Fitness trackers and hybrids between trackers and smartwatches are a bit of a rage right now, because of the obvious tendency to stay fit and growing need for convergence between your smartphone and your wrist-based wearable. While fitness trackers have traditionally been the domain of specialised companies such as Fitbit and Garmin, other brands such as Xiaomi, Fastrack and Honor have also been active in the field.
While some fitness trackers such as the Fitbit Flex 2 and Xiaomi Mi Band are more basic and don’t offer a screen, the Mi Band 2 and Fastrack Reflex come with a screen and effective connectivity with your smartphone for notifications. Looking to take on the affordable market head-on is the Honor Band 3, from Huawei’s sub-brand. Priced at Rs 2,799, the Honor Band 3 offers a pedometer for step counting, a sleep tracker, a heart rate sensor, long battery life and connectivity for notifications from your smartphone. We’ve reviewed it to find out if the Honor Band 3 really is as good as it sounds.
Honor Band 3 Design
When it comes to the appearance, the Honor Band 3 doesn’t really stand out. With a shape and styling that is like most fitness trackers, there’s very little to make this product recognizable on its own. However, the pattern on the strap does give it a bit of character, as well as the color itself, if you get either the orange or blue options. The black option is the least conspicuous, if that’s what you prefer. The Honor Band 3 is light and comfortable, although the rubber of the strap can occasionally cause some discomfort. The screen automatically wakes when your wrist is raised, and this works on most occasions. In case it doesn’t, you can also wake the screen by tapping the button. The rotate to switch screen option barely works, so you’re better off using the button to switch screens.
The strap itself is firmly attached to the tracker itself, and isn’t user replaceable. This means that if the strap is damaged, you will be forced to take the band to an Honor service center for a fix. Additionally, charging the device uses a small plastic cradle which uses contact points on the Honor Band 3 to charge. While it does work well and charges the device quickly, the use of this form of charging could give you problems in the long run, and losing the cradle itself will be an absolute disaster as replacement cradles aren’t easily available. It’s also worth noting that the Honor Band 3 is water resistant and can be submerged in water up to 50m, which means it will easily survive a swim while tracking the activity too. ALSO READ: Fastrack Reflex Review
The Honor Band 3 is a rather simple device to operate, thanks to only a single capacitive button on the device. Operations can be carried out using either a tap or long press of the button, and there is no power button on the band either. Therefore, the band remains always on, and will only switch off if it runs out of battery. In such a situation, switching it back on requires you to charge the device sufficiently. The home screen of the Honor Band 3 displays the time, date, steps taken, battery level and the status of the Bluetooth connection.
Short taps cycle you through the screens, including steps, heart rate, run and swim. Within the steps, run and swim screens, a long press will give you more data, including sleep, activity time, distance and calories, or activate the dynamic run or swim tracking. This puts the heart rate sensor on continuous mode, giving you a real-time reading of your heart rate and more such information. With alarms, a long press will dismiss the alarm, while a short press will snooze it. The simplicity of the device and its operation is refreshing, and something I got used to quickly.
Honor Band 3 Features
For a device that is priced at Rs 2,799, the Honor Band 3 comes filled with features. This includes a pedometer for step tracking, a heart rate sensor, sleep tracking, smartphone notifications and alarms. For the latter two, the device uses its built-in vibration function to alert you or wake you. The advantage to using this for alarms is that it remains silent, thereby not disturbing others around you, while gently waking you by vibrating on your wrist. The function is similar for notifications, and the screen also shows you a preview of the notification.
You can set the Honor Band 3 to push notifications for specific apps, but the band cannot read your specific app notification settings as is the case with Android Wear devices. Therefore, even if you’ve muted groups or specific chats on WhatsApp, the device will still vibrate for every notification if you’ve activated WhatsApp notifications on the band. I preferred to keep notifications switched off for most apps, keeping it active only for phone calls, where I got a preview of who is calling. With messages, you are able to read a preview of the sender’s name and message text as well.
Honor Band 3 Apps
The Honor Band 3 maintains its connection and crunches fitness data using two apps: Huawei Wear and Huawei Health. Huawei Wear is the more important of the two; this app maintains the connection between your smartphone and the tracker through Bluetooth, and displays basic tracking information from the pedometer, including steps, calories burned and distance covered (the latter two are derived by a calculation based on the steps taken). You can also use the app to control major settings or view the battery level of the device.
From here, you can also enable Huawei TruSleep for more accurate sleep tracking, the activity reminder, automatic heart rate monitoring, alarms, do-not-disturb mode, notification management (where you can select or deselect notifications for specific apps), toggles for raising to wake the screen or rotating to change the screen, and update the firmware. The more of these settings that are activated, the quicker your battery will drain. However, keeping all of the above on will help you get the best out of the Honor Band 3. ALSO READ: After fitness trackers, Fitbit to launch a smartwatch
Huawei Health is an optional app and isn’t necessary to keep things running, but it does help you get a lot more out of the Honor Band 3. The app stores and maintains records of all of your fitness data, neatly sorted by day, week, month or year. You get charts and detailed analysis of your heart-rate patterns, sleep, exercise and more. The sleep tracking is particularly detailed, which uses heart rate and movement information to detect the quality of your sleep and hours asleep. You can also use a smart alarm, which will wake you up to 10 minutes earlier than your alarm time if it detects that your sleep is light.
You can also activate exercise routines, such as walking or running, which use a combination of data from your smartphone (such as GPS location tracking for accurate distance, speed and time measurement) with the data on the Honor Band 3 (such as heart rate and steps). The resulting data is detailed and accurate. While optional to the functionality of the Honor Band 3, the Huawei Health app is certainly necessary to properly put your band to use.
Honor Band 3 Performance
When it comes to tracking, the Honor Band 3 can track three types of activity: steps, heart rate and sleep. All other data that you might get from the app is derived from or a break up of that data. While heart rate and sleep tracking are usually accurate, step tracking can occasionally be poor. This is due to the tracking of many ‘ghost’ steps; not really steps taken, but movements of my hand that the band detects as steps. While actual steps are fairly recorded, the problem arises due to excess ‘ghost’ steps. As a result, the calculations for distance walked and calories burned can also be a bit iffy.
A big advantage of the Honor Band 3 is battery life. Even with all functions active and a continuous connection to my phone, I could use the Honor Band 3 for 7-8 days before needing to charge it. This can increase further if you switch off certain power-hungry functions such as continuous heart-rate monitoring and Huawei TruSleep. Charging itself is quick as well, and on the whole, the lack of battery worries is refreshing for a wearable device.
Good fitness trackers tend to be expensive, as is the case with products from Fitbit, Garmin and others. Good smartwatches can do a lot of what a fitness tracker can, but again, at a significant price. And while there are plenty of affordable options available from brands you may or may not have heard of, there are few that truly stand out. In my opinion, the Honor Band 3 is one of the few products in this crowded space that does stand out.
While there are small operational shortcomings and step tracking is not completely accurate, everything else is up to the mark, including sleep and heart-rate tracking. The companion apps offer excellent data and information based on the tracking data gathered by the tracker, and when combined with GPS and mapping technology on your phone, makes for a brilliant exercise tracker. It also handles notifications effectively, has excellent battery life and is even highly water resistant.
The great part about all of this is that the Honor Band 3 achieves this level of quality at a price of Rs 2,799. This is not a lot of money to pay, and what you get for less than Rs 3,000 is what many products can’t offer at twice the price. Simply put, the Honor Band 3 is top-notch in all ways, and is a superb option to consider if are looking for an affordable fitness tracker with a heart-rate sensor. It certainly isn’t perfect, but comes very close to being so for the price.