Read this before you buy a new fitness device. But first a little backstory: I’ve been obsessed with fitness wearables and quantifying myself for about seven years now. It started during my time at Men’s Health when I really found a love for pushing my body to its limits. This coincided with a technology boom that was brought on by the miniaturization of the optical heart rate monitor. Watches were now become powerful tools that could monitor your all day fitness.
Fast-forward to last night and hundreds of hours of testing 100s of wearables and there’s a reason to be excited again. Huawei and its sibling brand Honor have turned churning out lower cost fitness devices into a decent business. The newest device, for instance, is the Watch GT and it costs R5500.
Yes that’s still a lot more than most people would spend, but for that price you’re getting two weeks of use from a single charge. Even with GPS going once per day you’re still in for about five days between charging. And that GPS supports the three major bands (GPS, GLONASS and Galileo) so the signal lock-on is swift and the tracking is quite accurate. Plus a full suite of smartphone notification alerts and a fair selection of watch faces.
Importantly, the heart rate monitor samples every second. The thing you need to know about optical heart rate sensors and all day tracking is that more data is better, but taking readings does deplete the battery. Even the big wearables companies like Fitbit and Garmin limit the casual (read: not workout) sampling to around every 10 seconds, dropping to five seconds when you’re moving around. If your launch workout tracking, however, the sensor is constantly monitoring.
Huawei skirted around this issue with a custom CPU and software, which is the major reason why the company has broken away from using Google’s work-in-progress WearOS on its current flagship wearable. But it’s really Huawei’s other custom code that makes these devices a really interesting prospect now.
Huawei Health is another in a long line of Apple-cloning moves from the Chinese company that seeks to catch all of your fitness data in one place. The problem is that you could never really do anything with that data.
Okay, let’s walk it back. Fitness is a transaction. You invest in it and it pays dividends in your overall well-being. You can also reap actual, real world rewards through wellness programmers like Discovery’s Vitality. I only recommend wearables to people if they are using it to gain rewards and now I can finally recommend Huawei’s range of fitness devices because they are now Vitality approved.
Huawei Health users can now earn points for steps as well as, and this is the important one, heart rate-based activities. You can earn a maximum of 300 points per day if you average 80% of your age-related max heart rate in a 30 minute exercise. With the active rewards ceiling currently at 950 points per week, you can rack up the smoothies or Ster Kinekor popcorn at a steady clip.
So that’s the big benefits turning to Huawei fitness devices has to offer: a range of cheaper fitness bands and now Vitality compatibility. But the other advantages I’ve seen from constantly wearing a wearable is sleep tracking. Huawei’s algorithms are based on Harvard-approved theory and are pretty good at tracking deep and REM sleep. Being conscious of your sleep quality is a great way to make sure you’re getting adequate rest.
Daily resting heart rate readings also give amazing insight into your fitness and body’s workings. I can reliably tell when I’m about to get sick by analysing my resting heart rate.
That consumers can now choose a Huawei Colour Band A2 (R800) and still get the same features or better as something that costs twice the price from Fitbit, Garmin or Polar with the same level of Vitality support is incredible. Even those crazy folks who are still living their Bluetooth headset best lives with the Huawei Talk Band B5 can now also get in on the action. Choices are good for society.
These new choices can now allow me to wear my Huawei Watch 2 on the daily so I can benefit from full-featured WearOS with Nike Run Club support (I log my half marathon training there) and still stack up those Vitality points. Thank you Huawei.