The Huawei Band 7 is a smart band that gets a lot right. With a big display, a nice design, simple software and reliable exercise tracking, it nails the essentials for a relatively low price.
Huawei has regrouped. It was once on its way to become smartphone ruler of the west but following political problems it has now set its sights elsewhere, and aims to become a best-selling smart device brand.
The Huawei Band 7 is the company’s latest attempt to claim a seat at the top, focussing on fashion and fitness at a pleasing price point. But in a sea of competition, and with a slightly tarnished name, stealing a march is no easy task. Does the Band 7 have what it takes, no matter how low the price, to stand above the rest and help revive a flagging brand?
Design and build
Slim attractive design
Decent strap colour options
In the decade since the launch of the first ever smartwatches, we have seen several distinct product ‘types’ arise. Of these, by far the most ubiquitous is the smart band’, aka the activity tracker. Often costing under $50/£50, they offer durability and rudimentary features primarily geared toward fitness and little else. Manufacturers of almost all stripes have tried their hand in this bracket, with many trying different tricks in the process.
With the Band 7, Huawei has produced something that is cheap but not bargain-bucket, premium without being pricey – and design is a key part of that.
It’s available in pink, red, black and green, with my review unit in the latter shade. It’s good to have a little more choice compared to much of the cheaper competition, which generally only offer generic black bands.
The device itself is constructed from a nice sturdy feeling matt plastic, with a single button on the right side and various sensors underneath. At 16g (without the strap) it is light on the wrist, and at 9.9mm thick it should fit easily under most shirt sleeves, while the strap is a relatively breathable plastic/rubber composite.
With regards to durability, though no great claims are made for impact resistance or scratch resistance, the Band 7 is rated for 5 ATM of water resistance. This should theoretically mean it will withstand a swim, even if it might need to be babied a little in general use to avoid damage.
This aside, the case itself feels solid and well constructed, and worth the price of entry for the most part. Smart bands are never going to be considered the most premium of product categories, but this is one that can pass as a watch in general usage as well as on a run.
Screen quality is the key to success of any fitness tracker. Any display used needs to remain legible in any lighting condition, be big enough to show necessary information and sharp enough to read without squinting.
By these highly scientific metrics, the display used in the Band 7 is of good quality. That is to say that it gets dim enough to be used at night, but quite bright enough to combat a particularly strong summer sun. It is sufficiently big (1.47in) as to be able to show a host of information without feeling crowded, and though it won’t win awards for sharpness it is highly legible for the most part. As an OLED screen it offers inky blacks and nice contrast, though it doesn’t quite challenge the best on this point.
An added plus at the price point is the presence of an always on display, which does drain the battery considerably but is a considerable quality of life improvement. It allows the Band 7 to act more as a watch replacement than might otherwise be possible, and is more than the likes of the Apple Watch SE can offer at roughly five times the price.
Software and features
Huawei’s own software
Works with Android and iOS
As a smart band rather than a smartwatch, the expectations from a software perspective are rather lower for the Band 7 than they might be for the likes of an Apple Watch. Whereas the latter should be able to function almost as a mini-smartphone, a smartband’s primary purpose is to track health information and show the time.
It is a pleasant surprise to see then that not only does the Band 7 offer quite a few software features for the price, but that they are mostly well thought through and fleshed out.
The Band 7 runs a custom operating system from Huawei. It isn’t like options from Apple and other companies that allow apps to be installed, but instead has a set of options that can only be expanded via a software update direct from the company itself.
Luckily, for the most part this isn’t an issue, as the provided software is relatively fully fleshed out. In addition to the expected suite of fitness and health tracking options there is a torch option, the ability to ping your phone if it is lost, alarms and more. Though the likes of the Apple Watch offer options for music control and more, this is a device focussed only on the essentials, with a few extras thrown in for good measure.
Notifications can also be received on the Band 7, and given the size of the screen they are easy enough to read although they cannot be interacted with in any meaningful way. I tested the watch with iOS and with Android, and found no issues or bugs when interacting with either.
Interactions with the device are solely made through the medium of the touchscreen and the side button. The button wakes the device and opens various menu options, while everything else is handled by swipes on the display. There are obvious drawbacks to this approach, offering physical controls allows more of the display to remain usable while you are looking at it, however in practice I quickly got used to this control scheme finding it not to be an issue.
Changing watch faces and the like is handled through the Huawei Health app, which is mostly well-featured though I was dismayed to see a proliferation of paid watch faces available. If you are giving this to a child or teenager as a gift, this might be something to watch (no pun intended).
Performance and fitness
96 sport tracking options
Good for runners
In general operation, the software on the Band 7 works well and smoothly. I didn’t experience many delays in swiping through the interface, though opening certain features (i.e. the alarm function) in general caused a slight delay – though this is to be expected given the price point. It was never an impediment to usage.
With respect to fitness, the Band 7 can monitor heart rate, SpO2 levels, can track sleep, offers assisted-GPS for runs (meaning it has to link to your phone to plot your route) and has 96 separate workout options, covering at least all of the basics. An important caveat to the above is that while it can perform measurements, these will never be as accurate as a true medical device and as such any readings must be taken with a grain of salt.
This is particularly true of those data areas that are a little more difficult to build an accurate picture of. I found that sleep tracking for instance was a little skew-whiff, reporting excellent sleep at times where this was patently untrue.
Thankfully, outdoor tracking proved to be quite accurate, closely following our route on various long walks through areas of patchy countryside connectivity. As a consequence, this is a band that will suit avid runners well in particular.
Though this isn’t a device that can offer the same high level of precision in tracking and monitoring as some of the higher end competition, it also comes in at a fraction of the price. As such, it will certainly be sufficient for people interested in fitness, if not elite athletes.
Two week claim
Realistically just four days
Charge cable in box
Of all the claims that Huawei makes regarding the Band 7, its quoted battery life is among the grandest. According to the firm, it is possible to get up to two weeks of usage without too much effort.
This may certainly be possible if the device is left in a drawer with nothing to do for that length of time, but the figure was definitely not reflective of our experiences. With the always-on-display active and notifications incoming, I found that I could get through a solid 3 days of usage before it was time to plug in. By deactivating these (and therefore removing functionality from the device) I could stretch another 3 to 4 days on average.
Whether you will want to deactivate a lot of these features for battery gain will be a matter of personal choice, however we suspect that most will be able to find a balance that suits their needs.
Price and availability
The Huawei Band 7 is available now directly from Huawei in the UK for prices beginning at £49.99. Four colour options are available: Wilderness Green, Graphite Black, Nebula Pink and Flame Red.
There are a lot of different smart band options on the market today, from small scale Chinese manufacturers through to big names like Garmin and Fitbit, everyone wants a slice of the pie. Against this tough competition, the Huawei Band 7 offers more than enough to stand out.
With good looks, sturdy construction, a big display, decent battery life, solid exercise tracking (for the most part) and simple software it makes a great first impression. Lacking any kind of scratch or drop resistance, slightly squiffy sleep tracking and a few other niggles keep it from true greatness, but for the price it is more than good enough. If you are looking for a good value smart band today, the Huawei Band 7 should be near the top of your list.