Huawei Band 4 and Band 4e Review – Using them together also makes sense
Huawei offers its fourth-generation fitness tracker in three different model versions. We have already tested the Huawei Band 4 Pro with OLED - it is the only model that offers GPS. Like the Band 4 Pro, the Band 4 also offers a heart rate sensor. In addition, it brings some typical smart band functions, such as the full display of notifications. In contrast, the Band 4e can only signal that a notification has arrived, without being able to display either the notification itself or from which app it came from. On the other hand, the Band 4e offers one particular function that not only the two other models cannot offer, but that is also very special in general. There is a 6-axis sensor that can record more precise information while running, from which the corresponding Huawei Health app then calculates the step pattern, landing force, and amount of time of ground contact, as well as the number, height, and duration of jumps while playing Basketball.
Case and Equipment – Fitness trackers with some differences
There are already some significant differences in the exteriors of both trackers. While Band 4e offers a simply designed monochrome display with a button on the bottom edge, the Band 4 has a full-area color touch display with manual brightness control and a large selection of alternative watch faces. Its comfortably soft Silicone band - available optionally in black, pink, or red - ensures a tight fit around the wrist, which is important for the optical heart rate sensor.
The latter is missing in the Band 4e, and the designers from Huawei have opted for a completely different design. The tracker is worn loosely around the wrist, held by an adjustable, elastic band made from recycled materials. The box also includes a clip to fasten it to your shoe. Since only the shoe clip has two contacts, the tracker is able to change into shoe-mode automatically, if you enable automatic recognition. In addition to the band and shoe clip, the Band 4e also includes a charger with a standard USB connection.
Huawei has integrated the charger cleverly into the Band 4. It appears when you open the band on one side of the tracker case, and you can then directly plug it into a corresponding USB charger (not included).
Setup – The Health app supports parallel operation
Both trackers cannot be used without the Huawei Health app and logging into a Huawei account. From our test of the Huawei Watch GT 2, we already had the app installed on a Pixel 3, but this led to some difficulties before our actual test. After some research, we found out that the Huawei Mobile Services, which need to run in the background, created some trouble after an update, particularly in some Pixel models. In our case, the work-around consisted in initially creating the Huawei account - if not already created - using a browser, for example, and then connecting the already created Huawei account via the account setup in the system settings. While the Health app still displayed an error initially upon opening it the next time, it ran without any problems afterwards.
The app was then able to connect to both bands in parallel without any trouble. It combined their information, which makes sense when the devices have different sensors as is the case here (Band 4 with a heart rate sensor and Band 4e with a more accurate gyroscope).
Operation and Software – Only Band 4 has a touchscreen
All the trackers of the Huawei Band-4 series offer a sensor key at the bottom of the display for operation. However, in the Band 4e, this is the only input option. The display changes when the key is tapped or alternatively when the wrist is turned. Alternately the smartphone search function and the status for the activities of the day are displayed: minutes of being stationary or intense activities, the number of steps and distance, calories used, and sleep duration. Notifications are signaled but not displayed.
The Band 4 offers more display and operation options: Using the touch display, which covers the whole front, you can move forward and backward through the displayed functions. Swiping from the left corresponds to a back button, and the Home button at the bottom of the display leads to the home screen from any other place.
The number of notifications is already displayed inside a badge on the overview screen and you can read the full notifications on the fitness watch. However, removing them becomes an issue, since reading the notifications on the smartphone does not have any effect on the fitness band. You either have to read them again one by one, or you can delete all of them at once.
In the announcement of the Band 4, a remote control for the camera was mentioned. However, this is missing in our test unit. Instead, the Band 4 offers a player control, which works universally with the player that is activated on the smartphone at that point. In our test, this worked with the integrated music player, as well as with Deezer, Spotify, and the Audible audio book app from Amazon.
Using the app, you can change the sequence of items for both smart trackers, activate Bluetooth disconnection notifications, setup alarms, and select the apps for which notifications should be signaled or on the Band 4 also be displayed. You can only deactivate the notifications using the app. You can also setup times for silent mode.
In addition to displaying the collected fitness data in informative charts, the Health app also shows the sleep protocol. Although the Band 4e does not have a heart rate sensor, it can determine the various sleep phases using the recordings from the movement sensor.
Fitness and Training – Band 4e offers a 6-axis gyroscope
For indoor training, the Band 4 offers running, walking, biking, a crosstrainer, a rowing ergometer, and free training - aerobic, for example, aerobic according to the symbol. Outdoors, you can select from walking and running. If you want to capture your GPS coordinates to record your route or get a more exact analysis, you have to bring your smartphone.
The same also goes for the Band 4e. If you fasten the tracker directly to the shoe, its 6-axis gyroscope can also offer details and analyses that the Band 4 cannot deliver: in addition to the speed and step frequency (steps per minute), the app also determines the amount of time of ground contact, the landing impact, and step pattern. You can also combine the landing impact and ground contact time in their corresponding charts, or optionally also analyze them in connection with the speed and step frequency.
The step pattern displays the percentage ratio of contact of the heel, middle, and front of the foot. The analysis for the author is: 99% landing on the heel, with the dark red color of the bar indicating that this is doubtlessly bad. A text in the app help explains that landing on the heel will create more of an impact shock on landing and recommends to land more gently on the front or side of the foot when running. So the fact that more than 90% of all joggers apparently also land on the heel does not improve things.
Because it is supposed to be better and more natural, the author tried to change her running style in order to test the reaction of the tracker. This resulted in at least some improvement of the ratio. In the long run, a reduction of the ground contact time would probably increase the running speed and improve the result further. Those who are interested in this subject can find some help and instructions with training character on the Internet. There are also questions on the cases where it might be advisable to change the landing pattern of the feet.
In our test, the Huawei Health app then combined the data of the Band 4e, which was attached to the shoe for the step analysis, and the heart rate recording from the Band 4 into a common analysis. We did not test the baseball mode of the Band 4e.
The following app screenshots show the running protocol and charts, first with each of the bands, and then both in combination for comparison. They also show examples of the display of the times for each round and a combined chart.
Battery Life – Fitness watches with a long battery life
According to Huawei, the battery capacity of the two fitness trackers - 91 mAh in the Band 4 and 77 mAh in the Band 4e - is sufficient to last at least for a week in case of the Band 4 and two weeks in the case of the Band 4e. Such a long battery life, which of course also depends on the usage, is difficult to confirm during the short time period of our testing. We can only confirm a trend, if there are no conspicuous abnormalities. We did not observe anything conspicuous in our test. The fact that the charge of the Band 4e displayed in our screenshots is in some cases significantly lower than in the Band 4, is due to the Band 4 arriving a week later for our testing.
At prices of about 39 Euros (~$42) for the Band 4 and 29 Euros (~$31) for the Band 4e, the two fitness trackers belong to the more affordable fitness bands. By the way, the Honor Band 5, which arrived in fall, is also part of the same price segment and even more affordable by now. Those who are looking for a simple tracker to motivate themselves to move more cannot do anything wrong by choosing those two devices. Those who also value the notification functions should choose the Band 4. Even if this functionality is not a priority, it can quickly become annoying to get informed about a notification, but then have to grab the smartphone to be able to read it.
Band 4 and Band 4e by themselves are not much more than simple fitness trackers, but they can complement each other when used in parallel, particularly during training.
While you will find many fitness bands similar to the Band 4, despite its simplicity the Band 4e offers a functionality with its accurate sensor, which is rare to find in this price range and could be quite useful for runners. The combination with the Band 4 as in our test, or perhaps also with the Band 4 Pro with GPS, might be interesting for the corresponding target group of runners. Of course the prices will also add up to about 70 Euros (~$76) together with the Band 4, and more than 100 Euros (~$108) with the Band 4 Pro. However, at the end, even in the professional segment - for example with a Garmin Fenix 6 - you can only get the additional sensor data using external accessories.
Those who still have an older tracker from Huawei should also be able to combine this in parallel with the Band 4e in the app. In addition to older Huawei bands, the app also lists some devices from Honor. However, we were unable to try this.