Fitness wearables have gone from the anonymous-looking Fitbit to the spectacular stylishness of the Apple Watch Series 4 in the space of just a few years. They’ve also scaled up in price, to the point where you’re shelling out close to R20k for a tracks-everything-including-the-kitchen-sink piece of high-end wristwear. But what if you don’t want or need all those extra bits? What if you just want some basic (but neat) functions with the option to do a little more, without breaking the bank? That’s where Huawei’s Band 2 Pro comes in.
What to expect from wearable tech that clocks in at less than R1,500? In terms of design, it’s simple hardware — though one that we could see on everyone’s wrist in a dingy, Blade Runner future. Sleek, shiny, with a spot of chrome visible in a sea of darkness — you know the sort of future we mean. Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, a whole lot of leather and neon lighting? That’s the aesthetic here.
The black, pin-point-decorated wristband clips into itself using a chunk of protruding metal. There’s sadly none of the security you’d get from a more wristwatch-like strap, but that just makes the Band 2 Pro easier to pop off. Unfortunately, sticking your hand into confined spaces (like the engine bay of a Mini Cooper, circa 1974) means you’ve got a strong chance at dislodging it. You might not lose it immediately but it does come loose.
There’s a single physical button, used to swap through onscreen menus at a touch. A long press executes whatever function you have onscreen. If we could control it with our minds we might be in Total Recall but a lone button? That’ll do for now. Oh, yes, and there’s a proprietary charger as well. Because of course there is.
Huawei’s little device might look like an escaped Deus Ex prop but it doesn’t pack in the smarts that you’d expect from the future. Features are more in line with the Band 2 Pro’s price point. Makes sense, you can’t get a Bentley for Corolla money. There are still more functions than you’d expect from an entry-level tracker, though. There’s step tracking, as well as automatic pickup and tracking of running, cycling and swimming. There’s sleep tracking, which has a decent degree of accuracy, and also a heart-rate sensor. The sensor can be set for intermittent tracking, or constant — part of the reason that this fitness wearable has such a long uptime.
Huawei includes a GPS in the Band 2 Pro, so you can have super-accurate distance tracking without needing to link a smartphone. While running, that is. You’ll need to sync to get data from band to app. This does sap the battery life something fierce, and a couple days of taking the feature on the road cuts down on the week-to-ten-days we typically experience between charges. A lot. Depending on the length of your run, you could see yourself charging every two to four days. Which is an eternity if you’re using an Apple Watch but for the Band 2 Pro, that’s just a short wait. At least the battery doesn’t take long at all to top up. Plugging it into a USB port while doing the dishes or catching an episode of whatever’s fresh on Netflix is usually enough to keep you going for quite some time.
‘Appy to be here
If there’s a flaw to be had, it’s with Huawei’s app. Simply called Health, it allows the Band 2 Pro (and any other Huawei wearable) to quickly and easily connect to a Huawei device. On a non-Huawei smartphone, there are a couple more hoops to jump through, accounts to be made, supplemental apps to be downloaded. Not a lot of fun, really.
And then there’s the app itself, which is fine when furnishing users with basic information. Huawei’s Health app is up against a lot of competition from the likes of Fitbit, Garmin, and everyone who turned up since the best fitness app in existence vanished. It’s not really a contest. If all you want is basic info, you’ll be well served. There are very few screens to switch though and it’s hard to get lost but Health isn’t going to provide you with many deeper insights. Just how much you’re moving (and how much you’re not), and what your heart is (approximately) doing while these things happen.
Which is fine for something as bare bones the Band 2 Pro but we shudder to think how folks using more expensive wearable hardware will react to the app. It’s here, it works but… we really wish it did more.
It’s all there
We’ve touched on the Band 2 Pro’s battery life and it is indeed remarkable. Long enough that we’re actually not sure how long it takes between charges, because it never seems to need to be connected to that (proprietary) charger. That’s something few wearables can claim. It’s not quite two weeks between trips to the cable but it’s close. Very close.
We found that step and running tracking are reasonably accurate, while sleep tracking is also decent (if not quite up to the standard of Fitbit’s similar functions). Heart-rate data also seems to be right up there with the best of them. Everything you need to get started on a beginner’s workout program or prolong an intermediate one is present and accounted for. There’s the added benefit that you can receive notification on the LED screen.
Even better, Huawei’s app lets you determine exactly which notifications come through. If an app notifies you, the Band 2 Pro will display (at least part) of it. You can’t do anything else besides see them, though. That display isn’t fancy at all.
There are a couple of negatives, one of them being the LED display. Perfect for indoors and night-time, the monochrome display is absolutely punished in sunlight. Direct sun makes it all but unreadable without a lot of shading and squinting. If the tracker cost more we’d complain but at this price it’s just a minor annoyance. It could be worse. It could just be an arcane pattern of random LEDs that are supposed to mean something.
The wristband will also eventually wear out to the point where it’ll battle to stay on your wrist. Even now, while it’s fresh, poking your arm into confined quarters will result in the Band staying behind. Not ideal for vets and mechanics, then.
Huawei Band 2 Pro: Verdict
We’re quite fond of Huawei’s Band 2 Pro, even though it has its limits. The app could be more detailed and the display only really works indoors but everything else is just a function of the low price. It’ll track steps and running (with an internal GPS), keeps tabs on your naps, does your heart-rate, and also makes allowance for swimming and cycling, if those are your thing. This one’s ideal for starter fitness on a budget. If you find you need more detailed metrics then you’re going to be spending a whole lot more than just R1,300 (the current price) for that data. As for us? We’re gonna keep wearing this one. If we’re going to be living in a dystopia (minus the neon… and lights in general), we want to dress the part.