’s no heart rate monitor and no GPS, no doubt because of the impact these features have on both battery life (an estimated five days, depending on how often its used for calls) and price (between €170 and €200 – or R2 200 and R2 600), but their omission could put off the very market Huawei appears to be targeting with the TalkBand B2: business people. Which other market segment would be caught dead wearing a Bluetooth earpiece, after all?

If you’re a business sort looking for a fitness tracker there are plenty of smartwatches, including Huawei’s own, to choose from, many of which add features like heart rate monitoring without a substantially higher price tag. And, in the unlikely event you’re looking for a Bluetooth headset, most can be had for a fraction of the cost of the TalkBand B2.

Like the Huawei Watch, the TalkBand B2’s build quality looks excellent, which is in keeping with Huawei’s stated mission to offer premium devices at less-than-premium prices. It’s also great to see Huawei trying something new in a device segment that’s seen more copycat releases than genuinely innovative ones. But innovative isn’t the same as effective and just because you build something that doesn’t mean people will want it.

TalkBand B2 press picCraig Wilson is attending MWC 2015 as a guest of Huawei.

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