More features than you’d expect at this price.
Huawei isn’t exactly a household name in the United States, so aside from Google’s Nexus 6P, it’s possible that you may not have seen or heard of a phone or wearable device made by the China-based company. But just because you may not be familiar doesn’t mean it doesn’t put out quality products.
While best-known in other regions for its smartphones, Huawei―like so many others―is also in the fitness tracking business. Among its lineup is the waterproof Band 2 Pro (See it on Amazon) / (See it on Amazon UK), a $69.99 tracker that sports a lot of features at a very reasonable price.
Design and Features
When working with sub-$100 fitness trackers, it’s typical for the devices to be missing a number of features that can be found on more expensive alternatives. This certainly isn’t the case with the Band 2 Pro. The usual step counting and sleep tracking sensors are here, and they’re joined by a heart rate sensor, a PMOLED display, and built-in GPS. It’s basically impossible to find a similar product from popular companies like FitBit or Garmin with the same specs.
At first glance, it would be easy to mistake the Band 2 Pro for FitBit’s Alta. Aside from some minor differences, they’re nearly identical in design. Huawei’s offering consists of a rubber band with an elongated-rectangle housing for the display with metallic accents to each side. To keep it secured, one end of the band goes through a loop on the other end then held in place by two plastic prongs.
A small capacitive button resides just underneath the display, which is the primary input method for all navigation. The monochromatic OLED measures at just under an inch diagonally. Huawei doesn’t specify the display’s resolution, and it takes no effort to see the individual pixels, but this is first and foremost an entry-level fitness tracker, so I didn’t expect a high resolution color screen.
Despite its small size and elongated shape, Huawei tries to use all of the screen to display information you may want to see. On the home screen, the Band 2 shows the time, day of the week, date, battery level, Bluetooth status, and the number of steps taken in the day. It’s definitely cluttered, but at least the time is easy to read.
Tapping the capacitive button will flip through the wearable’s menu choices. By default, it cycles through the home screen, a dedicated step screen, heart rate readings, tracking screens for running, outdoor cycling, and swimming, and lastly, guided breathing. For each of the screens besides the home screen and heart rate display, a long press of the button will initiate tracking for that specific activity.
The Band Pro 2 also includes notification handling, so not only was I able to set it to receive notices from my phone, I was able to decide exactly which apps would have the privilege of forwarding messages to the tracker. Notifications are not actionable, and battery life can be a concern with these smaller devices, so picking and choosing what app notifications were important to me was a welcome feature.
Connecting the Band 2 Pro to my phone required me to install a pair of apps. Although bands and watches from FitBit or Garmin only require one app, this setup is similar the combination of Android Wear and Google Fit app on that particular platform’s operating system. The Huawei Wear app is used to properly connect the wearable to the phone and set up basic preferences like alarms, notification management options, and firmware updates. To see view all the data captured by the Band 2 Pro, the Huawei Health app is required.
If you’re into fitness statistics, the Huawei Health app delivers a lot of data to pore over. The app’s well-designed and attractive home screen shows steps taken, the amount of time you’ve been active for the day, distance traveled, an exercise summary, training plans, sleep statistics, and heart rate trends―and that’s just the information on the surface.
Delving deeper into my Exercise Records screen, I was able to see each run I had taken while wearing the device, the date they happened, the total time for each, and my pace. Tapping on any of those exposes a plethora of data. Everything from a map, pace breakdown, heart rate readings, calories burned, average speed, total and average step information, stride length, oxygen readings, and recommended recovery times can be found.
The Band 2 Pro also features feature called Huawei TruSleep, which provides more information than just how long you are asleep each night. With TruSleep enabled, the sleep details are provided, but instead of just showing total time in several categories, my entire night’s sleep was broken down in chronological order, and also included REM sleep. Though I don’t personally need help with my sleeping habits, a lot of people will find it useful, though, as it provides general tips along with a sleep score you can try to improve.
In terms of social aspects, Huawei’s app is the complete opposite of the one provided by FitBit and Garmin. While FitBit highlights competition with friends, Huawei is strictly about you and your stats. Garmin and FitBit both have friends lists integrated into their apps, but since Huawei (and TomTom) are less popular, neither have native friend capabilities. Whether or not that is acceptable is up to each individual person and their preferences―I personally enjoy sharing information with friends, but not being able to do so (at least not natively) isn’t a deal-breaker for me.
There’s a few more drawbacks also. First, the Huawei Health app has limited compatibility with other apps. Data from within the Health app can only be shared with Up by Jawbone, Google Fit, or Apple Health. In some instances, fitness tracking apps can link with another service or device, although this was not the case with the Band Pro 2 for popular apps such as Strava, RunKeeper, or Nike Plus. Additionally, there doesn’t appear to be a way to export data from Huawei Health to manually import to another app, though Garmin and FitBit do allwo this.
While sharing fitness data with others from within the Health app may be excusable, it would be totally reasonable to pass on the device if you already have a home for your statistics with another service. If you’ve tracked months or years of workouts on Nike+ or Strava, totally ditching that history and no longer recording through that service would be a huge sacrifice. It’s a shame, too, considering just how much data is captured by this reasonably inexpensive wearable.
Real World Testing
I took the Band 2 Pro on a handful of runs and it kept up with me every step of the way. With built-in GPS, it provided significant data that is missing from just about any other tracker in this price range. Through the device, I had to tap the button to flip to the running screen, then long press to initiate the activity. GPS isn’t always on, so it took some time to pinpoint my location, anywhere between 10 to 30 seconds.
In my testing, the wearable’s GPS capabilities weren’t strong enough to work indoors, but it didn’t have a problem grabbing a signal when surrounded by larger buildings (admittedly, this was tested in Sacramento, which does have a reasonably-sized downtown, but not nearly as dense as somewhere like San Francisco or Los Angeles). Once the satellites found out where I was, the Band gave a quick 3-second countdown and I was on my way.
When in motion, Huawei tried to provide as much useful information as it can. On its small display, the Band 2 Pro shows the time of day, distance traveled, time elapsed, and a small graphical picture of a road. Tapping the button will flip through a pace screen and one showing my current heart rate.
On a bike, it’s easy enough to see all the data on the main tracking screen, but when running it was a challenge. With the bouncing and movement involved, I was able to make out my distance, which is displayed more prominently, but had no idea how much time had passed, forcing me to flip to another screen to check out my pace.
Another downside is that the tracker doesn’t include auto-stop functionality. When racking up miles around my suburban neighborhood, it wasn’t a problem, but when I joined my running group in downtown Sacramento, it certainly was an issue. The Band’s activity tracking can either start or stop, there is no auto-pause functionality. With the number of traffic lights we had to cross, my pace and splits were thrown out of whack.
Finally, Huawei claims a 21-day battery life for the Band 2 Pro, which I can only assume requires having all of the extra features turned off, such as automatic heart rate readings, GPS, and enhanced sleep tracking. With the heart rate monitor going and a number of GPS-active runs, I was able to go around 5 days between charges. While nowhere near what you’ll see on Huawei marketing materials, this is right in line with similar trackers.
Huawei’s Band 2 Pro is all about given more for less. The inclusion of GPS and a heart rate sensor at this price point is unheard of. At $10 cheaper, the $60 FitBit Flex 2 doesn’t have either of these sensors…or a screen. The FitBit Alta HR, which is nearly identical to the Band 2 Pro, costs more than twice as much as Huawei’s model, so it’s a pretty amazing value.
The Huawei Band 2 Pro has an MSRP of $69.99 and holds to that price most of the year. It very occasionally drops to $49.99: