Huawei's latest fitness band leaves a lot to be desired.
The fitness band is over. Jawbone abandoned ship; Nike, too. It's easier — and more profitable — to own the data, to partner with companies like Apple and Fitbit, which actually make money from these things. There is one way to do fitness hardware: undercut everyone, like Lenovo and Xiaomi are doing with their $20 fitness bands, mainly sold in China, in order to saturate the market with something so consumable it can be as easily replaced as a hair band.
And yet here we are, with Huawei announcing a $129 fitness band, aptly called the Huawei Fit. It pairs with a smartwatch app on Android and iOS, and purports to offer the same value as market leader Fitbit's own $149 Charge 2, which debuted earlier this year.
At first glance, the Huawei Fit appears nearly identical to the Huawei Band that debuted earlier this year — which itself was a rebranded Honor Z1 Band, for those keeping track — but has updated internals, an always-on display, and considerably more advanced software.
Notifications from the phone are an absolute mess of large, unchangeable font sizes and terrible styles.
The main issue with the Huawei Fit is that it probably shouldn't have a touch screen; for all of its advancements in performance and features, Huawei's addition of what could be the least responsive capacitive touchscreen I've ever used is the product's main downfall.
Oh, and notifications — if you can call them that — conveyed from the phone to the watch are an absolute mess of large, unchangeable font sizes and terrible styles that force users to wait while they scroll horizontally, in which time it would be faster just to take out your phone and check the notification on a screen more conducive to showing high-density information.
But let's return for a moment to the watch itself. Made of an aluminum body with no buttons or ports (to ensure the IP68 water resistance rating), it comes in three rubberized band colors that can be exchanged for something a bit more stylish or comfortable, though the included ones are an adequate bit of both.
Because there are no ports or buttons, the watch can only be manually reset through a small pin-hole button on the charger itself, a plastic white dock that does nothing to invite compliments when set up on a a bedside or office desk.
Around back, you'll find the always-on heart rate monitor, which does a fairly good job maintaining a running tally of your daily rhythms. Even with this constantly-running feature, the Huawei Fit promises six days of battery life, and I actually got more than that — seven and a half — twice in a row, which is encouraging.
Indeed, from a hardware perspective, the Huawei Fit is a very nice product; the bezels around the Mechanical LCD touch display are a little bulbous, and the touchscreen itself is a mess of false touches (though slightly improved since a recent update to version 1.3.51 received November 21), but overall it feels very, well, Huawei.
The problem is in the software. The watch pairs with the company's cross-platform fitness app, Huawei Wear, which is fine — it syncs the basics, like steps taken, average beats per minute, and manually-inputted workouts — but lacks the social integration and overall intuitive sophistication of Fitbit.
The Huawei Wear app is fine, but it lacks the intuitive interface and social integration of Fitbit.
Worse still is the usability of the Fit itself, which could barely be construed as such. The menu hierarchy is both horizontal and vertical — features accessed by swiping down through a long list of options, with a few sub-menus nested in the horizontal. It's plain confusing. And while, like any other smartwatch, the Huawei Fit can convey any and all notifications from your phone, they're not actionable, nor useful in any way: they're big, and scroll like molasses across the monochrome display.
Similarly, there are a number of watch faces, from sports-focused digital to more mature-looking analog, but none are particularly well designed, nor do they take advantage of the screen's relatively high pixel density. Thankfully, the Fit's display can be easily seen outdoors, but its touch screen, already unreliable on a good day, is practically unusable with sweaty fingers or when damp from rain.
In terms of fitness features, the Fit lacks automatic sensing, but you can manually begin a workout, which is tracked in kind, or work with the Huawei Wear app to build a rudimentary training plan. Again, you're not getting nearly as much functionality as the average app from Fitbit, Garmin, TomTom or Under Armour, but you do get a fine, basic experience.
That's how I feel about the Huawei Fit in general. You can get one for $100 for Black Friday, which isn't a bad deal, but compared to the $150 Fitbit Charge 2, the Fit at its $130 regular price point, just isn't great value.