First look: Withings adds heart rate monitoring to its analogue watch

Nokia owned French outfit Withings, announced its first analog activity-tracking watch with heart rate monitoring. The news was released a day before IFA in Germany, the world’s leading trade show for consumer electronics and home appliances.

Like its predecessors, the device looks like a standard analogue watch. Hidden within the casing, however, is high tech which allows it to track activity and heart rate, and provide the user with notifications.

As can be seen from the picture above, the large dials on the watch show the time, while the sub-dial shows how close you are to your personal daily activity goal. You can customise the activity goal within the smartphone Health Mate application.

Steel HR also boasts a new dynamic digital screen at the top of the watch face, which displays health data and smartphone notifications. You can tailor the information to be displayed to your liking via the multifunctional button on the side of the watch.

Essential reading: Which Withings tracker is right for me

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The main novelty for an analogue type device is the addition of heart rate monitoring. Withings has accomplished this through a technology called photoplethysmography (PPG), which monitors heart rate using green LED lights to detect variation in the level of blood in the wrist.

“Whether you’re an athlete or simply trying to lose a few pounds and get a better handle on your health, knowing your heart rate can help you better understand your overall health and reach your fitness goals,”said Cédric Hutchings, VP of Digital Health, Nokia Technologies.

“With the wealth of insights it provides and the extended battery life for a health watch of its type, Steel HR truly is the first of its kind.”

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The watch will automatically initiate the continuous heart rate function when you start running. You can also manually launch a continuous heart rate session simply by pushing the multifunctional button on the watch.

Real-time heart rate info is displayed on the watch during your exercise, and more detailed info including time spent in heart rate zones can be seen in the app. The watch also tracks resting heart rate, one of the most important metrics to assess overall health over time.

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In terms of design, the Steel HR has a stainless steel casing, chrome hands, and modern silicone straps. There are two sizes to choose from: : 36mm and 40mm. We had a chance to visit the Withings stand at IFA and our impressions couldn’t be more positive. Its not until you hold the watch in your hand that you realise just how sleek and polished it looks.

Steel HR is also water-resistant (5 ATM) and automatically recognizes when the user starts swimming, providing the time of the session and calories burned. At night, the watch analyzes light and deep sleep cycles, as well as wake ups, to give you a comprehensive understanding of your sleep patterns.

The rechargeable battery will keep the watch going for up to 25 days, the best battery life for a heart monitoring activity tracker available. After that, it will keep plodding along for another 20 days with limited functionality in power save mode.

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Fitness trackers and smart analogue watches are expected to lead wearables sales in the coming years according to CSS Insight’s latest global forecast for wearables. Withings is definitely tapping into this trend. In terms of smart analogue watches, we can safely say – the Withings Steel is as good as it gets.

For more information, head over to the French company’s website. The device will be available from early October. The 36mm will retail for $179.95 and the 40mm for $199.95.

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