Huawei Fit review: The good, the bad, and the active

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We all know the importance of staying active and living a healthy lifestyle; whether we are successful at that is another story. With all the different gym memberships, diet plans, at-home workout routines, training plans, it can get overwhelming to decide the best approach to meet your fitness goals. Wearable devices that can monitor and track all your movements and help create a plan tailored to each user have become more and more popular over the last few years.

Huawei, not wanting to be left behind in the race, is now trying to burst into the fitness scene with their brand new wearable: the Huawei Fit. With a promise of almost a week-long battery life and constant activity monitoring, can this $130 device stand up against the competition and help you get on your feet?

Hit the break for our review of the Huawei Fit.

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The first thing you will notice with the Huawei Fit is just how thin and light it is. Weighing in at approximately 35g I often forgot I was even wearing the device. The watch face is 9.9mm thick and made of a brushed aluminum that comes in either a dark gray for the black strap or a lighter silver for both the orange and blue straps. Speaking of the strap, it is a very lightweight TPU material that has a soft rubbery feel and curves perfectly around your wrist. The lack of bulk and weight is a very welcome aspect for any type of wearable, but especially for runners, swimmers, and anyone who lives an active lifestyle. Feeling the weight of a device like this is probably the last thing you want to have to think about and Huawei did a very nice job balancing that out.

The Huawei Fit is also a relatively fashionable device, mostly thanks to how minimal the design is. This particular Huawei Fit is the black version, which of course is much easier to match with your outfits, but I can still see the orange and blue variants fitting in nicely as well. I should note that the black Fit is exclusive to Best Buy, while the orange and blue versions are available at all participating retailers, such as Amazon.

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On the back of the device, you will find the sensors that measure your heart rate as well as the pins for the included magnetic charging dock. The Huawei Fit is compatible with both 18mm and 20mm watch straps that will allow you to mix and match with any other watch straps you may have lying around or want to buy. This is especially handy during those times you may need to dress up a little fancy and prefer something other than a rubbery TPU strap. The heart rate sensor uses the PPG (photoplethysmography) type sensor that uses light to detect the blood flow rate from the heart’s pumping action. The Huawei Fit is almost constantly measuring your heart rate whether you’re exercising or just sitting at your desk in order to let you track the ups and downs over days, weeks, or even months, but more on that later.

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The display of the Huawei Fit is a 1.04-inch black and white LCD touchscreen display. Huawei decided to go with a black and white display mostly to prolong battery life, but also minimize any visual distractions and allow the display to be easily viewed even in direct sunlight. The difference is definitely noticed as I never once struggled to read what was on the screen during the day and somehow it even seemed brighter in the sun than dimmer as is too often the case for smartphone displays. The capacitive touchscreen is as responsive as you would expect. You have the option to choose one of six watch faces that are as simple as showing just the time (in digital or analog format) to giving you up to date steps taken, heart rate, and even a shortcut button to start a quick run (as shown in the image above). From there it’s a simple swipe up or down to get to all the different sections for workouts, heart rate measuring, etc.

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Huawei Fit even supports a “twist of the wrist” gesture to toggle through the various features and settings. This can be very helpful when you don’t want to be fiddling with swiping your finger up and down while actively doing something. One thing to note that I never fully got used to, however, is that the wrist twist gesture only works for moving up and down while on the main screen or within a specific section. If you’re looking at the heart rate section, for example, and want to go back to check your number of steps taken, you still have to swipe your finger from left to right. This is a minor thing, but I did often find myself twisting my wrists a few times to move back a section before I remembered I couldn’t. There are no buttons for navigation or making selections so everything must be done through the touchscreen. While I appreciate Huawei keeping the Fit minimal, I can think of a number of situations where some kind of hardware button would be nice. For example, starting and stopping a workout or a run could be a bit easier if you could simply click a button similar to a stopwatch rather than tapping the on-screen stop button, which is kept rather small at the top of the display.

The display for Huawei Fit is about as no-frills as you can get. It also comes with an ambient light sensor that can illuminate the backlight when needed at night or in dark environments. This worked perfectly most of the time, however there were a few times that tapping the screen or moving my wrist failed to light up the screen and I had to keep trying a few times until it worked. You are able to have the backlight always illuminated, but that would certainly take a big hit to battery life.

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Getting the Huawei Fit up and running is a breeze. Once you’ve downloaded the Huawei Wear companion app on your smartphone (which supports Android 4.4 Kit Kat and higher), you go in to the devices tab and just tap the same naming code that’s displayed on the Huawei Fit’s screen. From there, the two devices will connect and sync over Bluetooth and you’re ready to go. The Huawei Wear app itself is where you will spend most of your time when looking at all the data the Fit has collected. There are many layers of detail found here from a quick check of your steps taken or miles ran, to charts that show your development over a period of days or weeks or even longer.

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The Huawei Wear app is where I found the majority of my frustrations. As you can see in the image above, at least on my Google Pixel XL that navigation bar on the bottom has a white background so you can barely see the buttons. This doesn’t seem to happen on other Android phones, and while this certainly isn’t a deal-breaker, it is something that just doesn’t make the app appear as polished as it should. Also, I constantly found myself having to tap something twice for the app to finally move to that section. Like the white navigation bar, this could be something specific to my Pixel XL, but it consistently got in the way of being able to navigate around the app and quickly see the information I wanted. This is a brand new product so bugs are to be expected, I just hope it’s something that gets updated sooner than later.

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Aside from those quirks, the Huawei Wear is very simply and nicely designed and avoids cluttering your screen with too many frills. Want to quickly see your daily heart rate information? Just tap and there you are. I live in New York City and therefore do quite a lot of walking, so it was nice to be able to get a sense of how many steps I actually take on a daily basis and then compare my heart rate to the various times I did a lot more walking than others. But as is the case with any activity tracker, you always have to take the number of steps taken with a grain of salt as it can only be so accurate.

The Huawei Fit and its tracking allows you to set programs for various types of movement or activity, such as walking, running, or swimming (the Huawei Fit has a water resistance rating of IP68, which supports a water depth submersion of 1.5 meters for up to 30 minutes). Based on your heart rate, you can track the time spent within different types of exercise, such as aerobic, anaerobic, or fat burning. This seemed to work quite nicely, although it would be nice to see a setting that’s appropriate for a general cardio workout. The chart on the right side of the image above was from a quick workout I did at home that combines a variety of different cardio and strength exercises.

While the Huawei Fit did measure changes in my heart rate and then map out the time spent during each type of exercise, it seemed to think that I was running and gave me information about my steps per minute, which was all good and fine, but not terribly relevant. It’s also important to note that the Huawei Fit does not have a built in GPS. You will need to bring your smartphone with you when you go out and about. This isn’t terribly surprising for a first generation product (although it certainly could have been included), but may be a deal breaker for some.

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Another nice feature of the Huawei Fit is the sleep tracking. Now, this is nothing new, but given that Huawei claims a battery life of up to six days, the Huawei Fit is an excellent choice for those of us wanting to track the quality of our sleep. If your wearable has a shorter battery life, you more often than not would be stuck having to charge it overnight therefore negating the whole point of sleep data. The technology that Huawei Fit uses for its sleep monitoring is not only based on movement, but also how the heart rhythm changes when the body is in sleep mode. A lot of that technology goes a bit over my head and is part of another conversation, but let’s just say that the sleep tracking appeared to work pretty well. I’m a very light sleeper – I knew this anyway – but the Huawei Fit helped me track my patterns to get a better sense of what is really going on.

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A lot of the time, however, I found it only partially accurate. There were several nights that I woke up a few times during the night and the Fit still thought I was sleeping. One time in particular I removed the watch in the morning before showering (yes, I know it’s water resistant. I still felt weird showering with a watch on my wrist) and placed it down and the Fit thought I had gone back to sleep and started tracking that for the next 30 or so minutes. It then a bit later thought I was sleeping while sitting on the subway, as shown in the image above. Again, bugs will happen in a brand new product and the Fit does a lot more than just sleep tracking, but I still found it interesting that it could be tracking that while not even on my wrist. This only happened once so I’m not going to lose sleep over it (couldn’t resist).

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Huawei is making a big deal out of its battery life, with promises of up to six days under normal use and up to 30 days of standby time. I applaud Huawei and every wearable manufacturer who is putting battery life high on the priority list, as with wearables you tend to go into a “wear it and forget it” mode and don’t want to deal with yet another device needing to charge every night. So how do the claims translate into reality? Well, for me at least I got from a full charge to almost 0% in roughly four days. Four certainly does not equal six, but it didn’t concern me too much. One thing that might concern others, however, is that my Huawei Fit lasted four days under what I would consider “light use.” I am not the most active person, and I am definitely not an athlete or a runner. So there are some features that I simply did not use regularly that a more active person would count on daily. So I wouldn’t be surprised that someone who goes for a run every day, and sets up training programs for the Fit to monitor, etc, could see a shorter battery life.

While battery life is among the most important feature for any type of device, it is also one of the most difficult things to test. Every person is different. Their usage can have overlap, but also be completely their own. Even individual devices or their batteries can have fluctuations that lead to one being more, or less, “battery efficient” than the other. With all of that said, expect the battery to be on par with most other wearable devices in that 4-6 day range, yet do keep an eye on it. The only way to see the exact battery percentage is through the Huawei Wear companion app. On the Fit itself, all you get is a battery icon that slowly depletes itself with no real indicator of how much is left. This is something I would put high on the list for Huawei to update. There really should be no reason that someone can’t see their exact battery level without pulling out their smartphone.

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It’s clear that Huawei is targeting the serious fitness crowd. From professional athletes to people who go running or cycling daily, this could be your next wearable. Huawei actually partnered with the popular FirstBeat, which provides extensive analytics for fitness and wellness. In conjunction with FirstBeat, from the Huawei Wear app you can set up a training program that can set goals, track your progress and export that data as part of a larger active lifestyle. While this is certainly a great feature to have, the training program is specific to running.

The plan you create and the goals you set are based on distance ran and the time it took. For those who want a built-in program for, say, calorie counting and weight loss, you won’t get that out of the box with the Huawei Fit. Luckily, if you use other services such as Google Fit, UP by Jawbone, or MyFitnessPal you can sync the two apps and export your Huawei Fit data over. Currently, those three services are the only ones showing up for me, but more may be added as time goes on.

So why would you purchase the Huawei Fit instead of another activity tracker or even a smartwatch that includes apps and richer messaging and entertainment features? Well, a common concern many have with activity trackers is that they just look like activity trackers. In other words, they may not look like something you always want on your wrist no matter the occasion.

The benefit with using the Huawei Fit is that it looks like a regular watch. You can go from gym clothes, to work clothes, to your evening outfit and it still blends in like any simple watch would. Why get the Huawei Fit instead of an Android Wear smartwatch? Well, simply put, if activity tracking is all you need. A lot of people don’t want to deal with too many features and have no use to make calls or dictate messages from their wrist. I should note that while the Huawei Fit is not a smartwatch, it does have a little bit of that functionality. If your smartphone receives a phone call, for example, the Fit will vibrate and display the name or number of the person calling you. From there you can choose to silence or dismiss the call right from the Fit screen.

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So there you have it. Overall, I have been very pleased with the Huawei Fit so far. It’s minimal and lightweight enough for me to easily continue wearing it, despite the fact that I’ve never really been a fan of anything on my wrists. The activity and sleep tracking is very detailed and something I find myself checking several times throughout the day and actually enjoying seeing how it changes from day to day.

Is the Huawei Fit worth $130? Well, that is totally subjective. If all you want to be able to do is measure your heart rate, keep track of the steps you take, and learn more about your sleep patterns, this probably is not the device for you. Android Wear smartphones, and indeed many Android smartphones, already have that functionality. While it does a good job at those things, the Huawei Fit is really geared towards athletes and people who not only want to work out daily, but want to have their workouts part of a larger analytical training program that can sync with other apps. With that said, the Huawei Fit is a promising first step into fitness wearables for the Chinese company and I’m very interested to see where they go from here.

Buy it now: Huawei, Best Buy, Amazon


About the Author: Kevin Arnold

Kevin has been obsessed with technology ever since the days of playing with commands in MS-DOS. As a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology where he studied a combination of New Media Programming and Photography, Kevin lives in New York City where he works as a photo retoucher. His first "smartphone" was the good old LG Voyager with its slide-out physical keyboard. The first Android device Kevin owned was the now-infamous HTC Thunderbolt, which he still has in a drawer somewhere. Currently rocking both the Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X, Kevin has a (un)healthy obsession with phones and has owned more than he can remember. When he's not shopping for a new phone, Kevin enjoys lots of food and wine, video games, astronomy, and the Big Apple.