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Huawei TalkBand B5 review: A curious hybrid device that nobody needs

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
150
inc VAT

The Huawei TalkBand does everything it sets out to do – I’m just not quite sure why

Pros 
Combines two wearables in one
Cons 
Ugly design
Poor battery life
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Odd. Odd is the word I’d use to describe Huawei’s TalkBand B5. Odd and clunky, actually. Probably not a good start for a piece of consumer electronics where utility and looks are the be-all and end-all.
 
To be fair, the Huawei TalkBand B5 achieves everything it sets out to achieve, combining passable fitness tracking and a Bluetooth earpiece into one chunky wearable. I’m just not sure why anyone would want a product that does this.
 

Huawei TalkBand B5 review: What you need to know

Essentially, the Huawei TalkBand B5 appears to be a wearable that caters for a very small slice of the population: those who want both a Bluetooth headset and a fitness tracker.
 
The USP is that the device is both of these things in one. When it’s on the wrist, the display shows the standard fitness tracking essentials: the time, how many steps you’ve taken, your heart rate and so forth. By squeezing two plastic release buttons, the whole device pops out of its frame and you can stick it in your ear to take calls.

Huawei TalkBand B5 review: Price and competition

As far as I can tell, the Huawei TalkBand B5 stands pretty much on its own, which may give you insights into exactly how small the market is for such a device. Its main rivals are the previous generation of TalkBand: the B1, B2 and B3. (There's no B4 – I suspect because the number is considered unlucky in China: the same reason OnePlus jumped straight from the 3T to the 5.)
 
Good luck finding any of them, though. If you do, you possibly won’t pay much less than for the B5, which supposedly retails at £150, but is already up for preorder for £92 on Amazon.  

Huawei Talkband B5 review: Key features and design

If viewed directly, like in the picture above, the B5 it actually looks quite stylish, with a bright 1.13in AMOLED screen showing all the information you need at a glance in sharp, colourful vibrancy. See it from the side on, however, and you quickly understand the design concessions Huawei has had to make to fit a good quality earpiece into the frame.
 
It’s chunky, sticking a good 23mm out from the wrist. That may not sound like a lot, but that’s over twice the thickness of your average smartphone, so picture that poking out from under your shirt.

 
The £150 model we were sent is the sports version, although there is a leather-strapped edition that looks smarter for business. Neither model is waterproof and so shouldn’t be taken swimming or be worn in the shower, but it should prove sweat and rain resistant, making it a good companion for a long run or cycle. That said, if you want any kind of accuracy, you’ll be taking your phone with you, as the TalkBand B5 has no built-in GPS and instead piggybacks off your phone.

I don’t have any problem with this in principle, but it means you’re relying on your handset and, in my experience, accuracy of GPS varies wildly from phone to phone: a loan Pixel 2 was as accurate as any GPS-toting running watch I’ve ever used, while my old Samsung Galaxy S7 used to drop whole kilometres when the signal vanished.

Huawei TalkBand B5 review: Ease of use and accuracy

Your mileage may vary (I found it measured 5km as 4.9km when I tested it on a Parkrun), but my main issue with the TalkBand is that it’s actually a pain to control when you’re out running. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: touchscreens aren’t easy to use when you’re running because they’re both fiddly – which is tricky when you’re bouncing around – and ineffective when wet, which is a problem when you’re sweating. The tiny screen makes it particularly bothersome, although it does spring to life when you raise and twist your wrist towards you.
 
All of your fitness data connects to Huawei’s own Health app, which is pretty bare bones, but does the job, tracking your sleep, exercise, steps and weight from the main menu. One nice touch hidden away in the settings menu is a glossary of fitness terms, neatly explaining things such as landing impact, eversion excursion and swing angle, as well as how they’re measured.

 
Less useful is the dearth of apps that can be connected to it: just MyFitnessPal, Google Fit and (bizarrely) Up by Jawbone. There's no Strava, no Runkeeper, no Endomondo. That could be fatal for those who get as much enjoyment from the friendly competition of exercise communities as they do from the exercise itself.
 
Which means, all-in-all, it’s a decent enough fitness tracker, but there are plenty of those out there – so what about its unique selling point? Well, as a Bluetooth earpiece, it works quite well. As soon as you pop it out of the case, your phone’s audio is routed through it (which is quite annoying when it’s charging as you have to pop it out to access the micro-USB port) and the call quality is crisp without any fuzziness.  

Huawei TalkBand B5 review: Verdict

 

If you do need a Bluetooth headset, the Huawei TalkBand B5 is pretty good at its job, but you’re making quite a sacrifice in terms of style and bulk to keep the Bluetooth earpiece about your person at all times. The trouble is that most people don’t, and I can’t see those who do making that sacrifice, either. The B5’s limited battery life hammers the final nail into the coffin. Huawei promises up to three and a half days of battery life, but it falls to two and a half with constant heart-rate and sleep tracking enabled – and just six hours if you’re talking non-stop.
 
There are better fitness trackers out there and, I imagine, there are better Bluetooth earpieces, too. This oddball product is perfectly good at what it does. The question is: who needs one?

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