LAST YEAR’S HONOR Band Z1 was a likeable fitness tracker, albeit a very forgettable one – the kind of wearable that’s fine in general but doesn’t excel in any particular area. This may have had something to do with the fact that it tried to squeeze quasi-smartwatch niceties on to what could have been a dedicated workout aid.
Fortunately, Huawei (which owns the Honor brand) has fully embraced fitness for its latest wearable. You could argue that this is a response to how the wearables market is shifting; casual smart watches are struggling, while trackers for fitness fanatics have become dominant. Even Apple has switched lanes, with the more sports-focused Apple Watch Series Z
For Huawei, the move definitely pays off. There’s no question as to who the Huawei Fit is aimed at – not just because of the name, either – and while it costs more than twice as much as the Band Z1, it’s certainly a much more memorable device.
A VIRTUOUS CIRCLE
That said, the two devices do look physically similar. Both have monochrome displays to boost battery life, both have textured rubber straps, and both have circular displays. All of these things may be true, but in every instance the Huawei Fit is better.
The strap feels less plasticky and cheap, the monochrome screen looks sharper (its resolution is 208×208 pixels, compared with the Zl’s 128×128), and the circular screen is used much more effectively. While the Z1 had a very obvious black box blocking things off around the edges, content goes right to the edge of the Fit’s display, and sometimes neatly curves around it.
That’s not to mention that it simply looks better, too.
The curved metal case goes all the way around, and the screen is protected by tough Gorilla Glass 3. It’s light, sleek and extremely comfortable. True, the monochrome nature of the display makes it look more Pebble than Apple Watch, but in the sports watch market that’s a sacrifice worth making. The Huawei Fit promises up to six days of battery life, and that seems to be under very heavy use – we still had 50% charge after five days, which only included one serious workout, but was still occupied with passive step- and sleep-tracking, as well as normal time-telling usage.
On top of that, the Huawei Fit packs a heart-rate monitor, which is probably the chief reason for such a big step up in price. It stays active constantly throughout the day, giving you an idea of how your average heart rate changes over time. Despite this potentially delicate feature, the Fit is rated as swimproof to both 5 ATM and the IP68 standard -meaning it should survive water pressure of around 50 meters. That’s handy for both a few lengths in the pool and your daily shower.
FINGERTIPS AND TRICKS
There are no buttons, so you’re relying 100% on the touchscreen here. Aesthetically pleasing as that is, we feel it’s a mistake in a fitness tracker. Running is going to get the screen wet, either through sweat or rain, and such conditions make touchscreens fussy.
Generally, though, it works well enough. You swipe downward to cycle through the menus, and then tap an option you see.
Going back or removing notifications is done with a swipe to the right. It’s basic, but it works. You can also set up the watch to have minimal smart functions – the app allows you to pick and choose what notifications to display, and the screen is just about big enough to read short messages.
You can’t use the Fit to reply, though.
More importantly, it’s good at diligently recording step and sleep data. Accuracy-wise, it can record about the same number of steps as the Fitbit Surge, Fitbit’s most expensive tracker, when taken on an identical journey. Huawei’s device does seem more willing to assume you’re asleep when you’re just lying still, but is still consistent day to day.
The Huawei Fit is a far more convincing fitness band than the Chinese company’s previous effort – even at over double the price
PEDOMETER Yes• HEART-RATE MONITOR Yes• DISPLAY SIZE 1in• OS SUPPORT iOS 8 and later, Android 4.4 and later • BATTERY LIFE Six days
Despite the Huawei Fit lacking a GPS tracker, as the Surge possesses, the two produced surprisingly similar tracking results from a 40-minute game of football: the former somehow counted nearly 500 additional steps, but the distance travelled was quite close and calories burned was practically identical.
DROP THE BEAT
The Fit also came closer to the results of our dedicated chest-strap heart-rate monitor, these are more accurate than the green-LED optical sensors found in smartwatches, so if the Fit can get close, it’s done all right. Following our football game, it reported an average of 139bpm with a peak of 166bpm – that’s still not consistent with the chest strap’s average of 150bpm and 187bpm peak, but it sure beats the Surge’s average of 104bpm and peak of 129bpm.
As with most trackers, the Huawei Fit works closely with its mobile app, Huawei Wear. It’s pretty basic when compared with TomTom’s and Garmin’s offerings, but has most areas covered. The home screen gives you an overview of your step, calorie and distance tally for the day; your cumulative exercise for the week; the option to kick off a training plan; recent heart activity; and how you slept last night. Tapping on any one of these will give you more data, as you’d expect.
The exercise breakdown is pleasingly detailed. You get graphs of your steps per minute and your heart rate, but you can also break things down into raw numbers, namely duration, average pace, calories, average speed, average heart rate, average steps, total steps, pace, maximum oxygen intake and estimated recovery times. It also has a bar telling you how good a workout this has been, giving you a nice incentive to do better next time.
That, in all likelihood, will be detailed enough for most people. Where Huawei Wear lags behind its rivals is on connectivity and social features. The best fitness apps can plug into others, swapping data between them, and that feature is here, but in a really limited way. Huawei Wear currently offers just three choices:
Up by Jawbone, Google Fit and MyFitnessPal.
It’s a strange and pretty unsatisfying selection.
How much you care about the lack of social features will depend on your attitude to fitness. Some people need a rival to spur them on or offer encouragement; others are fine just doing their own thing. There doesn’t seem to be any kind of social integration in Huawei Wear: just you and your stats. That’s understandable given Huawei is a relative newcomer to this industry. Perhaps it simply doesn’t have the community within its ecosystem to justify the feature yet.
As mentioned, Huawei’s battery estimate seems to be underestimating itself if anything (though you should always take such figures with a large pinch of salt) – a strong vindication of the decision to go with a monochrome screen, as well as forgo any GPS functionality.
Unfortunately, the swimproof nature of the Huawei Fit means you’re looking at another proprietary charger. It’s a small white plastic dish that the watch clips into. No need to remove the straps – it will sit in there.
The curved metal case goes all the way around, and the screen is protected by tough Gorilla Glass 3. It’s light, sleek and extremely comfortable
It’s completely flat, so it won’t be a makeshift night clock like other smartwatches. That’s a shame, but then again it’s probably best not to use it as your bedside timepiece, given that it has great battery life as it is, and is supposed to be on your wrist tracking your sleep.
The charging speed is pretty average for a wearable. It takes about an hour to charge from 50% to full, so around two hours for a full recharge. Still, given the incredible battery life it has in action, you can’t really complain too much over something you’ll need to do less frequently than once a week.
FIT FOR PURPOSE
The Huawei Fit is an extremely likeable wearable. Huawei’s decision to embrace fitness rather than generic smart functions is a good one, and this is a decent alternative to the offerings from Fitbit, Garmin and TomTom.
It’s a shame that the price has had to increase to match the functionality, though.
The Huawei Fit is close to more than the Honor Band Zl’s current pricing,
and is notably more expensive than even the Fitbit Charge 2 and TomTom Spark 3.
The Huawei Fit has a number of things in its favour: astonishing battery life, a swimproof body, and a round face making it look more like a classic timepiece. However, the pricing gives it some tough opposition, especially if you’re into the more competitive side of keeping fit. Most notably, Fitbit, Garmin and TomTom have stronger communities, on account of having been in the game for longer. If you’re a lone wolf, you likely won’t care, but for some a fitness tracker loses its sheen without that layer of competition and support that you get from a large community of fellow users.
Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference, but this is a strong contender and a tracker you definitely won’t be disappointed by. The price may make it seem like a tough sell, but it won’t let you down.