Reviewing the Huawei Band 6

I'm not an athletic person ... sigh ... but I should be.  Covid has not been kind to my waist.  So, I'm coming out of this winter of 'stay in place' and trying to get active.  Biking every day is my thing.  Setting myself a goal of pushups and started to try running again.

Today, I'm giving you my review of the Huawei Band 6.

I've been a fan of Google Fit, and unfortunately that's going to overshadow most of this review - I had an ecosystem I already enjoyed, so whatever I try has to fit within that.  If you don't already have a health ecosystem already, then maybe you might ignore a few problems I run into.

And having to remember that this is a $70CAD fitness band, and I was comparing it always in my head to more than $300 smartwatch.  That being said, I did at one time use the Xiaomi Band 4 (and the 3 for that matter), so it's not a totally 'alien' type device for me.

That being said, I liked it, but then I also did not... let's dive into it.

So for $70 you get this

  • 1.47" 194x368
  • Accelerometer (for steps)
  • Heart rate sensor
  • 5ATM water resistance
  • 2 week battery

Which is not a bad price, comparing it to something like the Fitbit comparable models would be over $100, so already it's looking quite the deal.

It has a standard kind of watch band 'buckle' (I was kinda hoping for more of a quick fixture like on the Xiaomi, as the band meaning you'd want something on or off easier).  It was fairly comfortable too.

Now, it's made by Huawei, so it obviously will need a Huawei companion app, and we've seen Huawei Health on some of their phones before.

Download the Huawei Health app and then add a device for the Band 6 and it'll be all good to go.

One thing to note right away with the Health app is to remove the persistent notification of the step count.  I just find it annoying and removed it immediately.

Popping it on my wrist you're met with a simple navigation that isn't immediately intuitive.

You have the main home screen, which is always easily able to get back to with just a press of the one button you have.  You have 'tiles' to the left & right you can swipe between.  Stress management, heart rate, activity tracking, and even has a music control option (that is definitely appreciated).  These just show measurements, but not let you start anything.

So that's navigating left and right.

Swiping up brings up notifications (back to that in a bit).  Swiping down from home does nothing.

Hitting the button brings up more options in a sort of 'app tray' like measuring things like heart rate, starting an exercise, even measuring SpO2, a timer, stopwatch, etc... 

You'll want to go into the settings and change the home screen display, and there's a few options to choose from.  I liked Speedometer.  I was hoping there'd be a bigger wallpaper marketplace of some sort to play around with more options.

This is where the bigger display comes in handy that something like Speedometer lets me see more detail easily.

Now, speaking of 'seeing', here's where things started to get a little awkward.

To 'see' the display you can just lift the watch up to your face for it to awaken the screen's display.  Except it does need to be fairly deliberate.  I'm used to a slight movement ... so I found myself often looking at it and nothing showing, and tapping the screen does nothing.  Slightly aggravating.

Contrast that when I would wear it to bed, it seemed that the slightest movement caused it to light up, and when it's dark it just lights up the beacons of Gondor. My wife hated this thing for that as it often blinded her right in her face.

Sure, I could have removed it at bedtime, but it's meant to even measure my sleep, so leave it on.

The just sheer opposite in experiences for that really made it something that annoyed me.

But let's really use it now.  Let's track some fitness.

Okay, so if you hit the button you can see there's an option to 'exercise' so starting something.

They mention everywhere in their adverts that it can track over 96 different activities.

Personally, I'm a bit of a fan of cycling lately.  They had 'indoor cycling', but no cycling.  It had judo, yoga ... a bunch of others.  They have like 6 ready to go, and you can replace it with others.

But NO CYCLING.  That seems odd, why indoor cycling but not outdoor.  On the Huawei app it's right there as one of the 4 main types of activities...  I mean you can even set up a 'workout' for DARTS.  


So if I want to track my bike ride, I have to use the app... the band is pointless.  Ugh.

Now, let's try jogging.  I used to jog a lot, let's try.

When I would set it up for a run, it would warn me that there's no GPS, and I should wait.  

Well, there's no GPS on the band, so it must be in the app, right?  Go to the app, and it's panel for exercise shows it's got a good lock.  Band still said no.

I waited and it never changed.  So I just said skip it, and start anyways.  Sure enough, my run was fairly decently tracked.  No issues... but again, what was the point then of the warning on the band?  And it happened EVERY time I tried a jog. I tried everything.

But, the app does have a handy "get ready for runs" plans to help you with a couch to 5k or a 10k etc...

That is neat, and I should give them a try.

Let's talk about other options.

The music player portion works just as expected, which is fine, no surprises there.

It does have the feature in the app to mirror your notifications from the phone onto your band, and you can go in the Health app and pick which apps will have notifications shown.

Similar to the Xiaomi bands, it just tells you a notification came in from an app.  It may say the title of the email, but you're not going to get much more info than that.  I could sorta live with that.  WearOS had spoiled me with all sorts of interactions available.

What it does do tho', however is notify you EVERY time a notification is 'noticed'.  So, I may see pop up that I got a text message, and I can swipe it away from my phone.  But next new text mesage, I'll get 2 new notifications on my band, because there's a new text message, plus a still unread one as well, so it registers as 2.  That pattern continues and sometimes I would see 4 or 5 from a single app (i.e. Facebook Messenger) from the same notice.  

It got to a point I just would almost ignore the notifications.

One notification I didn't ignore was the friendly reminder it would have now and again to stand up and move about.  I wish WearOS did that.

Another neat feature was that it could measure SpO2, which is how much oxygen is saturated in your blood, a sort of health indicator.  Not sure myself how I'd use this information, but it's there.  

There is also supposed to be a method for to have a SpO2 background monitoring, but I couldn't find it anywhere.

There is also a neat 'stress' monitoring method, not sure what measurements it's using for that, but it gives you an idea how much 'stress' you may be under (deadlines at work, arguments with the boss?) to warn you of potential health risks.

I did appreciate the battery life.  Over a full week of use, wearing 24/7 and having several activities to monitor, it dropped about 50%, which would mean that it, for the first device I've ever seen, match up with its claim of battery life, it should last you 2 full weeks.

That's pretty impressive in my books!  2 weeks and not having to worry about charging it up, and when you do it doesn't take long at all.

The big downside for me, leads back to the opening statement that I really wanted it to plug into my world.

In the Health app you can set it up to share data with Google Fit.  

I logged in, authenticated, yet I don't think anything did share over.

Now, was this because my New Nest Hub monitors my sleep, so the data didn't want to contrast from the band and ignored it?  Was it because I have Fit using background to track activities so when I would do an activity with the band it was already tracked with Fit so it didn't want to duplicate?

I don't know, but I don't see the data being shared.  Steps were different (then again I didn't always carry my phone when I carried wore the band).  Sleep was different (not drastically, just different).

That was a shame, as I like having one service as my ecosystem platform, and this just didn't fit in.

But that's me.  

Maybe you just want to monitor your specific activities?

If you're wanting some detail to shed light on your exercise and have just the one place to show it, I think this is a great band.  Killer battery life, great sized screen and will control your music for you and it's under $100!

Just know that the quirks I've found and I'm sure you'd have some work around to live with it.