Huawei Band 6 and Honor Band 6 in review: Honor loses out once again in the last joint fitness tracker
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Case and connectivity – Band 6 without GPS
In terms of looks, both wearables have more similarities with the Smartwatches of the respective brands that were introduced in September of last year than with their direct predecessors, the Huawei Band 4 and the Honor Band 5. With a diagonal size of 1.47 inches, the OLED display is closer to the 1.64 inches of the Huawei Watch Fit than to the 0.95-inch display of the Huawei Band 4 and Honor Band 5. It's a pity for a fitness tracker: While Huawei still offered the Band 4 Pro in a variant with GPS, the Band 6 doesn't determine its user's location with either the Honor or Huawei models, because they both lack GPS.
Neither has an always-on display, and brightness can only be adjusted manually in five levels. Level 2 was sufficient indoors in the test; this was mostly okay for outdoor use as well, but it was sometimes too weak in the sun.
All cases are water-resistant up to 5 ATM. Honor distinguishes itself visually with an Honor logo that has been stamped into the case and a button accentuated in red. While only the band colors of the former subsidiary vary (Meteorite Black, Sandstone Gray, and Coral Pink), Huawei combines the bands in Graphite Black and Forest Green with black, and the bands in Sakura Pink and Amber Sunrise, on the other hand, feature a gold-colored case. Both have a slightly metallic finish, but they are made of plastic like Honor's models.
Setup and handling – Honor will soon have its own app
In order to pair the Band 6 with an Android smartphone or iPhone, you need the Huawei Health app. According to Honor, the company is already working on its own app. Regardless of its design, this is advantageous in the sense that the Huawei app in Google's Play Store has not been updated since the conflict with the US. As long as this doesn't change, the latest version is only available via the Huawei App Gallery. On the other hand, the Health app is easy to install on the iPhone.
You can configure notifications and health monitoring in the app as well as download additional watch faces to the bands from the Watch Face Store.
The tracker screenshots in our review are mostly from the Huawei Band 6; while the latter received two updates during the test period, the German language option was still missing on Honor's review sample until the end of our review. Naturally, the language pack is expected to be installed on Honor's device before its market launch.
The display is activated when the user raises the arm or presses the button on the side - but unlike the Huawei Watch Fit, it can't be activated by tapping the touchscreen, although it's fully touch-sensitive.
As with other popular wearables, vertical gestures open the list of notifications and a quick panel with access to brightness control and Do Not Disturb mode. Horizontal gestures let you scroll through up to 5 widgets with information on your heart rate, stress levels, the weather, and activity and sleep data. Huawei offers another widget for SpO2 measurement. However, this doesn't alter the limit of 5 widgets, and you have to replace another one in this case.
Some apps are simpler in the two fitness trackers than in the aforementioned Huawei Watch Fit and Honor Watch ES smartwatches. The timer, for example, lacks the attractive virtual buttons. The times for the rising and setting of the sun and moon, which Huawei added to the Watch Fit via an update, are also missing on the bands.
In principle, both remote controls are part of the app portfolio; however, the remote control for the smartphone's music player doesn't appear when the respective Band 6 is connected to an iPhone. The camera controls work with Huawei's EMUI 8.1 and Honor's MagicUI 2.0 or higher.
Telephone and notifications
The Band 6 notifies of incoming phone calls, which can be rejected via the Band. The smart tracker does not display emojis.
Health and fitness – Only Huawei with continuous SpO2 measurement
Both bands help track activity goals and document progress in a daily log that also shows the collected health data. Synchronization with Google Fit or Apple Health is still not possible.
A sleep log tracks sleep phases and rates sleep quality. Huawei's Health app was prone to errors when switching to Daylight Saving Time: The sleep data for the night from March 27 to March 28 was only displayed on the watch. It adjusted the time of falling asleep by 1 hour, so that the sleep duration was correct in the end. However, it did not send anything to the app. Even days later, the app jumped straight into March 29 when scrolling from March 27.
Both wearables count steps throughout the day and estimate the distance covered even without having GPS. Neither can register the meters of altitude climbed, which other trackers include in the daily log as the number of floors climbed, since they both lack a barometric sensor for measuring altitude.
Heart rate, heart rhythm, and blood oxygen saturation
We compare the respective measurements of heart rate and blood oxygen saturation (SpO2) with a chest strap and a certified pulse oximeter. There were irregularities in the SpO2 measurement. Both trackers were often several percentage points above or below the pulse oximeter. The average deviation was 2.3 percentage points for the Huawei Band 6 and even 4 percentage points for the Honor Band 6.
Only the Huawei Band measures blood oxygen saturation around the clock if desired. If you specify a limit, the Band vibrates and displays a message on the screen if the saturation falls below it. You can activate a corresponding warning on both bands if the pulse exceeds or falls below predefined limits.
The main difference for athletes is already visible on the packaging: Huawei advertises its fitness tracker with 96 workout modes, while Honor only offers 10. When opening the workout app, the selection of walking, running, cycling, both indoors and outdoors, cross-training, rowing machine, swimming, and freestyle workout seems to be identical at first. The difference is the plus button at the end of Huawei's list, which can be used to add more sports.
When it comes to the Honor tracker in particular, it's annoying that 3 out of the total of 10 sports without their own GPS can only be tracked reasonably in conjunction with the smartphone. The Band 6 estimates kilometers even without a smartphone, and at least not that inaccurately in the test. However, the route is not logged.
Both trackers automatically recognize running, brisk walks, and training with the elliptical or rowing machines, and they also remind the user to log the workout session. When swimming and working out with the rowing machine, they count the number of strokes. In the sample workout log included here, the Huawei Band 6 tracked one round of rope skipping. According to our count, there were 217 skips and 11 errors where the rope got caught on the shoe. Presumably, the Band 6 considers the interruptions as mistakes in the end and consequently provides a pretty accurate overall count.
We did, however, miss the option to configure an interval training. Only Huawei offers that anyway, but you can't specify the interval, a pause duration, or the number of sets like in the Garmin Lily fitness watch.
Battery life – They don't quite make it to two weeks
According to the manufacturer, both wearables support fast charging. Honor states that 10 minutes is enough to recharge the Band 6 to be able to run for three days.
We didn't reach the 14 days that Huawei and Honor claim as the average runtime. We consider about 11 to 12 days to be realistic according to our real-world tests.
Verdict – Good price-performance ratio
Both fitness trackers have a good price-performance ratio. The fact that the Huawei Band 6 is 10 Euros (~$12) more expensive is only fair due to the differences. Users who appreciate the continuous SpO2 measurement and especially the many additional workout modes will be happy to pay extra. Needless to say, we are eager to see how things develop in the future and whether Honor will finally step out of Huawei's shadow under its own management.
Alternatives in this price range are fitness trackers like the Xiaomi Mi Band 5 or its Amazfit counterpart, which are even cheaper at around 30 Euros (~$36). The feature set is about the same, with similar deviations compared to the Huawei Band 6 in terms of the number of sports modes and SpO2 measurement.
The Band 6 is a watered-down Huawei Watch Fit in terms of looks and functionality.
A few visual aspects such as the different colors and the glossy case remain with Huawei. An alternative is the Huawei Watch Fit with its GPS, always-on display, and automatic brightness control. However, the price increases significantly by at least around $50 (Amazon: Huawei Watch Fit) or even by over $100 for the Elegant Edition.
Price and availability
At the time of writing, you can find the Honor Band 6 in Walmart's online store for around $50. Furthermore, the Huawei Band 6 is available from some sellers on ebay. Alternatively, you can wait a little bit longer for the fitness trackers to be available on Amazon, which is very likely to happen given the listings of previous versions of the devices.