Withings 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.
Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets
Prepare to be confused. Withings was bought by Nokia Health back in 2016 and most of its devices were rebranded following the acquisition. Fast forward to 2018 and the company was sold back to one of the original Withings owners. We are therefore referring to all devices in this overview as Withings even though some are yet to be rebranded back to the original name.
Withings sells Steel, Steel HR and Steel Sport on its website. However its earlier devices can still be purchased from various retail outlets. For completeness sake we include these in this overview as well.
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 a number of different 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 second generation Pulse O2 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 will keep tabs on your daily activity, steps, distance walked, elevation climbed and calories burned. It has built in automatic run detection. 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.
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. Fairly unisex in design, it comes in 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 an office setting. 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. At night, the smart timepiece measures three levels of sleep (deep, light and awake). 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.
This timepiece is made of steel and has “premium build quality”. Think of the watch as something between Withings Activite Pop and Activite Sapphire.
The most obvious difference from the most expensive devices 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.
Like its predecessors in the Activite range the Steel HR looks like a classic analogue watch. But there is more. It also comes with an optical heart rate monitor and a small digital display for smartphone notifications. In our review, we found that it combined style and functionality in a way few other smartwatches manage.
Essential reading: Guide to lowering your resting heart rate with wearables
The main novelty for an analogue type device is the addition of heart rate monitoring. The watch takes your heart rate measurements at regular intervals throughout the day and night and continuously when you exercise. Real-time heart rate info is displayed on the watch during 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 an impressive 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.
After reacquiring itself, Withings marked its return by launching a sporty version of the popular Steel HR hybrid. Along with some subtle design changes, the device comes with some additional features.
Perhaps the biggest upgrade is that there is now GPS Connectivity. This means the watch is able to piggyback on your smartphone’s satellite signal to track pace, distance, elevation and map of workouts. A feature that will no doubt be important to the runners and cyclists out there.
The hybrid also now offers a VO2max assessment. This measures the heart and muscles ability to convert oxygen into energy during physical exercise. Put more simply, it tells you how fit you are. All the other features are pretty much identical to its predecessor.
The watch comes in a single 40mm size with either a white and black watch face. There’s also a perforated grey silicone band but you can swap this around for other options.
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