Withings, a part of Nokia since early 2016, is known for design and innovation in connected health devices.
The French company brought us the the first WiFi scale in the not too distant 2009, it has a range of FDA-cleared blood pressure monitors, a high-definition wireless security camera, a smart sleep system, and a line of automatic activity tracking watches. And, just in case you are interested in your hair-brushing patterns, Withings have teamed up with L’Oreal to bring us a connected hair brush! Another first.
The company continues to deliver great looking and functioning smart devices. This is our overview of the its fitness tracker range.
Withings Go is a low cost device that provides the basics in terms of fitness tracking. The colorful wearable features an E Ink screen that shows activity, functions as a watch on demand and is legible in bright sunlight and water.
The screen looks great and has the benefit of not draining the battery even though its on all the time. Press on the center of the display and it will switch to a standard watch display showing the time. Press again, and it goes back to a meter showing your daily activity.
The water resistant tracker (5 ATM) can be worn in a number of ways – on the wrist, the pocket, the belt or the shoe. The Go automatically recognizes activities and triggers sleep analysis when you go to bed. A user’s progress is displayed via 88 segments on the display, with the middle icon switching from a stick person to a star once your daily goal is achieved.
No need to worry about battery life as it lasts an impressive 8 months. To recharge just replace the button cell.
Withings came out with its original Pulse tracker back in 2013. At the time, the device was competing mostly against pedometers. Withings was actually one of the first companies to offer a fitness tracker with a heart rate sensor.
The French outfit has since come out with a new version of Pulse. It now includes a wristband, blood oxygen readings and a redesigned app. A ‘wear it your way’ device to monitor your activity and sleep, read vital signs and improve your overall health.
The tracker is primarily designed to be worn on your wrist using the adjustable wristband. However you can also attach it to your belt or clothes using the clip, or drop it in your pocket or bag.
Pulse O2 contains a 128 x 32 OLED touch screen, that houses an Optoelectronic sensor on the back. The display is by default off and is activated at the push of a button.
The wearable contains a 3-axis accelerometer, 3-axis gyroscope, digital compass, optical, heart rate monitor, altimeter, ambient light sensor, vibration motor, SpO2.
The tracker will keep tabs on your daily activity, steps, distance walked, elevation climbed and calories burned. It has built in automatic run detection. You can go back and access up to two weeks of data.
What this device brings over the original Pulse tracker is the Optoelectronics sensor. By pressing your finger against the HR light on the back, you get measurements of your heart rate and blood oxygen levels.
If you don’t mind the outdated look, the Pulse O2 offers good value for money. It is unlikely you will buy the device for its oxygen feature alone but if you take into consideration its other functions you get a fairly feature packed device. We do hope, however, that the third generation of this tracker comes up with a nicer looking more fashionable solution and 24/7 heart rate monitoring.
The Activite is a stylish watch made of sapphire glass and French leather. While it comes across as a regular analogue watch, under the hood the device comes with some hidden extras.
Like the Apple Series 2 watch, the Activite has a fairly gender neutral design. It comes in only two colours: silver (brown leather wristband and white dial) and black (black leather wristband and black dial).
The watch also comes with a sports strap for the pool, making it as adept for workouts as it is in the boardroom. Thanks to quick release spring bars, it is easy to interchange the straps.
Activite tracks steps, distance and calories. Step counting works as on any other pedometer, except on the Activite you will only be able to see daily progress via a secondary dial on the watch face that goes from 0 to 100, marking the percent of your daily goal met. At midnight, the dial resets to zero. Aside from that, all activity information is conveyed through the mobile phone.
Activite automatically detects running and swimming and is water resistent. It logs the total time of your run or swim workout and the calories burned. This function isn’t super sophisticated – but it is useful. Withings says the new features are just the start of its foray into swimming.
At night, the smart timepiece measures three levels of sleep (deep, light and awake), the number of times you woke up and the total duration of sleep. The information it provides is on par with other sleep-trackers using accelerometers, but lacks the heart-rate input of more advanced trackers. To make sure you wake up on time in the morning, set an alarm in the app to start your day with a gentle wake-up vibration.
Activite Pop trades calf leather, polished steel, a sapphire dome and Swiss-made certification of the Activite, for a silicone strap, PVD-coated steel, and a mineral glass dome. Its other features are pretty much identical. The price difference is quite sizeable though.
Pop is a clever, stylish blend of everyday watch and connected fitness band that looks good, is fun and easy to use. The watch has a good battery life and automatically tracks activity and sleep. It syncs with iPhones and Android phones and is water-resistant for swimming and showering.
Pop is one of those rare watches that works in pretty much every situation. You can wear it not only during business hours, but also for a formal event, as well as light hiking or other light sporting events.
Activite Steel combines the premium quality of the original Activite with the affordability of the Activite Pop.
As its name suggests, the watch is made of steel and has “premium build quality”. The most obvious difference from the most expensive watches in the Activite range is the strap. Like the Pop, the Steel has silicone straps instead of leather, but certainly looks much smarter. The main watch hands have been darkened while the tracker dial has been enlarged and left white so that it dominates the face, giving more prominence to the fitness tracking aspect.
This newest offering from Withings is ananother hybrid watch. There are a few upgrades though which make this one of the best analogue style smart watches you can buy today.
In addition to all the functionality you will find in other Activite devices, Steel HR 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.
However, the main novelty for an analogue type device is the addition of heart rate monitoring. Withings has accomplished this impressive feat 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.
The watch takes your heart rate measurements at regular intervals throughout the day and night. When you start running, the device automatically initiates the continuous heart rate function. You can also manually launch a session simply by pushing the multifunctional button on the watch.
Essential reading: Guide to lowering your resting heart rate with wearables
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. Steel HR also tracks resting heart rate, one of the most important metrics to assess overall health over time.
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.