Huawei Band 6 Review: auto blood oxygen measurement and 96 workouts

A year ago, Huawei released Band 4 Pro, and it was quite logical to expect after it the fifth version of the Huawei bracelet (possibly also in two modifications – regular and Pro). But in the end we were in for a surprise: the Chinese manufacturer introduced Band 6, skipping Band 5. On the one hand, the decision is strange. On the other hand, if you consider the Band 4 Pro something like a replacement for the Band 5, then it turns out quite logical. Maybe? and the idea was to highlight how far the Band 6 has stepped forward compared to its predecessor. This is truly the biggest update, and it’s immediately clear what has changed here: the screen size. But not only. We have tested the Huawei Band 6 in full.


Contents:

Huawei Band 6 Specifications

  • Screen: AMOLED, touch, color, 1.47″, 194×368
  • Water protection: yes (5 atm)
  • Strap: detachable
  • Compatibility: devices based on Android 6.0+ / iOS 9.1+
  • Connection: bluetooth 5.0
  • Sensors: accelerometer, gyroscope, heart rate sensor, pulse oximeter
  • No camera
  • Internet: no
  • Microphone: no
  • Speaker: no
  • Indication: vibration signal
  • Battery: 180 mAh
  • Dimensions: 43x25x11mm
  • Weight: 29g

Unlike the Band 4 Pro, there is no GPS here, which suggests that a version with a built-in navigation module will still appear. But the main thing is that the battery capacity has almost doubled, and the screen diagonal has increased by more than one and a half times. How did this affect user experience? Let’s figure it out.


Packaging

Huawei Band 6 packaging
Huawei Band 6 packaging

The Huawei Band 6 came to us in a neutral box, predominantly white with a picture of the device itself on the front surface.

Huawei Band 6 packaging

Inside is the bracelet itself, a quick start guide, a warranty card and a charging cable.

Huawei Band 6 packaging

Note that this cable is short – 60 cm. It is not entirely clear what the manufacturer is trying to save in this way – on the cord itself or on the space in the box, but the box is not very compact.

And one more note: the content of the manual is practically useless for the average user. The main part is occupied by warnings, which cannot be done with the bracelet.


Design

Huawei Band 6

We can also characterize the appearance of the Huawei Band 6 as neutral, but still not without style claims. The plastic body is covered with a dark gray paint with a metallic sheen, and this gives the impression that the device is not made of plastic at all, but of a more noble material.

In addition, there are no inscriptions or other visual elements on the side surfaces, and the only button on the right (“Home” / “Menu”) is made in the same style as the case itself, so it does not stand out or violate the overall look.

Huawei Band 6

The black strap is silicone and detachable from the case. But, as before, the problem is that, firstly, it detaches very tightly, and secondly, since the mount is proprietary, it is impossible to buy universal third-party straps and use them with the Band 6.

Huawei Band 6

The clasp is of the standard “watch” type. And the holes on the strap are enough to attach the device to any, even the thinnest hand.

Huawei Band 6

But the main design element is, of course, the large screen with rather narrow edges around it. This is the main charm of the device. Well, since the case is minimalistic and does not contain anything superfluous, the center of attention is the display, covered with glass with a slight rounding at the edges (2.5D).

Huawei Band 6

On the back side of the case there are contacts for connecting a charger and optical sensors of heart rate and the amount of oxygen in the blood.

Huawei Band 6

The overall impression of the design is rather positive. Yes, one could complain that not real metal is used here, but plastic painted to resemble metal, and also criticize the manufacturer for the impossibility of replacing the strap with third-party alternatives. But on the other hand, there is a really big screen, compared to the overall dimensions, and most importantly, there is nothing annoying, such as to prevent wearing this bracelet with almost any clothes, except, perhaps, the most strict and solemn.


Display

As already noted, the main feature of the Huawei Band 6 is a rather large, by the standards of this form factor, AMOLED screen with a diagonal of 1.47″ and a resolution of 194 × 368. Therefore, we paid special attention to testing it. Below is the conclusion of Alexei Kudryavtsev.

The front surface of the screen is made in the form of a glass plate with a mirror-smooth surface that is resistant to scratches. On the outer surface of the screen there is a special oleophobic (grease-repellent) coating (effective, noticeably better than that of Google Nexus 7 (2013)), so fingerprints are removed much more easily, and appear at a slower speed than in the case of ordinary glass. Judging by the reflection of objects, the anti-glare properties of the screen are no worse than those of the Google Nexus 7 2013 screen. For clarity, here is a photo in which a white surface is reflected in the switched off screens:

Huawei Band 6 Display

The Huawei Band 6 screen is only slightly lighter (the brightness in the photos is 103 versus 104 for the Nexus 7) and does not have a pronounced shade. The reflection doubling is weak, which indicates that there is no air gap between the layers of the screen. In the settings there is a brightness control (5 steps). When the white field was displayed on the whole screen, the maximum value (5 on the scale) of brightness was 452 cd / m², the minimum (1 on the scale) – 67 cd / m². Taking into account the good anti-glare properties, such a maximum brightness will make it possible to see the image on the watch screen in conditions of strong illumination (a clear day outside). In flashlight mode, the screen brightness is increased to 472 cd / m².

There is significant modulation on the graphs of the brightness (vertical axis) versus time (horizontal axis), but the minimum of the brightness value does not decrease to 0:

Graphs of the brightness (vertical axis) versus time (horizontal axis)

With a quick eye movement or in a test for a stroboscopic effect, flickering is visible, and the brightness clearly decreases to 0, apparently, the modulation phase is distributed over the zones, and several zones fall into the sensor’s field of view. However, such flickering is unlikely to lead to increased fatigue, especially given the fact that there is no point in looking at this screen for a long time.

This screen uses an AMOLED matrix, an active matrix organic light-emitting diode (OLED). A full-color image is created using subpixels of three colors – red (R), green (G) and blue (B) in equal numbers, which is confirmed by a fragment of a micrograph:

For comparison, you can see the gallery of photomicrographs of screens used in mobile technology.

The spectra are typical for OLED – the areas of primary colors are well separated and appear as relatively narrow peaks:

Accordingly, the coverage is noticeably wider than sRGB. Note that the colors of ordinary images optimized for devices with sRGB screens appear unnaturally saturated on screens with a wide gamut without appropriate correction:

Pay attention to the tomatoes and the shade of the girl’s face. The color temperature of the white and gray field is approximately 7600 K, and the deviation from the spectrum of a black body (ΔE) varies from 1 to 2 units depending on the brightness. The color balance, at least in the white field, is good. Black is just black at all angles. It is so black that the contrast parameter is simply not applicable in this case. When viewed from a perpendicular view, the uniformity of the white field is excellent. True, when deviated even at small angles, the white color acquires a light blue-green tint. The screen has excellent viewing angles with much less brightness drop when viewed from an angle compared to LCD screens. In general, the screen quality can be considered very high.


Software and features

Let’s see what the Huawei Band 6 is capable of. To work, it must be connected to the Huawei Health mobile application, which is well known to us from other devices of this manufacturer.

There are no surprises in terms of the interface, so we will not dwell on general descriptions in detail, but will go straight to the most interesting – training, measuring oxygen in the blood, sleeping and working with dials.


Workouts

The Huawei Band 6 has 96 training modes – many times more than the Band 4 Pro. But – surprise – they won’t be easy to spot. More precisely, 11 of them are immediately visible. Where is the rest? It can be assumed that many users will never find the answer to this question. As it turns out, in the “Workouts” section, click on the “Widgets” button and tick the boxes there that we need in the main list in addition to those initially presented there. Why it couldn’t have been made more intuitive is a mystery. But – I am glad that there are actually 96 types of workouts, including completely exotic ones, such as belly dancing, swing or tai chi. There is even such a point as “kite” (obviously, we mean the launch of a kite). But for some reason there is no skiing – it would seem that it is a much more massive activity than Tai Chi.

In the case of outdoor workouts, we noted the same problem that we saw recently in another device. If the smartphone has not just been paired with the bracelet, the wearable device cannot receive a GPS signal. As a result, a cycling session cannot be started. Therefore, before starting a cycling session, you must synchronize the bracelet and smartphone. But running, walking and some other street workouts can be started even without GPS. Although, of course, with the availability of satellite data, the results will be more detailed and informative. The screenshots below show that running on the street is tracked absolutely correctly. Is that the concept of “average stroke” in the case of running and walking is better still translated differently (meaning step size).

Riding a bicycle, if it was possible to start it, also pleases with the completeness of information and a sufficiently detailed analysis.

We also tested the work of the bracelet while swimming in the pool. Note that, unlike many other devices, it handles well even with wet hands. In addition, you can pause or stop your workout simply with the physical button, so there is no problem here.

The unit automatically detects pool length and swimming styles. It also records the number of strokes, pace, heart rate – which is important, moisture does not interfere with this – and SWOLF (efficiency).


Sleep measurement


The Huawei Band 6 automatically tracks sleep, and does it quite correctly. Having used the device for more than a week, we did not notice a single case when the results would be radically different from reality. However, we note that he notes awakenings only with serious activity. For example, if you woke up in the middle of the night, looked at what time it was (by pressing a button on the bracelet), and fell asleep again, then Huawei Band 6 may not recognize this as awakening. It simply records it as a “REM sleep”. Another nuance: if you had a daytime sleep or, for example, you woke up in the morning, had breakfast, and then decided to take another nap, then the bracelet will add the time of this second sleep to the night one, but only on the main screen, and in the “Sleep” section itself only night rest will be displayed on the graph. This is a strange discrepancy. Below are screenshots taken at the same minute. It can be seen that the first screenshot shows a sleep duration of 8 hours and 47 minutes, and the second – only 7 hours and 22 minutes.

To understand where 1 hour and 20 minutes were lost, you need to scroll down, and the duration of the daytime sleep will be indicated there and a note is made that Huawei TruSleep technology analyzes only the sleep that is longer than three hours. Therefore, daytime sleep does not fall on the schedule.


Blood oxygen measurement

Blood oxygen measurement
Blood oxygen measurement

One of the most important innovations of the Huawei Band 6: it can automatically measure the level of oxygen in the blood. Previously, of the many wearable devices we tested, only the Apple Watch Series 6 had such functionality. All the others, even if they were equipped with a pulse oximeter, assumed only manual measurement start: you had to sit down, turn on SpO2 and wait 15 seconds to get the result. Whereas the Band 6 measures in the background.

The results of automatic measurements “at a short distance” are very doubtful, for example, on the first day of testing, the bracelet twice recorded the value of 87% (if this were true, the author would have to be urgently hospitalized, since the norm is 95% -98%). But if you wear the device all the time, then in general the results are quite plausible. And single, obviously unsuccessful measurements are immediately visible.

Despite the possibility of automatic measurement, we nevertheless carried out four measurements manually – in a row, in the same position. In a similar way, we check all other devices with this option. So, out of these four measurements, two were unsuccessful. Two more gave results of 89% and 91%. Alas, this is a very sad result. By the way, the application for some reason does not save the results of manual measurements – only automatic ones. Perhaps this is also a flaw.

One way or another, thanks to more or less correctly working automatic measurements, there is practically no need to make manual measurements. And it should be remembered: Band 6 is not a medical device, the bracelet is not intended for diagnostics, treatment or prevention of diseases, and the measurement results can only be used for personal reference purposes.


Other possibilities

Of course, the Huawei Band 6 can display notifications. Moreover, even quite long. However, if they are too long, then there is no way you can see them in full. In addition, the sender’s name is almost always incomplete. Above the notification, the icon of the application that sent it is displayed. Emojis, alas, are not displayed.

Huawei Band 6 also knows how to track stress. It is clear that all this is done primarily on the basis of heart rate data. But we checked – yes, the result is quite plausible. Although minor stresses (like I had to run a little to catch the bus), the bracelet does not take it seriously. Maybe it’s right.

Finally, we note the impressive selection of dials (there were 94 at the time of testing), as well as the ability to use an arbitrary image as the basis for the dial. It is very easy to download it from your smartphone. True, there is a possibility that if the selected picture is light, it will consume more battery than standard dials with a predominantly black background – this is a feature of AMOLED technology.

It is worth saying a few words about the successful branded dial set by default. Its peculiarity is not only customizability, but also the ability to change the colors of the rings.

Finally, we will just list other applications that do not require detailed explanations: “Weather”, “Timer”, “Stopwatch”, “Alarm”, “Find phone”, “Breathing exercises”, “Flashlight” (a white field is displayed on the screen, the brightness rises to the maximum).

Remote camera control works only in conjunction with smartphones running the EMUI 8.1 shell or higher. Feminine cycle tracking and music control are available when connected to Android smartphones, but not available on iPhones. It is not entirely clear what is so specific about these capabilities and why they cannot be implemented on all platforms.


Autonomy

The manufacturer promises 14 days of “typical use” and 10 days of “heavy use”. But, apparently, our regimen turned out to be even more intense – due to almost daily training and the included automatic measurement of the amount of oxygen in the blood. Therefore, the bracelet lived for a week without recharging. Probably, in the absence of regular training and disabling regular SpO2 measurements, you can count on just the promised 10 days, which, in principle, is a lot.

As a plus, we note that the battery is discharged evenly, that is, from 100% to 50%, the bracelet is discharged only for the same time as from 50% to shutdown. Considering that we regularly observe a different situation when testing wearable devices – when from 100 to 50% the battery is discharged for a long time, and then much faster, we can praise the manufacturer for having achieved such a result.

There is another great advantage. The bracelet quickly charges even from a regular single-amp charging. Having connected it to the network, when there was 5% left, after 15 minutes we saw 60%, and the same amount of time later – 90%. Thus, we can say that it is enough to charge the bracelet for only half an hour, then to actively use it for a whole week. But from 90% to 100%, the charge is replenished longer. However, it takes less than an hour to fully charge the bracelet, which is a great result.


Conclusions

Huawei Band 6 has at least four serious advantages: regular automatic measurement of the amount of oxygen in the blood (SpO2), a large AMOLED screen by the standards of such devices, decent battery life with very fast charging and uniform discharge, and 96 training modes.

Previously, only Apple Watch Series 6, which cost more than 30 thousand, were able to automatically measure SpO2. As for training, such a number of them are still the prerogative, first of all, of sports devices or more expensive models. So against this background, the Huawei Band 6 looks like a very interesting option. Let’s add a very nice design to that.

And among the minuses – first of all, problems with connecting a smartphone to the GPS, the hard-to-explain lack of a number of useful features in conjunction with the iPhone, oddities with the display of sleep time and inaccurate SpO2 data with independent or short measurements. But the rather low price is a good argument to turn a blind eye to.