I used two of the weirdest tech gadgets of the year so you don’t have to

If you plan on not keeping your true wireless headphones in a regular charging case and want to hide them inside a different gadget, now it’s your time. The Huawei Watch Buds is a smartwatch with a pair of true wireless earbuds inside, and the Nokia 5710 XpressAudio is a 4G phone that stores a pair of earbuds in the back.

It’s a strange niche that I’m surprised contains two products. I’ve used them, so it’s my duty to report that they’re both a bit silly — and I don’t want to use any more of them, thank you very much. However, for the few people out there who think they want to buy one, they are. For everyone else, you can marvel at two of the weirdest tech products you’ve seen in a while.

Phone or smartwatch?

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

If you never have a pair of headphones with you when you need them, these are products to consider. But how is it? The Huawei Watch Buds are an impressive piece of engineering. It’s well-built, mostly designed right to make life with such a strange product pretty easy, and made of high-quality materials. The Nokia 5710 XpressAudio is made of plastic, doesn’t run Android, doesn’t have 5G, and the headphones are hidden behind a plastic slider — meaning it’s nowhere near the same Wow factor like the cap of the Watch Buds.

What everyone is supposed to do is give you a pair of headphones that are always ready to go, in addition to all the expected benefits of a smartwatch or phone. To make sense, however, the headset needs to be easy to use before anything else. These products are supposed to promote convenience, and if they’re disappointing or lack features, then why would anyone buy them over a pair of “normal” headphones?

Surprisingly, Huawei released the Watch Buds without the ability to connect the earbuds to a device other than the phone the smartwatch is paired with. It means you can only use them with that phone. They cannot yet be paired with your computer, tablet or any other Bluetooth device. The feature is supposed to be enabled via a software update in the future, but there are no details on when that will happen. Totally breaks the Watch Buds for me.

At least the Nokia 5710 XpressAudio headset connects to any Bluetooth device, and even though it’s not a smartphone, the phone’s basic operating system makes the process incredibly simple. It takes a few minutes to pair them with my Mac Mini M1, then they disconnect and reconnect to the phone. The process is logical and quick, and it makes it really useful to always have the headphones with you this way. That alone means it fulfills the brief of adding convenience to everyday life, which the Watch Buds don’t.

Listening to headphones

The more expensive Huawei Watch Buds have a longer feature list, including Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) and better sound quality than the tiny earbuds. The XpressAudio headphones are as basic as headphones get, they’re made of plastic and don’t even have silicone ear tips, let alone ANC.

Compare the two and it’s clear that the Huawei Watch Buds sound much better than the XpressAudio earbuds, with more clarity and bass and less distortion at higher volumes. However, they’re not flawless, and the audio and ANC performance from the Apple AirPods Pro 2, OnePlus Buds Pro 2, and Sony WF-1000XM4 are far superior. I don’t find the fit that comfortable either and have struggled to get them to sit properly in my ears.

Nokia’s headphones are surprisingly comfortable, and while they don’t isolate you from the outside world all that much, the convenience suits the simple nature of the product. However, the sound is mediocre at best, there’s a lot of hiss when you get to even half volume, and the bass response is muddy and unpleasant. I certainly wouldn’t sit back and listen to my favorite music on the Nokia XpressAudio 5710, but I probably wouldn’t with the Huawei Watch Buds either.

Any app on your phone plays audio through the Huawei Watch Buds, while XpressAudio has a MicroSD card slot for streaming your own music, as well as an FM radio. The phone doesn’t have Wi-Fi, so if you want to stream from an online source (it has a 4G connection and a browser), you’ll have to factor in data costs.

Still, there’s a ’90s feel and graphic simplicity to the 5710 XpressAudio that’s strangely refreshing. It has large buttons on the side of the case to control volume and track position, a VGA camera on the back, a MicroUSB charger and a removable battery too.

You can do much better with less

Playing Snake game on Nokia 5710 XpressAudio.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

What’s the cost of keeping your headphones inside a smartwatch or phone? The Huawei Watch Buds cost a whopping £450 or around $540, while the Nokia 5710 XpressAudio costs £75 or $90. In other words, the Watch Buds cost more than an Apple Watch Series 8, while the Nokia phone costs less than a few complexes for Apple Watch.

Which one to buy? The Huawei Watch Buds suffer from a feature limitation at the moment and are very expensive anyway. At least the Nokia phone doesn’t cost a lot of money, but the quality and materials reflect that. If really must Buy one, the Nokia 5710 XpressAudio is oddly cute, suitably versatile and really cheap. I don’t hate it, but it’s a proper step back in time. It even has Snake installed. Buy it for your kids and I hope they will love it.

Honestly though, don’t buy either from them. There are super true wireless headphones available for $100 and up, super smart watches available for as little as $230, and burner phones for less than $50. Even buying the well-reviewed OnePlus Nord N300 and a pair of Earfun Air Pro 3 together costs around $320. Look at it this way: combining two products to make a mediocre one and then rushing to buy the result makes no sense.

Hopefully, now that HMD Global and Huawei have stuffed true wireless headphones where they don’t belong, no other manufacturer will feel the need to do the same, and we won’t see headphones inside a tablet, laptop, or camera. In this way, this artificial trend can disappear as quickly as it arrived.

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