Huawei TalkBand B1 Review

Huawei Logo2014 seems to have been the year of the fitness tracker and there will be plenty nestling underneath the Christmas tree come 25th December. Huawei has joined the market with the TalkBand B1, a wrist-worn fitness and sleep tracker fused with a Bluetooth earpiece. You may think that this is a somewhat odd combination so let’s take a look at the TalkBand B1 and see whether walking and talking is a killer combination.

The Huawei TalkBand B1 was first shown back in February at Mobile World Congress and it hasn’t change much since then. The B1 consists of a coloured wristband (white, grey, black, yellow, red and blue) with an embedded 1.4″ OLED display that shows the current time, steps taken, calories burned and time snoozed. The button on the top moves the display between the four different stats. The wristband comes in two sizes, small and large: the review unit was the small one and I could only just get the B1 on my wrist using the very end holes – if you are buying, make sure that you get the right size.

Huawei Talkband B1

When a phone call comes into a paired phone, the screen shows the caller or phone number, but where’s the Bluetooth earpiece? Cleverly, the OLED display unit pops out of the wristband and becomes the earpiece. As you’d expect, the display shows who is on the line when the phone rings. The earpiece was comfortable to wear but it’s not that secure, though there are three different sizes of loop to help keep it in the ear, but I think you’d only wear it while on a call and put it back when you are done.

Huawei Talkband B1 Earpiece

Huawei Talkband B1 earpiece

The TalkBand B1 charges via a USB connector cleverly hidden in the strap. The battery life is good and over the two week loan, I only had to charge the band a few times. YMMV as they say. The B1 is IP57 rated so it’s water resistant enough that jogging in the rain won’t be a problem.

Huawei Talkband B1 USB

In use the B1 seemed reasonably accurate. I say “reasonably” because if I walked 10 deliberate steps and checked the counter I would have done 10 steps, but I found that the B1 didn’t always count more casual steps. For example, one afternoon when I did a combination of walking, standing and sitting, my Fitbit said that I’d done 2780 steps to the B1’s 2330. I guess it depends on your point of view as to whether you only want full steps to count towards your daily 10,000 steps (which can be changed to suit your own goals).

The B1 also tracks sleep and kept a good note of that – it appeared to easily tell the difference between lounging on the sofa and having a good snooze. If you have been still too long, the B1 will buzz you and show a little animation to encourage a bit of stretching or movement. The instructions suggested the time between prompts could be altered but I couldn’t see how to do it; it’s possible that it was an iOS feature not available on Android which brings us neatly to the app.

A complementary (and complimentary) app syncs the step and sleep information via Bluetooth from the Talkband B1 to both Android and iOS smartphones, showing stats on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. I was using the Android version.

Summary

Activity Graph

Sleep Tracking

The app is straightforward but doesn’t offer much beyond recording activity and some simple interpretation. Disappointingly, there didn’t wasn’t the possibility to upload or share the information between multiple devices, which I think is very much needed when most people have both tablets and smartphones. As mentioned earlier and from reading the instructions, it would appear that the iOS app has greater functionality but I wasn’t able to check that out.

In terms of negatives, the main downside of the Talkband B1 is its size and that it rises well above the wrist. For me, I found it wouldn’t slide under shirt sleeves and in particular, it caught on my trouser pocket every time I reached in to get my wallet out. On the plus side, the instant availability of a Bluetooth headset was great, especially when driving.

Overall, the Huawei TalkBand B1 worked well and was useful but because of the size I’d find it hard to recommend as an everyday wear fitness tracker. I could very much see myself keeping it in my sports bag and putting it on before going for a run or using the treadmill. The Bluetooth earpiece was handy too, so if  the next iteration was a bit smaller or flatter, it could be a winner.

The TalkBand B1 is available from retailers for around GB£100. Thanks to Huawei for the loan of the TalkBand B1.

Fitbit Activity Tracking at The Gadget Show

Fitbit is well-known in the activity tracking space with their diminutive gadgets which monitor the wearer’s every move and snooze. It’s a busy space, with competitors hot on their heels, Fitbit has been expanding its portfolio with new colours, swappable wrist bands, wireless syncing with more devices and pre-installing its app on new smartphones. I chat with Peter from Fitbit about the company’s recent activity and the direction of travel for activity watchers.

Fitbit Range

Wearables Come To SXSW

SXSWAt times it feels like SXSW has become a mini-CES, with all the hot innovations popping up. Wearables combined with health and well-being are definitely where it’s at and this year Philips are hosting a Dragon’s Den-style Digital Innovation Challenge, with three companies pitching their tech for a week’s advice and guidance at Philip’s High Tech Campus in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

First up are Atlas Wearables, pitching their fitness tracker for the serious workout enthusiast. The Atlas “measures your heart rate, calculates the calories you burned and tracks your body on the x-, y- and z-axes, so it knows how many laps you swam and if you did push-ups or triangle push-ups. It’s preloaded with the most popular exercises and can learn new exercises you teach it so you can instantly see your progress, analyze your form, anticipate plateaus and find what makes you stronger, faster.” Definitely for the hardcore fitness fanatic.

Incomparable Things is very much softer – they’re building an app to bring together the myriad of data sources – “In our app, people scrapbook the stories of their adventures. We collect all the media people already create when they’re being active – from photos to location data, NikeFuel to tweets – and weave them together to tell visual, personal and complete stories that others can collect and aspire to. They are more memorable than a photo album and more inspiring than an activity data score. It is used by everyone from daily walkers to training triathletes, neighborhood arborists to polar expeditionists.” Sounds a bit like Field Trip meets Pose! I love the idea of these apps but I simply don’t have the time to curate the photos and tweets.

Finally, Push is back to circuits and training with another fitness tracker that seems very similar to the Atlas one. “Rugged and durable, PUSH straps comfortably to your arm. It communicates with your phone, transmitting movement feedback that’s too fast for the human eye to capture. The data is displayed on the PUSH App, providing you with crucial, scientifically-validated metrics about each and every rep, helping you optimize your training.” It’s kind of symptomatic of the space that there’s going to very similar devices competing for attention. Push’s USP is that it can measure strength, not simply calories burned.

If you want to see these three companies pitch, you need to get yourself round to the Next Stage in the Convention Centre at 12.30 CDT today.

Omron Strapless Heart Rate Monitor

Omron Healthcare LogoLifestyle health products are very popular and Jamie Davies looks at one of the amazing healthcare products on show at CES 2013, the new Omron Strapless Heart Rate Monitor.

The Strapless Heart Rate Monitor does away with more usual chest belt, replacing it with a device that’s more akin to a chunky wristwatch, which can be worn all day and not just at the gym or when working out. Optical sensors read the blood flow from capillaries in the wrist to calculate the heart rate, helping the wearer hit their fat burning zone and making their workouts more effectively. The monitor fully integrates with Omron’s lifestyle ecosystem, uploading heart rate data to their fitness portal.

The Strapless Heart Rate Monitor (HR-500U) will be available at the end of January for $149 and can be pre-ordered at Omron Fitness’ online store.

Interview by Jamie Davies of Health Tech Weekly.

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Fitbit Ultra Counts Those Steps at The Gadget Show

Fitbit UltraMost of us could do with being a little bit fitter and shedding a few pounds. Fitbit wants to help us achieve that goal by combining technology with peer pressure and our natural competitiveness.

The Fitbit Ultra wireless tracker is the 21st century equivalent of a pedometer, recording the steps taken during the day for later upload to your home PC. It’s tiny and can easily be clipped to a waist band or left in a pocket. In addition to recording physical activity, it can also record your sleep – how long were you in bed, were you restless, did you have to get up?

The second gadget is the Fitbit Aria, smart scales that measure weight, BMI and % body, and wirelessly transmits the information on to your PC.

Fitbit Aria

The Fitbit combines all this information with smartphone apps (iOS & Android) and dietary information to create a personal portfolio of your lifestyle. Of course, you can also tweet your successes to friends and family, though you might want to keep it quiet when you pile on the pounds.

You can find out more from their website or you can listen to this interview with Peter Groom, Fitbit’s UK Country Manager.

Motorola MotoACTV GPS Fitness Tracker and MP3 Player

motoactvThese days when we think of Motorola we think of some of the hottest Android phones on the market, but the hardware maker does more that just smartphones.  Last month at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas they unveiled the MotoACTV, a new Fitness Tracker and MP3 player.

The MotoACTV can be worn on your wrist like a watch or hooked to your bike handlebars like a cycling computer.  It will keep track of  just about everything an athlete could ask for – how far you have gone, how many calories you have burned, the number of steps taken, and can even hook up, via Bluetooth, to a heart-rate monitor.  All of the data is then uploaded to a web site where you can keep track of everything for days or months at a time.  If all of that isn’t enough, it also has a built-in MP3 player and will even track how you do during different songs.  In addition, it as built-in WiFi, so your data can be automatically uploaded when you arrive home.

The Motorola MotoACTV comes in 8 GB and 16 GB versions, which retail for $249 and $299 respectively.  The device is available now and you can learn more by visiting Motorola.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine.

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Scosche Industries’ Great Gadgets

Todd chats to Ted Lopez, Interface Product Manager for  Scosche Industries on their long-term association with the motor (auto) industry and their latest award-winning products.

Scosche have been in business for over 30 years starting out on dash-mounted entertainment systems, which 30 years ago was probably just a radio and a cassette player. These days Scosche still has a strong business with in-car entertainment but more recently has expanded into Bluetooth systems and accessories for the iPhone and iPod. Ted gives Todd a drive-by of their latest products, all of which have won innovation awards at CES or other major shows.

The FreedomMIC is a lapel-mounted Bluetooth microphone suitable for video interview work. Available in Spring – price not known.

The FlipSYNC II keychain are small charge’n’sync cables that clip up into a keyfob. Two models, one for Apple devices, the other micro- and mini-USB. Never leave home without them. Available now for $19.99.

The MotorMOUTH II (shown above) is a Bluetooth hands-free kit and A2DP audio streaming device that plugs straight into the 3.5 mm jack on the car dash. I need one of these – I currently use a Jabra BT3030 for streaming audio to my car stereo but if I have to take a phone call, the microphone is poor. Available now for $79.99.

Finally, the MyTREK is an armband fitness trainer with a complementary iPhone app. No surprise there. Available Spring – price not known.

All innovation award winners so check them out.
Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central

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BodyMedia Armband Activity Tracker

Esby talks with Nic the Intern from BodyMedia about their range of products all designed to get people back into shape. The BodyMedia Armband is a Bluetooth-equipped monitor that measures, records and transmits your activity and sleep pattern, which is an important factor in weight loss.

The armband measures galvanic skin response (how sweaty you are area), temperature, heat loss and motion through a three-axis accelerometer. Depending on the model, the information can be uploaded to your personal web dashboard either via Bluetooth and your smartphone or by plugging it into a USB port your PC.

Apps for Android and iOS are part of the package and these both show the results of your activities, but also lets you log the food that you’ve eaten as you go.  Consequently, it’s very easy to see calories burned v. calories eaten.

MSRP is $199 for the non-Bluetooth version and $249 for the Bluetooth armband. A monthly subscription is also required starting at $6.95 per month for 12 months.

Interview by Esbjorn Larsen of MrNetCast.com.

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