Wearables have been around for a number of years now, but the truly innovative products that were promised during the tail end of the last decade are yet to materialise. That said, we have seen some movement as far as wearables go and smartwatches in particular. We’re also seeing features that were once set aside for premium and expensive devices start to filter down to a more affordable price bracket.
This brings us to the new Huawei Band 6, which is currently available for pre-order at the time of writing and set to go on sale locally later this month.
The Band 6 sits within the smart band segment of the company’s wearable lineup and therefore not fully classed a smartwatch. That said, having used it for just shy of two weeks now, it certainly delivers a smartwatch-esque experience and coupled with its R1 699 (RRP) price tag, might just be the best value for money wearable experience in South Africa at the moment.
Why do we say so? Scroll further down to find out.
Pretty much a smartwatch
As always we start with design, and here Huawei has returned to relatively new form factor as the Band 6 is rectangular in shape. When we spotted the device in-person for the first time, we immediately thought it was the Huawei Watch Fit in disguise. That isn’t a bad thing at all, especially as the Watch Fit impressed us with its mix of features and affordability.
The Band 6 seeming takes that experience and refines into a slightly narrower device.
To that end the Band 6 sports a 1.47″ Amoled display. It might not seem all that big, but compared to the 0.9″ TFT option found on the predecessor it is a sizeable improvement. Said display is also bright and vivid, along with the increase in real estate meaning more information can displayed on the digital watch face, not to mention navigation and data rich applications are easier to manage.
While we’d categorise the Band 6 in the smartwatch category, Huawei has done a solid job of ensuring the device is still relatively innocuous when placed on your wrist, much like a smart band is. This as the silicon straps (non-removable) are slim like that of the Band 4.
Added to this is the fact that it only weighs 18g sans straps, along with being 25.4mm wide, which means those put off by the larger and imposing circular smartwatches have a far cheaper option to choose from.
If the big selling point of smart bands over watches for fitness enthusiasts is the fact that they do not take up a lot of space while still delivering on the tracking essentials, then the Huawei Band 6 is right up there. As such, should Huawei be producing more devices like this, companies like Fitbit should start getting a little worried.
Tracking all of the essentials
This brings us to all the different features and tracking functionality that the Band 6 sports. If we’re comparing it to the Watch Fit for example, the Band 6 is not lacking in the sensors department, with optical heart rate, accelerometer and gyroscope found. The key difference between the two is an ambient light sensor, which may be important to some, but for those operating on a more cost-conscious budget, it is certainly something you can do without.
The only other downfall we can see is lack of support for GPS, which is likely something that those doing a lot of outdoor running would be interested in. That said, it is a small price to pay given the cost.
So, if all you need is heart rate, steps and calories burned, the Band 6 has you sorted.
That’s not all it can track though, with sleep, stress and menstrual cycles also available, along with oxygen saturation (Sp02) becoming an increasingly important metric for smartwatch makers.
If you are dipping your toe into fitness-focused wearables then, the Band 6 makes a lot of sense.
Another area where it shines is battery life, with Huawei doing particularly well in this department in recent years. Up to 14 days use from a fully charged battery is listed by the company, and we can certainly vouch for that being a bit of underselling on its part.
This as the we have not had to charge the the Band 6 since we were seeded a review unit on 3rd June and it registered 71 percent battery capacity. It has been sipping on power since then, and at the time of writing has 16 percent battery, which is important for those currently being let down by the country’s power utility.
It also means that the Band 6 can spend more time on your wrist than plugged in and charging, which is a criticism of some smart bands out there.
As much as we’ve eulogised about the Band 6, it is not perfect. While it supports notifications for a number of native Android-based (works on iOS too) applications, the screen real estate still has its limits. As such, text and WhatsApp messages or pop-ups for Spotify are what the screen is best suited at presenting. Trying to read and email for example gets a little tricky, but that said, this criticism can be levelled against many a smartwatch out there.
Next we need to talk about the lack of button functionality. There is one button on the Band 6 located on the right side which facilitates a number of different functions, but none of which are switching the screen off. It is a small gripe, but we feel is worth mentioning.
The digital watch face types on offer are also a little limited in terms of choice, with the native free options on the Band 6 lacking customisability. We like the layout of the Light Yellow face for example given that it features, battery life, steps, heart rate and of course time, but the ability to change up the colour would have been nice. This is less an issue with the Band 6 itself and more with Huawei’s wearables ecosystem.
Oh, being able to remove the straps to clean the device better would also have been appreciated.
That said, given that this device costs less than R2 000, the issues we’ve listed above can definitely be looked past.
At R1 699 (RRP), the Huawei Band 6 might be the most affordable fitness-focused wearable available on the market. Yes, other options might feature more nuanced sensors and capture a greater amount of data with higher accuracy, but as far as the essentials are concerned, the Band 6 ticks all the necessary boxes that someone venturing into this segment of consumer electronics for the first time could have.
Added to this is an almost incomparable battery performance, and while it remains to be seen how the longevity of the fortnightly charging is like a year or two from now, at the moment, no other device in this price bracket is coming close.
Should veteran smartwatch and smart band users opt for the Huawei Band 6? Probably not, but those new to the market would be making a savvy choice if they opted for the latest offering from Huawei. As such, it comes highly recommended.
Huawei Band 6
More smartwatch than smart band in our books thanks to the design changes and feature-rich tracking on offer from Huawei, the Band 6 might just be the best bang for your buck in terms of fitness-focused wearables on the market right now.