A week with the Huawei TalkBand B2
Having considered the idea for years, I finally decided to strap a fitness tracker to my wrist and get a glimpse into the reality of my daily exercise routine. The results weren’t good.
First a little background; I generally look after myself quite well. I surf regularly and do my best to get to the gym a few times a week. However, over the start of 2015 I’ve been feeling the clothes close in. A combination of two demanding children and long desk-bound work hours have played their role, but if I was honest I’ve lost control of my portion sizes and my stomach knows it. It’s time to start turning things around and as part of that process, I’ve strapped the Huawei TalkBand B2 to my wrist and thought I would document the experience from the perspective of someone who is hoping this slick bit of tech can shave off my love handles and up my lung capacity.
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The device is light and comfortable to wear. I haven’t worn a watch since 1994 – perhaps that is why I am always late? – but other than pulling jumpers on and off I’ve been surprised by how little it has troubled me in my day-to-day activities. Its IP57 waterproof exterior helps with that, ensuring spillage from the kids or splashes from the bath (or let’s be honest here, beer) are not a concern.
The screen is responsive to touch and considering how reliant I have been on my phone to tell the time in recent years (decades?) I’ve actually found its clock face highly useful. Its streamlined options are easy to understand and access, and the pop-out feature – whereby you can pull the face out of the band and stick it into your ear as a Bluetooth headset – is a lot more sturdy and functional than I would have believed possible. I can’t believe how easily it pops back in! I’ve also noticed how quick it charges; going from 0% to 100% in around and hour.
On the advice of Huawei, I set my goal to 10,000 steps per day – a healthy number I’m told. The app interface on my iPhone 6+ is subtle and effective; I like it. And in walking from the collection point, to a taxi, getting out at my car and driving home to put the kids to bed, I’m surprised to see I’ve clocked up 600 steps. 10,000 seems like a highly achievable goal.
Only it is not. I wake up in the morning to discover I’ve had a restless sleep involving 1hr 28min of deep sleep and 4hr 24min of light sleep. I’m impressed by how the TalkBand knows I am sleeping as you do not have to press anything for it to get the gist your prone in bed. Unlike most fitness trackers, it has a gyroscope within that can do more than just track movement (like an accelerometer) but also its position in space. No doubt, this is how.
Today I have both kids, so I figure I am going to knock this 10,000 out of the park. I hit the shops to look for a new fridge. Play soccer with the boy for a bit and then sit down to do some emails. In the early afternoon the kids’ cousins turn up, so it’s a bit more soccer, then a walk to and from the park. Finally, just before dusk, we hit the beach for some running in the sand and some dune jumps. I’m buggered by the time I throw the kids into the bath, but look eagerly at my stats for the day.
5,999 steps from an accumulated 1hr 58min of walking (4.64km apparently) and 7min of running (0.89km). My cycling data reads zero, as it should.
So I got 60% of the way there, which the app is telling me is equal to two bowls of rice. Hardly comforting as I chow into a rice-packed Enchilada (homemade at least). I am, however, feeling motivated. I’m a competitive bloke by nature, and I want to beat this TalkBand B2 - I really want to hit the 10,000 mark tomorrow…
Update Day 2: 9 July 2015
And that is not going to be easy. The kids are at day care and I have a full day of work to catch up on, plus the new day, which means a heck of a lot of desk time. I’m also determined to go for a surf at lunch, exercise that will not be tracked. The TalkBand B2 does have a neat feature, however, where it vibrates if you have been sitting still for 30 minutes. It seems to be quite accurate, too, and I’m going to use that as motivation to get up, walk around the park conveniently located across the road and sit back down.
Thankfully I got a better night’s sleep. The app is telling me 6hrs 59min, including 2hr 3min of deep sleep across four different intervals. One thing I have noticed this morning is the need to re-sync the iPhone 6+ and the TalkBand B2 a few times. It’s not that painful, but perhaps an area for improvement.
Sadly I missed my first, second and third warnings to get up, but then I did and ran around the park across the road for three laps. Using the stopwatch feature, which allows you to track specific exercises for a set amount of time, I did 670 steps in four minutes and burnt off a cucumber (says the app). I’m happy about it, too. Although, the unfortunate position of the fridge between my desk and the front door needs to be evaluated…
Towards the end of the day I realised I had only done 4,000 steps. I did get a surf in so who knows what that contributed, but the TalkBand B2 really urged me to do more. I picked up my boy from day care and we went straight to the park and ran around for 15 to 20 minutes. It was good fun, and I know he really enjoyed it. I was able to add 2,000 steps and ended the day on 6,030. With the surf, not bad. Let’s see how we go tomorrow.
Choosing when to charge your Huawei TalkBand B2 is tough, as you want to wear it when you are sleeping to track your patterns, and – if you are competitive like me – you don’t want any steps to go uncounted during your day-to-day routine. The best time to charge then, is when driving. It’s genuine dead time in terms of physical activity. Since all you need is a USB port, most phone chargers will allow you to plug in your TalkBand B2, and I’ve now started to leave the charging cable in my car as a result.
Update Day 3: 10 July 2015
Not quite as good a night, unfortunately. Although I slept for 6hrs 42min, the TalkBand B2 has informed me only 1hr 22min of that was deep sleep, and I work up at one point (which I vaguely remember - something about “daddy I need to go to the toilet”) and had to fall back asleep. I can see from the bar graph visualised on the app that happened right when I was due for some deep sleep, too.
Today I tried out the Bluetooth headset functionality. My phone rings instantaneously with the TalkBand B2 vibrating and I see from the little LCD screen it is my wife. I pop out the headset, stick it in my ear and have a conversation no worries at all. It doesn’t fit into my ear that well, but there are two other sized ends in the box I can try out. Overall the quality is great. Later in the day I missed a call, and was surprised to see I could call back the number direct from the TalkBand B2’s screen - a nice feature.
Today I am heading into the city and working from an office desk. That means a long bit of driving, followed by a long period of sitting. But I am encouraged by accumulating 3,000 steps by lunch just getting around. Still, I know I will need to do more upon getting home and have to admit that it’s because I am so far behind my step count that I’m driven to hit the gym.
I pump iron for a good 50 minutes at the gym, doing squats, push-ups, sit-ups, fly presses, bicep curls and more, but it only equated to 900 steps, most of which I assume came from walking between stations. I realise it is not the goal of the device to measure such activity, but like surfing, it’s left me unclear of whether I achieved my exercise target for the day. Perhaps a future version of the TalkBand could look at a gym mode that counts smaller, sharper movements in some way to account for weights and other gym related activities.
As it is, however, my app is saying 6,174 steps; way off my goal again.
Update Day 4: 11 July 2015
My sleep figures are in; I scored 7hrs 18mins of sleep - which is actually a lot for me. Must have been that gym session. Today’s activities include a mix of working from home, interacting with the kids as they tear my poor mother-in-law to shreds - babysitting for a while today – and, in general, living out a typical day.
It’s a slow start to the morning and I have barely been able to get away from my desk. With less than 2,000 steps accrued by lunch I decide to hit the park with my boy in the arvo. Three separate times we go for a small run. We also do some star jumps, push-ups, planking and skipping. My son is getting into it, coming up with his own little courses where we jump roots and climb up little hills. It’s good fun, and even though it is early days, I already feel my body starting to turn a corner.
That night I decided to wear the TalkBand B2 during an intimate session with my wife, just to see what it had to say. It was late and perhaps wasn’t the kind of performances my neighbours are used to “enjoying,” but it was certainly time well spent... I thought. Sadly, the TalkBand B2 is more critical. It believes I made 30 steps and then fell asleep for 20 minutes. Harsh. I don’t think I will wear the TalkBand B2 next time; sexy as it may be.
All up 6,241 steps… and a happy ending.
Update Day 5: 12 July 2015
It’s the weekend and sadly I am playing catch-up on work. At least I scored 8hrs 25mim of sleep, which is epic, but I have started to notice a pattern on the app. No matter how long I sleep for, my period of deep sleep is generally the same, give or take 15 minutes. I appreciate the insight, and wonder now if I can be more efficient with my sleep – I will watch closely to see if I can discern my “deep sleep window” and make sure I am prone during that period.
I have some painting to do this morning, and despite a couple of hours of yard work getting that and other bits and pieces done, the step count is minimal. I spend the afternoon at my desk, inspired by the TalkBand B2 to hit the park a couple of times with my son and to do some activity, but by the time they are in bed I have only done a pathetic 3,000 steps. Disgusted I force myself into my gym gear and hit the weights, crashing out at 4,125 steps.
I must admit I am quite disappointed by my inability to even get close to the 10,000 goal, but I cannot deny how much more exercise I have done since putting on the TalkBand B2. I have also noticed I have been much more aggressive on my calorie counting; it’s amazing how, when you focus on your health, elements like that become easier. I turned down some take out, and opted for fruit snacks. Good on me, right?
One thing I have started to notice with the TalkBand B2 is its battery life. I was told it could last up to five days, but with what I would consider no more than basic use for its intended purposes, I can get about two and a bit days. Still, the quick recharge time ensures it is not a big issue.
I was surprised one day to see the TalkBand B2 reporting five minutes of cycling. I had done nothing of the sort, but I had gone shopping and pushed around a trolley around. Does this explain the anomaly? Perhaps, but when I mowed the lawn the following day all the steps counted, suggesting that the “hands out in front” position wasn’t what confused the device into thinking I was cycling. Hmmm….
Update Day 6: 13 July 2015
In the middle of the night, my son wet his bed. Joy. Nothing like changing urine soaked sheets to the soundtrack of a sobbing child when it’s five degrees. It’s stuffed my sleep pattern, with my 6hrs 53min of prone time consisting of just 1hr of deep sleep – half my norm. We need to start this day with positivity.
So it’s a big breakfast and a family walk along the beach, and when I get home to my desk, I’m happy to see the 2,500 steps I’ve done to work off that mound of bacon. That afternoon I am taking the boy to the footy to watch the mighty Manly smash the Cronulla sharks, so I hit the computer and get some work done, forgoing any exercise in the park.
Going to the footy does not seem like exercise. We park, walk to the venue, find a seat, get up at half-time for a pit stop and a beer (for me, not the kid) and then return along the same route. However, it’s enough to credit me with 4,000 steps. I’m really excited to see how much just “doing stuff” can contribute to my daily exercise goal. Maybe I can opt out of the gym more often to just take the family somewhere fun? 7,106 steps reveals Day 6 to be my best yet!
I am getting annoyed by the fastening mechanism on the black TalkBand B2, however (which is the same as the silver). The plastic-rubber texture is tough to get through the clip and pull tight, while the pop in button that acts as a clasp seems like pot luck. A number of times I have spent minutes just trying to get the little nub in the hole (no that’s not a reference to Day 4) and it also has a habit of catching on things and undoing itself. At the footy, when I picked up my boy, it fell right off and if it wasn’t for a good Samaritan there would not be a Day 7.
The gold TalkBand B2 is about $20 more expensive, but offers a leather strap and a traditional watch clasp. I’d love it if they provided the black option with these additions as it would be worth the upgrade.
Update Day 7: 14 July 2015
I wake up after a great 7hr 44min sleep, with a huge day ahead. I’m going on a trip the following day, so have lots of work, chores and packing to get done – ultimately keeping me up to midnight. A few runs in the park aside, I managed to force in a last minute gym session, knowing that the next few days of airline food, beer, burgers and more beer are going to be unkind to my belt.
Sadly I’m at 5,500 steps come bed time and I’m so determined not to go backwards I just walk around the house s bit to get to 6,030.
And that best sums up my seven days with the TalkBand B2 – motivation. It’s given me an insight into my daily grind and destroyed some of my preconceptions about how active I really am. It’s forced me to get off my backside and get moving, and I intend to keep it on into the foreseeable future. I am going to get to a point where I am consistently hitting that 10,000 mark, you watch!
I do have a few minor grievances with the design and connectivity, but they are only minor, and in general it serves its dual Bluetooth headset/fitness tracker purpose very well. There’s clear room for growth, too, as the tech improved. If, like me, you are looking for an insight into your daily activity and a motivator to pound the pavement, I’m happy to recommend the TalkBand B2.0