Huawei Fit review: A very likeable fitness tracker
Back in January, I reviewed the Huawei Honor Band Z1. It was likeable in a three-star-review kind of way, but also forgettable enough that I just had to completely re-read what I wrote 11 months ago to remember anything about it. “The Honor Band just leaves me scratching my head and wondering who it’s aimed at,” I wrote. “It’s fine, but it just doesn’t really excel at anything at all.”
While it’s flattering to imagine that Huawei’s engineers took my words deadly seriously and came up with the Huawei Fit – a wearable that has fully embraced fitness over quasi-smartwatch niceties – it’s far more likely that this is a response to how the market is going generally. Smartwatches are struggling, unless they cater overwhelmingly to fitness fanatics. Even Apple has switched lanes to sports with the Apple Watch Series 2.
For Huawei, the move definitely pays off. There’s no question who the Huawei Fit is aimed at, and not just because of the very obvious name. Even if it has doubled in price over its predecessor, it’s hard to deny that it’s much more memorable this time around.
Huawei Fit: Design
At a glance, the Huawei Fit looks pretty similar to the Honor Band Z1. Both have monochrome displays to boost battery life, both have textured rubber straps, and both have circular displays. All of these things are 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 x 208 pixels, compared with the Z1’s 128 x 128) and the circular screen actually fits this time. While the Z1 had a very obvious black box blocking things off the edges, the content goes right to the edge this time, 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 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 it’s currently sitting on my wrist on 50%, five days since it last touched a charger. True, it’s only seen one heavy workout in that time (I’ve been flued up), but it has been passively tracking steps, my fevered sleep and telling me the time when necessary.
On top of that – and probably the chief reason for the big step up in price – the Huawei Fit tracks heart rate. It does this constantly throughout the day, giving you an idea of how your average heart rate changes over time. Despite this, it is rated as swim-proof to 5ATM – meaning it should survive water pressure of around 50 metres. More usefully for me, it’s one fewer thing to take off when showering.
Huawei Fit: Performance
So let’s get down to brass tacks. How does it perform its job as a fitness tracker?
First of all, there are no buttons, so you’re relying 100% on the touchscreen here. Aesthetically pleasing as that undoubtedly is, I feel that’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 it works well enough, with a few missteps. 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 the watch up 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 reply, though.
All this time, the Huawei Fit was diligently recording step and sleep data to the app. So how is the data? Pretty good, as far as I can tell. For the purposes of the review, I was wearing the Huawei Fit on my left wrist, and a Fitbit Surge on my right.
Here are the two compared, day by day. Don’t judge me on the low numbers: I’ve been ill, alright?
Pretty close then, and certainly consistent with itself. Ignore the Monday stat – at some point during the night my Fitbit Surge unexpectedly died, and I couldn’t charge it again until it got to work.
But hey, we can probably work out exactly *when* it died by comparing sleep stats…
It seems Huawei is more willing to believe I’m actually sleeping when I’m just lying still than Fitbit. Still – it looks like we can guess my Surge died around 4-5 in the morning. So we’ve learned something today.
I don’t think we can should waste too much time getting het up about “which is right”, by the way. The differences are pretty small in the greater scheme of things, and really any fitness tracker should be pitched against itself. As long as its own numbers are consistent, you can see the progress – or lack of – that you’re making.
But what about when it comes to actually tracking exercise? As I’ve been flued up, I have so far only managed one outing with the device: a 40-minute game of five-a-side football. Again I wore both this and the Fitbit, but that’s not an entirely fair comparison due to the latter’s built-in GPS. Nonetheless, this is what the two trackers made of my performance:
Surprisingly close to each other. Not bad for a device without built-in GPS. For the first time, I also wore a chest strap for a more accurate gauge of what was going on with my heart rate. I’ve written before how the Fitbit family seems to underestimate heart rate quite dramatically, and the Huawei Fit was definitely closer to the chest-strap reading… but it still wasn’t too close.
Fitbit said my average heart rate was 104bpm, with a peak of 129bpm. Huawei said I had an average of 139bpm with a peak of 166bpm. The chest strap, on the other hand, reports that I definitely rushed back to playing too quickly after illness with ill-advised average and peak heart rates of 150bpm and 187bpm respectively, despite trying to preserve the small amounts of energy I had. Yikes.
Still. We know chest straps are more accurate than green-LED optical heart-rate sensors. The Huawei Fit isn’t completely accurate, but the chart broadly followed the same trend, correctly observing I was knackered after about 20 minutes.